Spring Into Gear with Mountain Biking in West Virginia

West Virginia and the Appalachian Region are home to some of the most beautiful vistas across the United States. With spring and summer around the corner, now is the perfect time to take to the mountains and try mountain biking. Brad D. Smith is a passionate advocate of the sport, and through his organization, the Wing2Wing Foundation, he is dedicated to advancing mountain biking throughout West Virginia. Beginners and experts alike can read more about the thrills of mountain biking below.

Getting Started: Beginner Tips for Mountain Biking in West Virginia

Starting any new recreational activity can be intimidating, but the adventure and adrenaline that comes with mountain biking can add an extra element of fear and apprehension. When starting your mountain biking journey, going slow and learning the basics can be a great way to build confidence. Like with any other sport, getting the right coaching, equipment, and guidance will help grow your skill level and your confidence on the bike.

For those new to the sport, here are some tips to kickstart your mountain biking journey:

  • Utilize bike rentals: Finding the right bike for you will take some time. By renting, you can test out different mountain bikes and eventually purchase the best bike for your needs.
  • Invest in safety gear: When mountain biking it is important to wear safety equipment. On any ride, you should always wear a proper fitting helmet, gloves, and padding for protection.
  • Sign up for a lesson: Most people know how to ride a bike, but mountain biking is entirely different and requires another set of skills. An experienced guide can teach you the basics in a safe setting.
  • Start slow: Begin with beginner-friendly trails that are smooth and have gentle inclines. As you gain confidence and skill, you can gradually progress to more technical trails.

Exploring Appalachia: Top Places to Mountain Bike Across West Virginia

West Virginia isn’t called the “Mountain State” for nothing. With hundreds of trail systems to choose from, it won’t be hard to find your next mountain bike destination. Here are some of the top trail systems to visit across the state.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park

Located atop the Allegheny Mountains of north central West Virginia, the Canaan Valley Resort State Park features 18 miles of marked trails. Outside of the park, there are plenty more trails in the surrounding area for riders to explore. Canaan Valley is one of the earliest mountain biking destinations in the country. In the 1980s, experienced riders from all over the world came to tackle some of the hardest trails the Appalachian has to offer. Today, the state park is open to beginners and experienced riders alike and is a must-visit for any mountain enthusiast.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort

Snowshoe Mountain located in Pocahontas County is home to some of the best downhill mountain biking trails in the East. In fact, the area was recognized as an International Mountain Biking Association Silver Level Ride Center in 2020, a special designation that recognizes the quality and diversity of trails the area has to offer. The best part of Snowshoe Mountain is the bike lift that takes you and your gear back to the top. In addition to the downhill trails, Snowshoe and the surrounding area feature some great backcountry trails. In 2023, they hosted the UCI Downhill and Cross Country Marathon World Cup.

Kanawha Trace Trail

The Kanawha Trace Trail is a 31-mile-long foot trail through Barboursville. The trail was created in the 1950s and was predominantly used for hiking. Today, this multi-use trail welcomes hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers. The trail is only 13 miles from Marshall University and is a great recreation option for Marshall students.

The Mountain Rim Bike Park at Heritage Farm

One trail system that you have to visit is The Mountain Rim Bike Park at Heritage Farm. Heritage Farm, in Huntington, West Virginia, is a celebration of Appalachian culture and adventure. For over 25 years, the Heritage Farm has been a staple of the Huntington community. In 2022, the Wing2Wing Foundation partnered with Heritage Farm to provide the new Heritage Farm Mountain Bike Park. The park features a roller coaster experience that alleviates much of the typical pedaling or braking otherwise required so that entire families can enjoy the experience together.

New River Gorge

Nestled within the nation’s most recent national park, Wolf Creek Park boasts 17 miles of trails crafted through the collaborative efforts of local volunteers and skilled professionals. Also in the area are the Arrowhead trails as well as the brand new Bicycle Pump Track at the Fayetteville Town Park. On top of this, the area is still working on building more trails at Needleseye Park in Oak Hill and Fayette County Park. With so many trails being developed, the New River Gorge and the surrounding area will be a haven for mountain bike newbies and enthusiasts alike.

Cacapon State Park

In 2019, the Cacapon State Park Foundation and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, partnered to develop a trail master plan proposal that led to receiving three Recreational Trail Program grants. One of these grants directly led to the construction of the award-winning Thunderstruck Trail. More recently the Economic Development Administration provided $3.5 million dollars to build 35 miles of trails in the park which will make it the largest purpose-built trail system in the state.

No matter where you decide to ride, West Virginia promises adventure and scenic beauty at every turn.

Progress: Advancing the Outdoor Economy of West Virginia

During the pandemic years, mountain biking experienced a spike in popularity that has continued today. Bicycle sales saw a 150% increase in April 2020, and more riders took to the mountains as a way to exercise and have fun. 

The rise in popularity of mountain biking has led to an increase in demand for places to ride. West Virginia’s unique topography positions it perfectly to capitalize on the growing popularity and emerge as a premier mountain biking destination for riders across the country.  That is one of the reasons Wing2Wing supported the advancement of the Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. The program has developed an Outdoor Economic and Infrastructure team that supports communities, non-profits, and land managers in developing and implementing high-quality trail systems. Not only does WV have great places to ride today, but more are on the way. 

A main initiative of The Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative, in partnership with West Virginia University, is to provide access to a biking trail within one mile of every home in Morgantown. The area already features a nationally acclaimed rail-trail system, and with the recent opening of the West Run Woods trails, progress towards their goal is well underway. Also on the way is the Mylan Bike Park, which is likely to be the region’s largest bike park. The park will feature pump tracks, skill areas, flow-lines, and a BMX track. Soon, the Morgantown area will have something for every type of rider. Let’s not forget the great trails the area has nearby at Cooper’s Rock State Forest and Big Bear Lake.

Investing in the outdoor economy of West Virginia is an important way to connect education, the environment, and entrepreneurism in the Appalachian region. It’s exciting and rewarding to watch mountain biking and similar outdoor activities grow in popularity right here in West Virginia.