I did it! I biked the North Bend Rail Trail in northern West Virginia over two days. The shape of the trail is NOT as bad as advertised. In fact, this is why this ride report is rather long and full of pictures of empty trail-I wanted to get the word out in 2018, you CAN ride the NBRT!
We missed the trailhead driving down the road on Happy Valley. Heads up, it is next to a big blue farm. Soon as you see “Miller’s Landing” on your left, you will see the trailhead sign. Off I go. It’s a dry day, going to get hot soon. The trail is fine. It’s compacted dirt, sometimes grassed over, often just a single track-similar to the C&O Towpath Trail.
The first six miles the trail runs along the Little Kanawha River. There are houses and summer cabins along the trail. I encounter no loose dogs and only two people walking their dog along the trail this morning. It’s just a nice green tunnel with occasional glimpses of the water.
It gets very quiet once the trail leaves the river. It’s remote and quiet…and remote and quiet. I wonder where my first tunnel is, thinking it’s about mile 11. I keep planning on stopping and taking a break, then decide to do so at the tunnel.
I pass the town of Walker on the backside. I can see there is a post office there. I wonder how far it would be from the highway in case one wanted to drive into Walker and cache water on the trail…and where is this tunnel anyways? I consult my little list I made of major locations. Okay, tunnel isn’t until Mile 15! Time for a break!
Eaton Tunnel 1840 feet long
This tunnel is near a road and hence, graffitied. I was happy to see this was the only tunnel with graffiti. I turned on my two little bike lights. They were sufficient but I should have had them turned more toward the ground.Once through the tunnel, it’s some gradual downhill-whee! Biking is fun again!!
The trail conditions do not change as I enter Ritchie County (there is a small sign announcing the change.) I stop at mile eighteen, which is Petroleum. There is a nice gazebo with seat and a pit toilet.
I have a snack and water and chat with a NBSP worker. He told me he and the other mower (that I had just passed) were responsible for mowing the entire trail. Once they got to one end, it was time to start mowing again.
There are four bike repair stations along the trail!
Silver Run Tunnel 1376 feet long
This is the haunted tunnel!
Silver Run is reported to be haunted. I turn on both lights, and bring out my big headlamp. I see no haunts in the tunnel. It is pleasantly nice and cool in the tunnel.
I come to the town of Cairo, which looks kind of deserted. Shemp’s ice cream store is closed and for sale. (I find them again operating a food truck in Ellenboro-far more profitable.) Ice cream hopes dashed, I decide not to go into the restaurant next door.
I just want some water and Gatorade. I find that at Country Trails Bikes. I rehydrate, call the hubs and tell him where I am, and back into the green tunnel.
About two miles later, I come to Bonds Creek Bridge, which was the sight of a huge derailment and fatalities. The trail to North Bend State Park is at this intersection.
The Bonds Tunnel is the next tunnel to traverse.
On the other side of the Bonds Tunnel is the Matt Turner Gazebo, a large shelter.
Tunnel 12 577 feet
The next tunnel is not too far from the Bonds Creek Tunnel, Tunnel 12
Patterson’s or Dick Bias Tunnel
The next tunnel is not too far down the trail. This tunnel is called Patterson’s but renamed in honor of Dick Bias. The late Dick Bias played a key role in getting a trail established, forming the North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation and leading the negotiations with CSX. He personally directed the initial fundraising to acquire the old rail line for $350,000. Tunnel No. 10 is named after Bias, who died in 1995.
This tunnel is different. It was never lined with wood or bricks, just left as is.
All tunnel-ness aside, I’m getting pretty tired of riding my bike and happy to be getting close to Ellenboro. I know I am getting near when I pedal under Route 50. I know about the little incline up to the bridge-it’s fine. I phone my hubs to bring me water so I don’t have to top at the very busy gas station in Ellenboro. I continue to pedal down on my way to Pennsboro.
Finally! I see the Pennsboro Depot, but more importantly I see the sign for Crossroads Cafe, where I am meeting the hubs and hopefully eating dinner! They have great food-I had a burger and scrumptious fried green tomatoes-I definitely recommend them!
Day One Conclusion
Tunnels-Five tunnels to travel through. Do Bring a light
Bridges-Lots of bridges, I was counting, but then lost count
Water Supply-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro; ride to the Lodge at North Bend State Park
Food-town of Cairo, Ellenboro, Pennsboro, ide to the Lodge at North Bend State Park
Trail Condition-being mid July and a dry month for the state of West Virginia, trails in good condition. Your ride may vary! I would not bring a road bike on this trail, or a loaded down tour bike. I think you would be miserable. There are some gravel, dirt, cinders, grass to ride on. A mountain bike or a bike with nice wide tires would be appropriate for this trail.
Trail markings-the North Bend Rail Trail is pretty much unmarked. BUT it’s kind of hard to miss this big flat surface that resembles a jeep road. You have to use common sense. This is about the only type of marker you will see:
Accommodations-you could camp pretty much anywhere on this trail. I might not camp in the next six miles around Parkersburg, as there are still houses along that section. But other than that, look at my pictures-no houses in sight, you could plop your tent right down on the trail. Other than that, North Bend State Park is on the trail, you could follow the side trail to the campground OR the lodge.
If you would rather stay inside halfway through your trip in either direction, I recommend the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro. It’s on the south side of Route 50, maybe 1/10 mile from the trail. It’s a new hotel, indoor pool, great rooms. The included breakfast starts at 430 am! That turned into a great halfway point for me to rest and fuel up.
Stay Tuned for Day Two of my North Bend Rail Trail Adventure! Thanks for reading, leave me comments or questions, I would be happy to answer!