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Southern Virginia's New River Trail is one of America's premier rail-trails and has been designated as an official National Recreation Trail by the US Department of the Interior. It is also a state park running through Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, and Pulaski counties along the New River. In 1986, the Norfolk Southern Railroad donated the railroad corridor, which originally served to supply the once expanding iron industry to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
If you travel from Galax or Fries and head north, the mileage markers count down beginning at the 57-mile marker. Also, much of the trail is downhill from south to north. If you start from Pulaski (Dora Junction), the first 3 miles are uphill, though most won't find it a burdensome climb. A mile or so before Draper, it's downhill to the Hiawassee trestle at the river. This 5-mile section also features numerous trestles, while offering a look into mountain railroading, since the tracks climbed away from the river to reach the mainline at Pulaski.
Many visitors choose to begin at Foster Falls, the New River State Park headquarters, located about midway along the New River Trail. The park’s Foster Falls Boat and Bike Livery (116 Orphanage Drive, Max Meadows) rents bikes (as well as canoes, kayaks and float tubes), and provides shuttle services and guided horse rides.
The Galax trailhead, which features an old red caboose, has plenty of parking. From here, you follow Chestnut Creek along the 12-mile Galax to Fries Junction section. The creek affords rugged scenery from the narrow valley it carved on its way to the river. At mile marker 38, you'll encounter the beautiful Fries Junction trestle bridge crossing the New River. Just across the bridge, you have the option of taking a pleasant excursion to Fries, a 12-mile roundtrip. This 6-mile spur is included in the trail's 57-mile total length.
The remaining 39 miles proceeds north (downgrade with the river) along the peacefully flowing New River as it runs through Cripple Creek Junction, Foster Falls and Allisonia. The trail is isolated for much of this journey, so if you are on this stretch, be sure to carry all necessary supplies in case of an emergency or quick bike repair.
Along the way, you'll see many railroading highlights, including cavernous tunnels, steep dams, the historical Shot Tower and trestle bridges (you'll marvel at the impressive 950-foot Hiawassee trestle around mile marker 8). Both termini (Galax and Pulaski) have all your post-trail amenities.
To reach the Galax trailhead, take Interstate 77 to the US 221/US 58 Exit (Exit 14) toward Hillsville/Galax. The trailhead is located on the right, where US 58 crosses Chestnut Creek.
To reach the Dora Junction trailhead in Pulaski from I-81, take State Route 99 west for 2 miles toward Xaloy. Turn right on Xaloy Way and look for the trailhead on the right.
You can also access the trail in Fries: Take I-77 to the US 221/US 58 Exit (Exit 14) toward Hillsville/Galax. Turn right at Cliffview Road/SR 721 to Fries. SR 721 becomes Fries Road before crossing the New River. As you come into town, turn left on Dalton Road. The trailhead is at the bottom of the hill; the trail signs are impossible to miss. Parking is available near the town park on Riverview Avenue.
If you start Galax you will be rewarded with great warmup to Fries Junction and fantastic bridge over New River. Go for it and ride to park headquaters at Foster Falls. The shot tower was interesting. Lots of horses on trial near Ivanoe- so ride careful ;-). Too bad you cant ride across dams on river. Relax and Enjoy. RustyWieland
We had such a great time bike-packing the New River Trail State Park. We took the Northbound route from Galax. We parked our car in Pulaski and got a shuttle from New River Outdoors. They were fantastic! Once we arrived in Galax its a short 2-3 miles to Cliffview Campground where we spent the first night. We stayed at site #3 which was possibly the best spot in the campground. The bathrooms were clean and there was drinking water there. They even had fire wood for $6 a bundle. Each site had posts for hammocks as well and site areas were large with a picnic table and hanger for food and bags. On day two we headed out toward Foster Falls. We stopped A LOT along the way to take in views and read signs. There are bathrooms and water sources along the way. It was a VERY leisurely ride. Most of the trail is very flat and had some low grade downhills. There are a few primitive first come first served campsites near Fries. Definitely stop off at Shot Tower and take a tour. They also have heated bathrooms there. Foster Falls Campgrounds were a little bigger than Cliffview. They have two camp stores with snacks, gear and more. Firewood is also available at the store. All the sites also included hammock posts, food hook and large areas for tents. We stayed at site #9 which was right on the river and had amazing views. Water and pit toilet were available but a little walk back up to the parking area. Day 3 we headed back to the car in Pulaski. This section doesn't have as many views or bridges but the bridges it does have are higher and have beautiful trusses. You are mostly riding through properties and towns on this section. If you have a chance you should stop off at Bryson's General Store in Draper for some snacks and BBQ. It was a nice treat. The last 7 miles or so have a slight incline. So just be prepared to constantly peddle. Up until that point the majority of the trip was downhill. The entire trail is extremely easy. Oh! Also if you like to mountain bike you should definitely plan to stop off at the new mountain biking trails as well. It's definitely worth the time. We only did the first 1 mile loop but we were glad we did! We are definitely planning to come back at some point with our wives and children.
