More to Love

| August 20, 2014
mountain biking New River Gorge, West Virginia

A waterfall along the Ansted Connector Trail
Photo by Jonathan Danz

#1: Ansted Connector Trail
10 miles, one way

Having never ridden the Ansted Connector Trail before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Most people I’d talked with hadn’t ridden this stretch and those that had described it in broad strokes such as “it’s fun” or “it’s got some technical parts,” but that was it.

Leaving Fayetteville, we picked up the trail from the Teays Landing access road after crossing the New River Gorge Bridge and heading down Fayette Station Road. Check your brakes before bombing down this curvy, paved downhill.

The trail started as an old mining road that passed ghostly mining operations before narrowing down into singletrack. There were moments where blown over trees and small landslides forced us off our bikes, but they were easily passable. The trail eventually settled into a mix of up and down singletrack that was by turns smooth and rocky with some moderately steep climbs and descents.

Some rocky creek crossings gave a good challenge, the highlight being one that passed along a waterfall. All the while, the trail followed the New River. Riding in the early spring afforded us a view the whole way.

The singletrack ended at the junction of Mill Creek and the New River, where the Hawks Nest tram delivers sightseers. The last leg of the ride followed the Ansted Rail Trail, about 1.8 miles of easy climbing along the wonderfully scenic Mill Creek. Now, when riders ask me about the Ansted Connector? “It’s fun,” I will tell them. “And technical in parts. Definitely go.” How to Get There

Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia

A mountain biker at Little Beaver State Park
Photo by Michael Boyes

#2: Little Beaver State Park
19 miles of trails

I won’t lie. I’d been avoiding Little Beaver because it sounded like a lot of work and misery.

Sure enough, everything I’d heard about Little Beaver was 100 percent accurate. Roots? Check. Rocks? It’s got ‘em. Climbing? As much as you want.

The one thing I didn’t expect? Fun.

I climbed from the parking lot, following a trail that ran along the border of the campgrounds. Eventually I reached the cemetery at the top of the ridge and picked up Rhododendron Run. This stretch had a nice mix of some flowy stuff, technical climbs and full-on rock gardens. While the trails are marked, I wasn’t always sure where I was (I wound up in the adjacent Glade Springs development at one point).

I spend most of my time riding on the IMBA-style Arrowhead trails near Fayetteville, so this was a nice, if more strenuous, change of pace. There are no shortage of challenges along the way, but I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment looking back and admiring the rock garden I just cleaned. Some gardens I enjoyed from a more horizontal viewpoint whilst entangled in my bike.

As always, keeping an eye farther down the trail went a long way toward negotiating the rocks and roots. Picking good lines helped, too. If you like that worn-out feeling you get at the end of a long ride, you’ll love Little Beaver.

A few tips will help you get the most out of the trails at Little Beaver.
• Expect your pace to be slower than normal if you’re not used to riding this kind of terrain.
• Be prepared to fix a flat or two.
• There are plenty of trails here; planning out your ride is advisable rather than just winging it. How to Get There

mountain biking West Virginia New River Gorge

A mountain biker heads for the Ace network of trails
Photo by Michael Boyes

#3: ACE Trails
30 miles of trails

While the arrow­head trails were built over a short period of time, much of them by Boy Scout troops completing their community service detail during the Scout Jamboree, the trails at ACE have been gradually, quietly chiseled out over decades.

A mix of singletrack and old logging roads wind their way along ridgelines and hollers near Minden, West Virginia. Occasionally the woods give way to a beautiful view of the gorge, and the ample singletrack has some technical sections thrown in for good measure. These trails are located on the private property of a commercial resort, but open to the public for riding (check in at the welcome center on your way to the trailhead). —NRGAG  How to Get There

Kanawha State Forest, West Virginia, mountain biking

A mountain biker on Black Bear Trail, Kanawha State Forest

#4: Kanawha State Forest
13 miles of trails

I hiked in Kanawha State Forest, 1 hour west of the New River Gorge near Charleston, over 15 years ago. Once. What I remember most is the vertical relief of the landscape. Guess what? It’s still there.

I returned recently to try out the trails on my bike. We started out climbing the fire road for about a mile until we came to Teaberry, a fun trail that with some steep features and a couple of challenging switchbacks. I took it slow and walked a couple of spots that were above my comfort level. I’d probably try riding those next time around.

At the bottom, we took an old fire road to the Mossy Rock trail. It started out on a reasonable grade and continued to get steeper as we climbed. With some rocks and roots sprinkled in, the trail will push all but the heartiest riders to the edge of their climbing abilities. The end of Mossy Rock dumps you out on Middle Ridge Road, an extension of the fire road we climbed at the start that runs along, well, the middle of the ridge.

Weaving in and out of the road is the Middle Ridge Trail. This is the payoff for all that climbing. Middle Ridge is flowy without any huge climbs and seems to go on forever. Way fun.

Eventually we were back on the fire road, looking for a trail to take us off the ridge. We’d been at it for a while and had more or less decided to avoid Black Bear, Kanawha State Forest’s signature trail. It’s steep, rocky, rooty and will give your brakes a good workout. But the first sign we came to was, yep, Black Bear, and we couldn’t resist the challenge. There is one super steep section–Spectator Falls—that you can (and we did) ride around.

These trails are challenging, but fun. They are, for the most part, old-school trails that were built to get you from bottom to top and vice versa. Ride these often enough and you’ll be a beast on two wheels. How to Get There

 

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Category: New River Gorge Mountain Biking

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