Hawks Nest Rail Trail

West Virginia

Hawks Nest Rail Trail Facts

States: West Virginia
Counties: Fayette
Length: 1.8 miles
Trail end points: Hawks Nest Road and CR 60/2 (Ansted) and New River in Hawks Nest State Park
Trail surfaces: Dirt, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6317558
Trail activities: Mountain Biking, Walking

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Hawks Nest Rail Trail Description

The Hawks Nest Rail Trail is located primarily within Hawks Nest State Park near Ansted. The trail is nearly 2 miles long and runs on the south side of Mill Creek, beginning near the nature center. The gravel and dirt surfaces are suitable for mountain biking and walking, and it has two trestles. You'll also find a scenic waterfall and other paths in the park.

The park offers swimming, a tramway (fee required), small museums, nature center, picnic shelters and boating.

Parking and Trail Access

Hawks Nest State Park is on the Midland Trail National Scenic Byway (US 60), 1 hour east of Charleston, West Virginia, and 8 miles west of US 19.

Hawks Nest Rail Trail Reviews

Easy down hill trail for bicycles. The best part is that on hot days you can go swimming and sliding in the creek next to the trail. There is a safe 15 foot water jump at the falls half way down, but make sure you check the water depth yourself. It was 10 feet deep when we went in June. Farther down, you can go into a coal mine - we went 30 feet before turning back.

Perfect trail for an easy hike. Well maintained with a gentle grade, it parallels Mill Creek, which features several enticing shallow pools for cooling off. The waterfall dries up when there hasn't been rain but is lovely when running.

I did it May 7 after having done the Cliffside Trail at Hawk's Nest, which was more challenging as a path thru the woods with some climbing. Then rather than accessing the trail from Anstead, I went behind the tennis courts at the lodge and took the GSYP trail down the side of the mountain the tram runs, which are very, very steep stairs. The Rail trail is a mellow walk, nearly level, with great views of Mill Creek the whole way up. Kayakers were on the creek to watch, and you saw some locals. After taking in the view from the bridge over Mill Creek at the top, I headed back down, the climbed back up GSYP to the lodge. I don't recommend this. The stairs are uneven and nearly vertical. Spring for the half tram ride to the top. Lovely walk.

Accordion

I am 55 years old, in decent shape, don't walk or bike a lot but this was pretty easy walk. The only thing easier would be flat pavement. Grade is 240' per mile which is not really noticeable. no ups and down, just even grade downhill going downstream, and slight uphill going upstream.

It might have been somewhat exerting if I had to pedal a slight uphill grade on a bike (from New River upstream along Mill Creek to the trailhead). But I only bike on flat pavement! So I walked it. Going down I could have slowly coasted all the way. This would be an easy mountainbike trail for even moderately mountainbikers, but I would not take a road bike with narrow tires and expect a leisurely flat ride in a middle or upper gear. Mostly hardpack gravel and dirt, a couple of damp places but no real muddy puddles.
Some very scenic waterfalls, one big one about 20' high, can wade out in the stream a few places. Some interesting sedimentary geology and one abandoned coal mine entrance. It would be very pretty in the fall with the change in leave color, but some places the leaves would partial block the view of Mill Creek, at least for picture taking.
I went Sunday April 17 2016 and the leaves were just emerging. On that day there was a large tree, about 18" diameter, across the trail about half way (1 mile mark or so). It fell from a cliff above so it was across at an angle, not laying flat, so you had to climb over it, or crawl under it. You could not ride a mountain bike across it but you could lift it over.
I started at the top and walked down it talking my time and taking pictures, took 60 minutes to go the almost 2 miles. Coming back, kept a brisk exercise pace and didn't stop and made the 2 miles back "uphill" in 40 minutes. You can also walk just one way if someone will drop you off and drive to the other end to get you.
Bathrooms and parking at each end (a road follows the other side of Mill Creek), drinking fountain only at bottom. Plus at the bottom where Mill Creek empties into the New River there is a small gift shop, refreshment stand and nature center. All were not open as of April 17, might have been too early in the tourist season.

Great rail trail especially in spring before leaves come on and you can see all of the water falls and continuous cascades, and especially after rains. Also probably great in early June when the Rhodadendron are blooming. But enough gaps in trees to see enough cascades to make the trip worth it in any season. Old coal mine remains to be seen. Don't worry about the slope on returning. Its 240 feet per mile and riding back up is work but not as bad as the pictures and maps make it look. Hard packed fine gravel. Also it would be easy to set up an easy shuttle, or have a family ride down and one go back for the car.

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