My husband and I rode the New River Trail in two days / segments. We started both days at the New River Trail State Park - Foster Falls, as it is essentially the mid-point of the trail. On day 1, we rode from Foster Falls north to Pulaski. This was an easy ride with views of the river for most of the trip. We crossed several bridges and trestles on this trip including a large one near Hiwassee. Soon after crossing under I-81, we came to the split for the Dora Trail. If taking the Dora, be aware there is a somewhat steep grade with a few washout channels in it, so watch your speed. We arrived at Heritage Park in Pulaski right on time for a picnic lunch. The ride back was also pleasant and we encountered several trail users, bicycles and walkers. On day 2, we again began at Foster Falls and rode to the Galax / Fries junction. Since we had done our sightseeing in Galax earlier on our trip, we rode to and through the tunnel on the way to Galax, then turned around and continued on the Fries (pronounced 'freeze') trail spur. The trail ends in a very nice little park with a small café. We ate here with a group of other bicyclists and exchanged stories and trail recommendations. The park is right on the New River and has a beautiful view of waterfalls.
The southern half of the New River Trail is much more scenic than the northern half, in my opinion. The New River is possibly the most scenic river we have ridden to date, especially near Buck Dam and Buck Reservoir. We rode past several historical markers like the rock crusher at Ivanhoe, and a large concrete wall structure we determined to be the lead mine. We also encountered several horses on the southern half of the trail – a first for us on our biking adventures (we have our own horses at home, so dodging the ‘horse piles’ was nothing new). There is trail access to the historic Shot Tower as well, roughly 2 miles from Foster Falls (with tower tours on select dates). The entire trail was very well maintained, and we encountered maintenance crews in several places. For reference, we ride Trek bikes (his is a Merlin mountain bike and mine is a Verve2 hybrid). It was a nine-hour drive for us to get to this trail, but the mountain views and scenery were well worth it to this ‘flatlander’. We highly recommend this trail.
Two and a half day bike packing round trip from Pulaski to Galax (via Fries) and back to Pulaski (May 17-19).
Friday afternoon - Loaded up the bikes at the start of the Dora Trail in Pulaski. After a quick visit to the Pulaski Bike shop headed down the Dora Trail 1 1/2 miles to the junction with the New River Trail and off we went. Dora Trail was a bit of a mess. Lots of candy stretches, not much fun on loaded up bikes. Once we got on the New River Trail though it was smooth sailing.
We stopped at Draper for a late lunch at the Mercantile (recommended), then finished our 24 mile day at the Millrace Campground at Foster Falls. Great facility, we had a site right on the river. There's a camp store and a park store for little things, but there's nothing else in the immediate area, so if you overnight, bring your own food for camp. You can buy firewood there.
Saturday - Packed up and hit the trail early for a 40 mile day to Galax via Fries. The section from Foster Falls to Fries was my favorite of the trip. Very scenic and relaxing. Stopped for lunch at the Café in Fries. While the trail was worth the miles in its own right, lunch at the café was icing on the cake. Hearty helping sizes hit the spot, friendly staff and a great view of the river. Then back down the Fries spur trail to the main trail and on to Galax. At the junction, the main trail actually leaves the New River and follows Chestnut Creek into Galax. While we had been riding "uphill" most of the way so far, it had been a very gentle uphill until Fries Junction. The rest of the way into Galax was a noticeable uphill, not hard, but definitely going uphill. The state park campground was full that night so we camped at the Old Cranks RV park in Galax. The good - nice relatively clean bath house with hot showers, and within walking distance of downtown Galax (hello Creek Bottom Brewery). The bad - that was the only amenity. No trees, no fire pits, no tables (I mean come on, a picnic table is kind of a given for a campground, but not here).
