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The Greenbrier River Trail is arguably West Virginia’s premier rail-trail, running for 78 miles past remote small towns and through lush forests along the banks of the longest undammed river in the eastern United States. The trail’s accolades include induction into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, as well as recognition as a National Recreation Trail and one of 52 Millennium Legacy Trails in the United States.
The longest rail-trail in the state, the crushed-stone route crosses 35 bridges and passes through two tunnels as it follows the meandering Greenbrier River downstream from the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park to Caldwell. Maintained by the state parks department and the nonprofit Greenbrier River Trail Association, the trail uses the former corridor of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O), which hauled coal and lumber out of the mountains from the early 1900s until the 1970s.
Thru-travelers will find few services along the route and are encouraged to carry their own food and water. Check the trail association’s website for information on bike rentals and shuttles. Drinking water is available at the beginning and end of the trail, at trailside parks, and at mileposts 9.5, 28.5, 63.8, and 69.6. A dozen campsites are available along the river, and accommodations are also available off-route in the town of Marlinton and in Watoga State Park. The lack of cell service on parts of the trail—because of a quiet zone created for a nearby radio telescope—compounds the feeling of remoteness here in the midst of the Appalachian Mountains.
The mileposts start at the southern end of the trail in Caldwell, but you can take advantage of a gentle downhill slope by following the river downstream from the northern end at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Created as a company town for a giant lumber mill operation, Cass now serves as the base of operations for steam locomotives that run tourists to nearby mountain destinations.
Heading south for 9 miles, the first town you will pass is Clover Lick, which houses a restored railroad depot built in 1900 that once served the booming logging industry. The trail continues its serpentine route for 6 miles to the 500-foot-long Sharps Tunnel and a trestle that crosses the river.
Another 9 miles takes you to a nearly 4-mile stretch of paved trail through Marlinton, the largest town on the trail and the first settlement in the Greenbrier Valley, in 1749. The circa 1901 C&O railroad depot now houses the Pocahontas County Artists Co-op, where you can find trail information. Several cafés, grocery stores, bike shops, and overnight accommodations are available in town. Hungry trail users can also par-take in the celebrated annual Roadkill Cookoff in the fall.
Autumn is a popular season for leaf-peepers to visit the trail as the hardwoods splash the mountainsides in yellows and reds. Trail users can stumble upon deer, groundhogs, bears, and snakes during much of the year.
Eight miles south of Marlinton, you’ll cross the river on another old trestle, and in 2 more miles, you’ll arrive in Seebert, which boasts a well-known ice-cream stop. Over the next 15 miles, most towns are little more than names on a map, but another remnant of the railroad era emerges at the 402-foot-long Droop Mountain tunnel just before Horrock.
The trail ends about 28 miles farther south at milepost 3 in North Caldwell. Three-tenths of a mile north on Stone House Road, you’ll find a historic home called the Stone Manse, dating from 1796. The trailhead is located just outside Lewisburg, which has a variety of shops, restaurants, and lodging.
There are numerous other access points and parking areas along the entire route; refer to the map for more details.
To reach the northern trailhead at Cass, take US 219 to State Route 66 east; or take SR 28 to SR 66 west and look for the trailhead at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park along SR 66 (Back Mountain Road).
To reach the southern trailhead at North Caldwell, take Interstate 64 east and take Exit 175 to US 60 west. Take this 2.7 miles to SR 38/Stone House Road. If you're coming from I-64 west, take Exit 169 to US 219 north, then take this 0.5 mile to SR 30/Brush Road. From here, drive another 0.5 mile to SR 38/Stone House Road.
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