Blackwater Canyon Trail

West Virginia

Blackwater Canyon Trail Facts

States: West Virginia
Counties: Tucker
Length: 10.5 miles
Trail end points: Main St. at 3rd St. (Hendricks) and Douglas Rd. at East Ave. (Thomas)
Trail surfaces: Dirt, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017246
Trail activities: Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Blackwater Canyon Trail Description

In 1888, the Blackwater Canyon Trail, located in the Monongahela National Forest, was used to haul coal and lumber through this stunning canyon. Today, remnants of this history still remain just outside of Thomas in the form of coke ovens that line the trail along the mountainside.

The Blackwater Canyon Trail is perfect for hikers or mountain bikers in search of solitude. The trail curves along the Blackwater River and its North Branch, meandering through Blackwater Falls State Park. As such, this is a terrifically scenic pathway, with mountains lining both sides of the canyon, and the roaring river a steady soundtrack to your journey. Best views of the river, including scenic waterfalls, are to be enjoyed during late fall, winter and early spring, when the trees don't have as many leaves.

It is best to follow this trail from Thomas to Hendricks since there is a considerable climb in the other direction. As you travel along the Blackwater Canyon Trail, you may happen upon one of several endangered species, including the West Virginia flying squirrel, Indiana bat or the Cheat Mountain salamander. The habitat surrounding the trail is vital to the survival of these species, so it is important to stay on the trail. In Hendricks, it is also possible to pick up the Allegheny Highlands Trail and Limerock Trail (hiking only).

Parking and Trail Access

In Thomas, head south on State Route 32 (Spruce Street). Turn right onto Douglas Road, which crosses the trail. Turn left off Douglas Road onto the trail (you can drive on this portion) to reach the trailhead, approximately 1 mile down the road. The trailhead, where there is space for parking, is marked by a Forest Service gate.

In Hendricks, take State Route 72 east through town and turn right on Second Street. The trailhead is on the right. Look for the gazebo and parking at the trailhead.

Blackwater Canyon Trail Reviews

We rode this trail just before Labor Day. Parked at Hedricks and rode up, had a beer or two (and excellent crossaints (however you spell them)) at the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, and drifted all the way back down to our cars. It was great ride, and the trail was well maintained--unlike our previous experience on this trail. We will most likely do this again--and again.

This is one of the great trails for breathtaking scenery. Started in Parsons WV and rode to Thomas WV. The ride from Parsons to Hendricks is paved once in Hendricks the trail ascends to Thomas. About two miles past Hendrick the trail get's a little rough and is not maintained but the struggle is worth the views. Once you get to Douglas Falls the ride into Thomas is fairly easy. Thomas is a great mountain town with all amenities. This trail would be outstanding if maintained but it is definitely one of the best trails in the country.

Rode this Trail one way downhill from Thomas to Hendricks using a Shuttle First week of August. You can park right on the Street in Thomas & there is a lot in Hendricks at the Town Park where the Blackwater Canyon Trail meets the Allegheny Highlands Trail. This trail looked nice as well, first part is paved but I didn't ride it a a thunderstorm was moving in.

First few miles of The Blackwater Canton were very much like a Standard Rail Trail, than the single track started. Not really too challenging, trail is wide at first, but then gets pretty narrow in spots. Trail isn't too rough but it is single track mountain biking, but you just can't call it anything else. I wouldn't take anything but a Mountain Bike down this trail based on it's current conditions.

There are some great views, but they would be better in the fall & even after the leaves drop. Very lightly traveled, I only saw 5-6 others on the trail & no other bikes so it is pretty secluded....was a great ride!

Be advised the middle 5.5 miles of this trail are not maintained by the NPS & it shows. Actually saw one guy w/a Gas Weed Eater doing his own trail maintenance in the National Forest! There is a section in the middle of this trail which isn't much wider than your bike tire w/A LOT of Stinging Nettles growing very close to the trail.....you will hit them so they would be an issue in the Spring/Early Summer! Fortunately they were about 3 weeks past the stinging stage when I was there. Folks at Blackwater Bikes in Davis can help you w/anything you need in this area including local info, maps, repairs, etc....great local bike shop!

Accordion

Either direction you start is a winner. The ride, yes a tad bumpy with a dash of mud but we'll worth the beauty that abounds the trail. Thomas,WV is worth the visit alone.

Travelled N to S (downhill) on loaded touring bike in September. For a single track the path is in pretty good shape, though there were some rocks, occasional muddy spots despite the dry weather, and several trees down requiring little detours. I accepted these as contributing to the wildness of the place. Excessive speed would be dangerous, and would also cause one to miss the occasional dramatic views. The views would be better after leaf fall, as there is abundant small to medium tree growth. I hope this trail doesn't get much more developed as that would detract from its wildness and increase the risk of serious accidents.
There is potential to extend the trail above Thomas, and I hope that can be done. There the present gravel road in the ROW is not good for biking, but wide enough that a part of it could be cordoned off and cinderized for a better surface.

Been to this trail the past 3 years. It has
a great waterfall that you can not see because
of tree growth and no view clearing.

This trail could be one of the best in the country but it need tons of local work and
work from the State of WVA.

It's only gotten worse over the past 3 years.

Some work was done at the beginning but it's a 10 mile trail and only work at the top 2 miles
has happened. This needs State Money bad.