Sunday - A quick bite and we were off for 52 miles back to Pulaski. Pretty much downhill until the very end. The Dora Trail conditions were much more aggravating at the end of 50+ miles, but it was a short aggravation at least, and was partially offset by a great late lunch at Al's On First in Pulaski.
Overall a great trip. The New River Trail was in fantastic shape. Way more scenic bridges and trestles than I expected. Great scenery throughout, especially between Foster Falls and Fries. Other than Pulaski, Draper, Fries and Galax, there are no towns along the way, and be sure to check the hours for the Mercantile and Fries Café if you plan to stop at either to make sure they'll be open. There are plenty of sheltered tables (some with chemical toilets nearby) along the route.
Overall a worthwhile and very enjoyable trail. It worked out well as a bike packing route and would be just as nice doing sections as day rides. Might skip the Dora Trail next time though.
We drove down from SE PA. Unfortunately it was raining so we only managed 24 miles out and back from the Austinville parking area. When we returned we were super dirty and our bikes were too. Luckily there was access to water to rinse all the gravel from us and our bikes. The next day we parked in Galax and rode to the split at Fries . The bridge and tunnels were awesome. The trail is in fabulous condition and I would highly recommend this trail very scenic and lots of wildlife.
I got on the bike at the Galax, VA Trailhead at 7 a.m.. You have to pay for parking which is uncommon for the trails I have ridden to date. At that time of day, I only saw one other cyclist in my first hour on the trail. While I would have loved to ride the entire length of the trail, I did not have 100+ miles in my legs and I still had a 5 hour drive to Dad's in Washington, PA. So I rode out 25 miles and turned around for a 50 mile ride.
Like the Great Allegheny Passage, I cannot say enough great things about this trail. The gravel surface was well maintained and I had no issues with my gravel bike riding the trail. Note that it is also used by horses and there were some piles to avoid, particularly on the bridges. They were infrequent, but noticeable. But it is a multiuse trail so no deductions for that in my mind. This trail is rural. Galax was a small town and there are few towns along the way. When riding gravel I use a camelbak instead of water bottles as bottles get dirty from the dust kicking up from the tires and dirt makes the drinks a touch less refreshing. My camelbak was near empty after my 50 miles. You will see a water bottle on the bike in the photos. Again since this trail is so remote, I use it as a first aid kit with basic first aid items, sun tan lotion, and a swiss army knife. On very long rides I use the second bottle to carry gels, bars, and other things to eat.
The scenery is breathtaking. The trestles were beautiful, the bridges amazing, and the tunnel closest to Galax was incredible. The view of the dam on the New River was also pretty cool. I encountered plenty of wild life. I saw many deer. The last one certainly startled me as I did not see it in the woods and it jumped out on the trail only about 10 yards in front of me and ran down the trail for about a quarter mile. I did let out a little scream as I was not expecting it and could not close the gap to draft. Also saw some wild turkeys, lots of little critters, and some cows relaxing in the New River having a drink.
I will return to ride more of this trail. Maybe next year when I go to Dad's for Father's Day, I will stay at the other end of the trail and do an out and back from the other side. But I would rather go back and ride the entire trail over two days completing it twice.
Excellent ride, great scenery, and enough "must see" items like the tunnels and bridges make this a 10 gear ride on my rating scale. (assuming a 10 gear cassette).
Touring bike ride from Galax to Foster falls, and back the next day. Nice and easy ride. Beautiful scenery, lots of views over a creek or the river. The campground at Foster falls is awesome. There is a convenience store and a subway 5 miles away from there.
well maintained trail. easy to find. nice scenery
This trail is fabulous. The view of the New River is beautiful. Gorgeous blooming flowers line the trails. It’s downhill, just a little, as you follow the riverbed. There are amazing rock formations and a tunnel. Take plenty of water and snacks. There are no restaurants along the way and exactly one convenience store. We saw butterflies, chipmunks, peacocks, and a snake.
