Several years ago around this time of year my frequent riding partner Mike Boyes mentioned wanting to do a ride around the New River Gorge. Seemed like a solid idea and it involved some long forgotten riding on the north side of the Gorge. We did it and liked it so much, we’ve done it every year since. Over time, the route has changed a little. More trail has been added as old sections were remembered and new ones discovered. For a while we called it the NRG Fall 50, but now it has become the NRG Fall 50+. Our 2014 route was right at 60 miles with around 7000 feet elevation gain.
The NRG 50+ contains a little bit of everything the New River Gorge has to offer and could be upwards of 100 miles if you wanted to add in all the trails between Fayetteville and Thurmond. You can expect to see fairly diverse terrain for being on a plateau: excellent views of the gorge, great fall colors if you catch it at the right time (October and November), lots of history, and plenty of wildlife.
Our true goal with the route was to get a full experience of the Gorge and we certainly get that, from its high points on the major peaks to the low points along the river and as a bonus you get quality trail and great riding in the middle. The loop consists of a little bit of everything: pavement, gravel, old roads, ATV paths, rail grades and singletrack. A mountain bike is a must.
Following are the basics of the route: It starts right in Fayetteville and heads north on US 19 crossing the New River Gorge Bridge. This is a nice warm up section with a great view: Way better then Bridge Day because you are on bike and there are no crowds. Once across the bridge, a right turn takes you past the Canyon Rim Visitors Center and up to Lansing road. This section is mostly pavement and gravel all the way to Beauty Mountain. It’s worth a quick stop to check out the view here.
The NRG 50+ continues on past the overlook and becomes an ATV path, which drops you down to the small town of Winona. From here it is best to take the road up to Route 60. There is an option to grab some food at the Sunoco. A right turn on Clifftop Road takes you into Camp Washington-Carver and onto an old rail grade. Eventually the railroad grade reaches Babcock State Park, where you get on the first good piece of trail called the Narrow Gauge Trail. This is a very fun section that has great views of Manns and Glade Creeks. In Babcock you have another resupply option as long as it’s in season.
From Babcock you take the old Sewell Road up the mountain. It can be a bit confusing here. Once at the top of the gravel you take an obvious left and cross a gate shortly after getting on the unimproved dirt road. The road becomes an ATV path for a few miles until it joins a gated dirt road. Stay right. After a short climb you run into a major gravel road. Take a right and go downhill. The road stays generally downhill. This takes you to Thurmond. If its June-August and during open hours, the NPS Visitor Center along the railroad is a good resupply center.
From there, cross the river and take a right onto the Southside Junction trail. Here there is an option to take a detour onto some ACE trails for a longer ride. Most folks prefer to ride Southside to Cunard and climb the access road to the top. When you arrive at the top, take the Kaymoor Trail downstream. Once you hit the gravel Craig’s Branch Road, you can take a right and ride Arrowhead to Fayetteville Town Park and return to the start. The more popular option is to continue downstream to Fayette Station road for more of classic New River Gorge riding. From from there you can climb Fayette Station road or the Fayetteville trail back up to your starting point in Fayetteville.
Those are the basics of the route. Feel free to stop by New River Bikes for better directions or GPS files. Not interested in finding your own way? I can offer a guided tour. —Andrew Forron, owner, New River Bikes (304-574-2453, 221 N. Court Street, Fayetteville, WV 25840)
Top photography by NRGAG. Photo of trail at Babcock State Park courtesy of ForestWander.org.