First things first, this is not your typical rail to trail. There is a significant but steady incline or decline depending on your entry point. Second the trail is rugged yet gorgeous.
To be clear, if you are not a strong rider, you should either start in Fredrick and ride as far as you can then turn around or ride from Thomas and have a friend or a shuttle meet you in Fredrick.
ENTRY POINTS:
There are only two points I would park. Pull into downtown Thomas (it's a really cool artsy community). We parked right on the street unloaded, dropped over the small drop to the rail bed and started riding.
As mentioned, you may choose to start in Fredrick...if so, there is a really nice park right off of Third and Main. Just follow the signs to stream access and bike path. Park in the park if you want to take this trail make a right and cross main...you will be on a gravel road for the first mile or so then it switches to a single track and it's all up hill from there...
As mentioned, the trail is rugged and there are several spots where there is not much between you and some very dangerous drops. But understand the danger, hard work and effort will bring huge rewards. On the day we went the water was running heavy and there was an absolute gem of a waterfall not far from Thomas. The most incredible thing about that waterfall is how huge and powerful it was yet it is clearly rarely seen by anyone.
Suggestion ...buy a helmet use a solid mountain bike with a good seat and enjoy this gem...you won't regret it...well unless you start in Thomas and forget yourself and ride to the end without a shuttle. That would suck but other than that, enjoy.

Rode the trail in early November after a great deal of rain had fallen. The trail which turns into single track after the trail heads was leaf covered and wet. Since I'd never ridden it before I spent most of the downhill trip to Hendricks covering the brakes. I was riding a hardtail with 2" knobbie tires at 50psi so I felt a lot of 'chatter'from the gravel on the downhill portion of the ride. The payoff for riding in the soggy conditions was enjoying the beauty of three small waterfalls along the ride and the constant roar of the river in the canyon as a result of all the precip. You pay for the 'free' ride down on the way back up. The grade is never too steep but there are rarely any false flats to rest or spin your legs. As the saying goes 'slow and steady win the race'. Would definitely recommend it for anyone visiting the area.

I rode this trail with two friends in late September 2014. We began at the Thomas end of the trail. 36 degrees at the start of the ride! This trail is more on the primitive end of the rail trail scale, but don't let that dissuade you! With a little work comes great reward! The views and roaring of the river far below the trail are incredible. We coasted and braked almost the entire length of the trail. The trail itself is a little rough and we definitely felt it in our hands and forearms from gripping the handlebars tightly. A few drop-offs immediately left of the trail were dangerous and probably would kill you, so keep your eyes on the trail while moving!!! I gave this trail 4 stars only because some may not like the vibration from the rougher trail. I loved it, and would definitely ride it again!!!

After reading online comments, I was expecting this trail to be filled with obstacles. Not the case at all.

The trail is clearly not maintained like most rail-trails. But, all sections are easily passable by foot or bike. I was on a cyclocross bike (700x32mm tires) with a BOB trailer. I had no flats or mechanical issues.

The weather was perfect yet I only passed 6 people total (out and back). It did not seem like a well traveled trail.

I started on the north end near Thomas. I somehow got lost trying to find the trailhead and ended up parking in a lot at the intersection of Douglas Road and the trail. Once I passed the fire gate, the trail narrowed a bit. I coasted most of this trail. It slopes downhill enough where you only pedal a few times per minute.

The scenery is excellent. There are many waterfalls and river views. You can stop at most of them and enjoy them upclose. Others are down a steep slope or you are looking at the river down in the canyon. This trail mostly is up high.

Once you reach Parsons, there are food options.

The reverse trip is all uphill. Save some energy because you will be pedalling the whole way.

Overall its a great trail!

Our 6 and 8 year Olds loved this trail. It was easy riding with a very consistent grade and only a couple of minor obstacles. We couldn't believe we only saw one other person - but we did get underway early.
The trailhead instructions were unclear, just as easy to park by the river in Thomas and ride the extra 1 1/2 miles from there - and your car will be safer too.
Check out Tip Top cafe we loved it before and after the ride :)

The Blackwater Canyon Trail is open. During the summer and fall of 2013, volunteers worked to clear the trail of the fallen trees.

Myself and some others tried to ride the trail and its not passable any longer... We started from Hendricks and after the gate trees where blocking the trail. We walked around them and we were met with more and more and it got the point that we were getting cut up and having a hard time working our bikes through the tangle of trees. Needless to say we turned back and abandoned, our day of the Canyon ride....... Very SAD! I loved riding it last year a few times but now I'm afraid without a huge effort we are looking at a trail that is gone.
If you love that trail and have a day to spend cutting it out then lets arrange it and make it happen.....
tshull1@gmail.com

This trail has a lot of potential, but the surface is very poor and this makes the riding unpleasant. There are many better choices nearby in West Virginia, western Maryland, and southwestern Pennsylvania.

"I was camping in WV and could not leave till I rode this trail again. It is not for everyone, but if you love to ride in WV this is one trail you have to try, both ways. I did pulling my trailer and I am 52. I WILL BE BACK FOR MORE !"

"I ""discovered"" this trail by accident when I came to the end of the newest section of the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail at Hendricks in May 2004 (I had no maps with me and had no idea where I was even headed until I returned to Davis that night!).

This was an easy uphill due to the rail grade. As I ascended, I felt as though I had entered a great wilderness. I wasn't sure what would appear around the next bend. And, darn, where was my fishing gear!?!

It was delightful. Mildly technical in a few spots, it's a trail advanced novices and seasoned riders alike can enjoy. By the way, I'm a 53 year old female.

This trail needs no improvements, just maintenance. I would not want to see it developed.

If you have not traveled Rt 72 between Parsons and Dry Fork, you've missed some wonderful WV scenery.

Faith"

"I rode this trail from Thomas to Parsons on June 22, 2003. I loved it -- it's very remote and wild. The trail in this direction is almost all downhill. I rode the brakes a lot. Going uphill most of the way back was not that bad. I am 49 and made it."

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