We reserved a primitive site in Foster Falls State Park at the Mill Race Campground. I don't suppose we really needed a reservation, because we were the only ones there for the three days we were there. Actually, it was only two days, because we arrived late on the first day. But, the folks at the office were very helpful in arranging for our late arrival. Our paperwork packet was posted at the campsite and there was a bundle of wood and some kindling stacked and waiting for us.
The trail North to Pulaski is plenty wide and has a good surface for riding, though there are some soft spots here and there. We had to dodge around a lot of rocks in some areas, but for a rail trail cut out of rock along a river, I wasn't complaining. We stopped to move rocks and large limbs off of the path when we could.
There is a lot to look at along the trail and as being able to look at stuff is one of the great things about riding a trike, I had a great time and took a lot of pictures.
The Dora Trail, a walking trail connecting the New River Trail to downtown Pulaski, is loose gravel until you reach the paved portion. Some stretches are better than others, but we found ourselves dragging our trikes though a couple places because it was so soft.
Going the extra couple of miles and dragging our trikes through loose gravel was well worth the effort. Our reward was lunch and there is probably no better place to have lunch in Pulaski than "Al's on First". It was early afternoon and warm. They were serving on the patio, so we could keep an eye on our trikes while we rested and had our lunch. I had a chicken salad sandwich that was every bit as good as any I've eaten anywhere in the world...and I've been around the world...twice. My wife had a baked potato that she said was to die for. I think she was just really hungry. It did look good though. Definitely plan to have lunch there if you get into town.
Another great thing about downtown Pulaski is Pulaski Bikes. Their shop is right on the trail and they were very helpful. One of my bar end shifters had vibrated loose to the point it was becoming difficult to shift. I wasn't looking forward to making the return trip worrying about my shifter. No worries; I stopped and asked if there was anything they could do to help me and two of the guys came out and fixed me right up. I will be forever thankful for their help.
We had a great time on the trail and are looking forward to returning and finishing it with a trip out of Fries on up toward Foster Falls. We did the section from Galax to Fries Junction earlier this year, so we just have that one section to complete.
My first time on this trail. It was fabulous. From the great bike I rented from Blue Ridge Bikes in Galax to the excellent riding conditions. The trail is a flat, easy, fast ride but don't go too fast the scenery is fantastic. I can't wait to ride it again!! Oh yes, the lady at the trail shop was great. I bought two shirts. A t shirt to show off and a tech shirt for running and riding. Thanks to the park for such nice souvenir offerings!!
Definitely ride north to south. I did opposite and found last part of trail from New river to Pulaski is a long uphill slog at the end of a long ride. Also, be aware that the trail cut off to downtown Pulaski train station if you are headed north takes you by the sewage treatment plant which is ugly and smelly. Trail condition generally great until this cut off into Pulaski. Also on this cutoff there is soft mushy gravel. Definitely not a bike friendly surface. Avoid this cutoff and instead keep straight to Dora junction to complete the ride.
We loved biking this trail this summer in August. It was shaded , well maintained and beautiful. Following the river was awesome. We camped at Foster Falls which was primitive camping and well maintained. The river was there to cool off after a long bike ride and the sound of the river lulled one to sleep. Also, within 15 minutes was a town that had a grocery store to buy supplies that were needed or to eat out if one wanted. Biking this trail in autumn would be picturesque.
The campsite at Cliffview was very nice, clean, and quiet. The ride to Fries along the chestnut creek and south end of the new river trail was very scenic and peaceful. The trail itself was compacted dirt and finely crushed gravel, kept flat and free of ruts, so I was comfortable on my cyclocross bike. I only had one day on this visit, so I only made it to Foster Falls, but I'm looking forward to coming back to ride the northern leg.
We chose this ride after reading about it on the Traillink website and decided to make it into a Galax mini-vacation. We stayed in a cabin at Fiddler's Roost, a wonderful retreat about 15 minutes from the Galax trailhead. Had BBQ at the Smokehouse on Main St., picked up sandwiches for our ride from Macado's, and played Trivia at Creek Bottom Brewery. Met lots of friendly people on the trail and in town. Oh, and the ride was great.
