Active Travels: Bike the Greenbrier River Trail, West Virginia
By Steve Jermanok
Easily one of the finest rural runs in America, this 78-mile delight borders the Greenbrier River as it weaves its way through thick forests, open fields, and two tunnels. Deep in the heart of West Virginia, the hard-packed gravel route introduces you to such relics of railroad history as restored depots and vintage mile markers from the old C & O Railroad that used the line to haul timber. It’s not unusual in these parts to spot ospreys, bobcats, even black bears in the woods.
Start at the northern trailhead in Cass for a good downhill cruise and plan on bringing lots of water and food, since there are few places to stop on the trail. Near Marlington, you’ll ride through Sharp’s Tunnel, a 500-foot-long passage hollowed out from stone in 1900, and emerge onto a wood-slatted bridge that hovers some 30 feet above the rushing river. Stop in town to see the historic railroad depot (built in 1901) and the bright red caboose before pushing on to Watoga State Park, the trail’s halfway point. You can camp here overnight, go swimming, or fish on the river for trout and small mouth bass. South of the park, you coast through Droop Mountain Tunnel, riding along a remote river and its dramatic red shale cliffs. The final 34 miles from Rennick to Caldwall is a peaceful jaunt through deep woods and open fields, stopping to swim or picnic whenever you feel the need.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.