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Kanawha County’s Elk River Trail provides access to Coonskin Park, a large park originally built by local residents in the 1950s and now managed by the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission. The trail runs alongside the Elk River for its entire length, although views are largely obscured by dense tree cover.
On the trail’s eastern side, Charleston’s Yeager Airport is hidden from view by a substantial elevation change typical of the scenic region’s topography. Case in point: there is a steep grade where the trail leaves a former rail corridor. While the majority of the Elk River Trail is not a rail-trail, a short section runs parallel to an out-of-service rail line, making it a very short rail-with-trail.
At the trail’s northern end, Coonskin Park offers a playground, golf course, amphitheater, soccer stadium, swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts, hiking trails and picnic shelters, all nestled within more than a thousand acres of woodlands.
Parking for the Elk River Trail is available in Coonskin Park at the Riverside Pavilion. A sign along Coonskin Drive will direct you to turn left to access the trail and parking just south of J.W. Herscher Lake.
We walked it, but consider it suitable for a good bike. I see now where it could serve as an emergency exit from the residential street at one end, as another review mentioned.
It was a really nice scenic walk on a nice fall day.
The Elk River Trail was recently widened to the width of a road due to a landslide at Charleston's Yeager Airport that landed on Keystone Drive. The change provides an emergency exit for residents of Barlow Drive in the case of flooding, or other emergencies.
Some consider it an intrusion into the forest near Coonskin Park, but for bikers and casual hikers, it creates a flat, even walking/riding trail along the Elk River in Charleston, WV.
Here's a link to a recent TV report where you can see some video of the newly widened and gravel covered Elk River Trail:
I have to disagree with some of the information posted about this trail. I have ridden this trail regularly over the past few years. I will agree that only a small portion of it was originally a rail bed then it splits away. However, the terrain is not particularly difficult for a bike. The only moderate grade is where the trail splits from the rail bed. Out of 5 stars of terrain I'd give it a 2. There does tend to be some muddy areas although the land slip was fixed in 2010 and is completely ridable (sp?). The only drawback is that they laid large rock where the slip was which makes riding a little rough.
They have posted signs at either end stating that you are riding at your own risk. They were posted while the airport was actively extending the runway and the slip occurred. I have not seen any additional activity in 2010 or 2011 but the signs are still there. So, in summary, this is more difficult than a traditional rails-to-trail, but it is pretty easy relative to other bike trails.
"This trail is far too steep for wheelchair access, unless the person had a very strong attendant; parts of it are too steep for all but the strongest cyclist. At one point runoff from the airport created so much mud I had to pick up my bike and walk with it. How someone in a wheelchair would have managed it I don't know. Most of the length is too far from the river for fishing, and it seldom, if ever, snows enough here for cross-country skiing.
It isn't really a rail-trail; there is an abandoned rail line that runs more-or-less paralell, much closer to the river, which would make an excellent railtrail, and I believe that there is a movement to create one.
As it is, I'd only recommend this to hikers and very experienced mountain bikers."
"Although it is a good backdoor into Coonskin Park from Charleston, it:
1. Is not a RailTrail. There is an abandoned rail line that follows the Elk River, cuts through Coonskin Park, and then goes on to Clendenin and beyond, but it has not (yet?) been turned into a trail.
2. Portions of it are too steep for all but very strong cyclists. It is NOT wheelchair friendly at all.
3. Construction from the adjacent airport has damaged portions of the trail. For example, runoff at one place created a mudhole that made it impassible by bicyle; I had to pick up my bike and wade across. What someone in a wheelchair, or a cyclist with less upper-body strength than I would do, I don't know, besides turn around and go back.
I have heard that the airport people are going to fix the trail, but I'm not holding my breath.
(There is talk of turning a portion of the abandoned rail line into a trail. I hope it goes through.)"
but it doesn't GO anywhere!
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