57.7 miles of beauty, much of it shaded. Stayed at the cabins in Galax - great choice!
On the evening of our arrival, we did the Fries spur. Then divided the rest of the trail over 2 days. Best and cheapest shuttle service was found at the state park in the middle.
I have ridden this trail at least 10 times. It is beautiful and well maintained. It and the GAP in Pennsylvania are my favorites.
I rode from Galax to Pulaski in early October 2016. The trail conditions were great for most of the route. The only exception being a couple areas that were moderately rough due to higher horse traffic. My bike is a Surly Disc Trucker with 47mm tires, though I think most would be fine with narrower. I'd like to thank the woman who gave me half a sandwich on the trail. I'd thought there was a place to get something to eat at Foster Falls, but it turned out to be closed on that Monday. Despite not giving this trail 5 stars, I still highly recommend it and would have given it 5 if not for the horse damage. I was aware that horses were allowed on the trail before I went and some of the negative comments I'd read about horses seemed too negative. However, after witnessing the damage they cause, I now believe they shouldn't be on the trail.
Started my New River Trail ride on August 29th at 7:00. The ride was awesome following along the New River absolutely beautful scenery along the trail. The trail surface is made up of rock dust, dirt, and some gravel however it was extremely smooth. I rode a Giant Road Bike stocked up on bananns, trailmix, and a number of 20 0z bottles of water. It was one of the most enjoyable trail rides I have ever riden. The trail crosses over the New River. The trail was was flat mostly just a stead spin of the peddles. This time on the ride was bragging right to say i rode the trail so proud after the ride going into one of the stores to buy a New River Trails Hat and a 57.7 mile sticker that I placed on my rear glass of my pickup. If you are looking for a great ride the New River Trail is one you should consider. Next time I will take my time and enjoy the beautiful scenery that God has given us to enjoy.
Fine gravel trail suitable for MTBs or Gravel/Cyclocross bikes.
Beutiful scenery, with views of the New River, creeks, pastures, forest, cliffs, a few cabins, farms or homes.
Mostly wooded but some open sun light areas.
Two tunnels. Bring a light or ride slowly!
Nice long bridges high above the water.
Wildlife; deer, squirrels, birds, snakes, turles, etc.
The Ranger station at Foster Falls (near Interstate 77) has water and nice restrooms. There is little to no drinking water available anywhere else but there are some restrooms and sheltered benches along the trail.
I've been here four times and my most recent ride was awesome. I went on a Wednesday. I counted 12 people in 45 miles. I was able to maintain a 16 mph pace with the light traffic. The weather was perfect with some T-Storms brewing nearby. I had a tree fall over a section that I returned to 30 minutes later but I never felt any rain or wind. The scenery around the little town of Draper is stunning. One of my favorite long trails. Highly recommened!
I have read the previous two years' reviews and then used Google earth to select many sections of the NRT to bike this year. I have several observations. First, if you want the feel of a wide river valley with vistas of the mountains and not much development, in my opinion, the Fries to Byllesby Dam section is the best. Second, if you like trails with the long green tunnel feel, bike the Draper to Hiwassee, Austinville to Ivanhoe or Cliffview to Gambetta sections. Third, the trail sections either side of Ivanhoe where the horses predominate, has less to offer than other sections and highway access from anywhere to that trailhead via VA 94 is long. Finally, the Virginia Creeper Trail, even with crowds, is the Crown Jewel of all the Rails to Trails in Virginia.
Just returned from a two day round trip bike ride on the NRT. Scenery was magnificent, most of the surface is in excellent shape, but you have to watch out for the horse poop and rocks and branches. Drove from Wash DC Sunday to Dublin, VA and began trip Monday morning from Dora's Junction. Encountered several maintenance crews and grass cutting crews on Monday, but none on Tuesday. Only saw a handful of trail users until about 5 miles from Galax. Stayed at the Doctor's Inn - highly recommend it. There are only one or two water fountains the entire trip, but there is a water pump at Foster Falls that I dunked my head under. It rained on the return to Pulaski from mile marker 9 to 5. Suggest you keep a towel in the car. I had to drive home in my socks
Just rode a total of 70 miles on the New River Trail around Foster Falls, Fries, and Galax. I was very impressed! Lovely views of the river, nice park staff, friendly horse riders and bikers, and great campgrounds. The trail I rode was bumpy at times but overall in good condition. It is relatively flat throughout with barely noticeable up/down grades. It was more than I expected and I will surely go back. One of the nicest features were the frequent stops with covered picnic tables (to escape summer storms).
PULASKI TO THE HIAWASSEE TRESTLE BRIDGE - 27 MILES ROUNDTRIP - This looked like a good trail on the map. It is slightly downhill all the way to the bridge. O.K. if you do hills, but we do mostly flat rails to trails so it was a little effort going back to the town. Nice ride thru woods - mostly shade. Only the last three miles were along the river. There aren't many restaurants on the rest of the New River trail so this ride has the advantage of the lovely Mercantile restaurant in Draper. Good food. We biked on a Fri. in June and were were surprised that were so few people. Pulaski has a free parking lot next to the train station that is for bikers. We learned a lot about the area at the excellent museum which is right across the street from the train station. trail in very good condition - no problems.
GALAX TO BUCK DAM - A lovely ride that is mostly along the water. The river is particularly pretty in this area. Mostly flat - slightly downhill until the dam. Well kept trail. We went on Sat. in June and were surprised that there were so few people. Nice little deli restaurant on the river two miles outside of Galax. Good sandwiches. Plenty of free parking in Galax.
We also did a ride starting at the Foster Falls State Park. We didn't mind the small parking fee. From here you can bike either direction and there is plenty of parking, restrooms and snacks. Park your bike at the bottom of the shot tower steps (with lock) and take the quick very interesting tour of the SHOT TOWER.
For me, starting at the Shot Tower seemed to make most sense, but I found it a little awkward to carry my bike down the steps the park ranger suggested (even though the sign said no horses or bikes allowed--I don't think he was too familiar with the trail). Next time I may start at the Foster village?
I only rode 12 miles north and back and being mid-June with all the leaves on the trees didn't encounter much remarkable scenery. But from the comments I know there's some out there so will take longer rides next time, start at different locations and try different seasons.
This section of trail seemed in pretty good shape. Saw lots of deer. They don't ever attack do they? (Sorry, I'm a city boy). I see lot's of chatter about horses on the trail. I only encountered one couple on horseback. (I went on a weekday). They were very appreciative that I stopped so they could settle the horses before I passed and they thanked me for that both times when I passed them. So that was a good experience for both of us, but I can imagine if horse traffic is busier at other times, things could get tense now and then. However that's not a deal breaker for me to return. I'm looking forward to more exploration and enjoyable rides there.
My wife and I are avid rails to trails riders. We've never seen the the New River Trail torn up so much as it was between Byllesby Dam and Ivanhoe. The trail was so rough and bumpy you couldn't enjoy it at all. Too much neglect and too many horseshoe ruts. The park people need to tend to this section more often and re-gravel this part from time to time.
I have nothing against the horse travel through here except I wish they could ride not right in the path where folks walk and ride. I grew up with horses and riding but never rode on a shared pathway. I'm sure there is an answer to this but in the mean time we aren't coming back here! That may be my answer at least.
Not being negative because I love the New River Trail, we have a house in Fries, but the less traveled sections need to be maintained as well as Foster Falls, Galax and Fries. The WHOLE trail is an asset to the area.......I hope it improves!
I ride my horse on the trail and I can understand both sides complaining.
My objective here is to ask for solutions to the complaints on hopes that the right people see this post and make changes. We need to understand each other's complaints because they are all valid. 1. We have to pick up after our dogs, so we should our horses as well. 2. Bicyclists could use a video at the trail head on how to approach horses. This is particularly would be great for the kids. I had a 4 yr old so memorized by the horses that he wrecked and landed right underneath my horse. Perhaps we could get a Boy Scout or Girl Scout complete a project by fixing the trail and/or preparing a video. Educating all of us is key in my opinion.
I bike the New River Trail almost every week. One choice path is from the trailhead mile marker 52 in Galax to the dams on the New River. Free parking in Galax can be found near the visitor center and bluegrass theater. The trail follows the gorgeous Chestnut Creek about 12 miles through a railroad tunnel and over a long steel bridge across the New River, then goes south to Fries or north toward Pulaski. In spring, I have seen indigo buntings, mink, and even a bear cub on the trail. Usually there are deer and turkey along the way, which borders the Mt. Rogers national forest. The New River is particularly wide, scenic and calm, but class 3-4 rapids can be seen right below Byllesby and Buck dams. There are campsites near mile markers 38 and 39. Usually, I do this as a 30 mile round trip and eat in Galax. The other choice path is to free park right behind Shot Tower State Park off I-77 exit 24. This route begins at mile marker 25 and goes to Draper near mile marker 6. Draper has a wonderful restaurant called the Mercantile, and a bike shop next to it. This is the only amenity on the trail and well worth the stop, if only to sit in a rocking chair on the Merc porch. Around mile 10, there is the fantastic Hiwassee steel bridge crossing the New River, and in the fall the surrounding mountains are full of colors. Th1s 19-mile stretch has many whitewater class 1-2 rapids, a train station and abandoned orphanage at Foster Falls, caves in the karst limestone cliffs, and a couple of lovely villages. In terms of animal life, it's not as wild at the Galax end of the trail, but may be more stunning in terms of forest and river. Wildflowers abound in the spring, making this 38-mile round trip about as close to heavenly as you can get for a day trip.
My husband and I just finished riding a portion of the trail over a two-day mini vacation. We stayed at the New River Trail Cabins in Galax, right at the trail head. On our first day, we biked from Galax to the Buck Dam area and back. On the second day, we drove to the Foster Falls area and parked. From Foster Falls we biked to the Byllesby Dam area and back to Foster Falls. Both bike trips were enjoyable. The fall foliage was gorgeous! We only encountered horses on the second day near the Foster Falls area and had no problems sharing the trail with them. Most of the people we crossed paths with were biking or walking. We saw a lot of deer and squirrel, no bears thank goodness. My husband and I are already thinking about our next trip to the area, hopefully in the spring. We would like to do the Fries section the next time. What a gem this trail is! Wish we had this in NC.
My biking partner and I rode this trail in two segments -- Galax to Foster Falls on September 1, 2015; and Foster Falls to Pulaski the following week. As to being an alternative to the Virginia Creeper, this trail is much less crowded than the Creeper Trail, which should be a consideration for bikers who want to enjoy the fall foliage of the Blue Ridge mountains without dealing with the crowds that are always on the Creeper Trail during peak leaf season.
We have done many rails to trails and this one is very well done. The is very similar to the greenbrier trail. Much, much less bike and people traffic then Creeper trail (not as touristy). Very scenic along river with a couple of dams, couple tunnels, some long bridges and great scenic views. Excellent for bikers. Don't need suspension and a 32c tire will work fine. Relatively flat, didn't notice any hills. Surface conditions excellent will slight choppiness just north of Ivanhoe for a couple of miles but still in good shape.
Only Negative we encountered was with some really rude horseback riders just after and north of Ivanhoe. Perhaps these horseback riders owned this section of the trail. Yelled at us for passing, even though we alerted them to the pass several times (they didn't respond to us) before hand and we passed slowly wide to the left on the grass about 3 feet off the trail. However it did seem that one person was holding the reigns of another horse in training with a child on top. Didn't seem like one or two of their horses were used to bikes, especially the horse with the child. But all was fine.
Overall this is one of those trails you don't want to miss and worth a 5 star rating in my book. Good Job by the Virginia parks
Yes, this is a very good trail. However, the parking fees of $5.00 per day are ridiculous! Many locations have more than ample parking next to the trail heads including Galax, Fries, New River Side Deli, Pulaski and others. The park has nothing extra to justify these fees--no sites with water or flush toilets, except the Cliftview Ranger Station and Foster Falls. The surface is not as good as the Greenbrier River Trail, either.
Finally, why does the park store all of its maintenance equipment right on the trail between Cliftview and Galax? Surely there are more than sufficient funds made off of the parking to support and off the sight shed!
As someone who rides bikes AND horses often on the same trails I really do think that both groups can share the trail as long as everyone is willing to be responsible and give in just a little.
Horse people, you have the right of way but you don't own the road. One of the first trail rules I ever learned was when someone's coming toward you, get in single file and move to the right. The fact that some people don't do this is just plain rude.
It's also your responsibility to school your horse to respond to your cues and to desensitize him to bikes before you hit the trail. Even if you think you've done your training, the New River Trail on a summer weekend is no place for a green horse. Take him out on a weekday, preferably with a seasoned companion, where his first mixed use trail encounter can be less intense and more enjoyable. I always like to talk to the cyclists so my horse associates bikes with rest and a chance to hang out.
Another rule I learned back in the day was ask permission to pass and do so slowly. When I'm riding my horse, I always wave bikes on through but bike people, please understand that horses have an almost 360 degree vision. They also have two blind spots right in front and directly behind them. If you race up spinning gravel behind any horse, well maybe not a New York City police horse, but most horses, you are risking getting kicked or initiating a spook that could cause the rider a nasty accident. When you're approaching a horse, just slow down and let the rider (and the horse) know you're coming. Always assume that the horse is green (i.e. inexperienced) and/or the rider a beginner.
Finally, some people, whether they ride bikes or horses are *%$^#@(#. I've been run off the road on foot and on horseback by inconsiderate bikers going too fast and have been stuck on my bike behind horse riders who are totally oblivious to their road hogging ways. A little understanding, a little safety consciousness and a little courtesy and a lot of smiles will go a long way to making things work.
Autry, if you see this message, we want you to know it was our blessing to meet and ride with you today. Wish we'd exchanged contact info. All the best, Jeff & Janet
My wife and I are from Pennsylvania, and travel all over Pa, Md, WVa, and Va to ride new trails. We drove down to southern Va last weekend to ride this trail, along with the Virginia Creeper trail, and had a great time. On Saturday, we started at Pulaski, and rode down to Galax, spent the night there, and then rode back to Pulaski on Sunday. On Monday, we did the Creeper trail. We really enjoyed both these trails, and will more than likely, be back to do them again sometime. The scenery was beautiful, the horse manure didn't bother us too much, but some of the horse riders need an attitude adjustment. Most of the riders were pleasant, and upon approaching them on our bikes, would request that we slow down, which is understandable, and one group even asked if we would just say hello, or anything at all, so that the horses were aware we were about to pass by, and wouldn't be spooked. This also makes sense, and we were fine with this. There was another couple of riders though, that as we approached (we were going in opposite directions, so they were able to see us coming from quite a distance), asked if we could slow down, (there was definitely attitude in the tone of their voice). We had already slowed to about 8 MPH from the 12 MPH that we were riding at, so we slowed even more. We went past the first horse with no issues, but as we approached the second horse, it began bucking. At this point, we came to a complete stop. It then finally passed, and we resumed our ride. I understand that it is a multi-use trail, I can deal with the manure, (I'd rather not have to, but it's not a deal breaker), but if a horse is spooked that easily, maybe it doesn't belong on the trail. I don't expect anyone to have to stop for me, but nor do I feel that I should have to come to a complete stop for them. It just seems to me that the cyclist are the ones that are always being made out to be the bad guys. It works both ways.
I've ridden the New River Trail several times, and twice end-to-end. It is one of my favorite places to ride, with incredible scenery along much of the route. The trail is located in a remote area of Western VA, so make sure you have plenty of water, food and repair gear (eg, tubes and flat-repair tools). Near the south end it forks, with starting points at Galax or Fries. At the north end, you can start in Pulaski.
My preferred location to start is at Foster Falls State Park, near the mid-point of the trail, where you can get snacks and drinks. We have started there and ridden to either end and back several times, with out-and-back rides ranging from 50-60 miles. Along the way, you will cross the New River several times on old railroad trestles, go through several tunnels, pass numerous bluffs and cliffs, and see numerous scenic views of the river.
We used to love riding our bikes on the New River Trail and even recently bought new bikes with it in mind. However, when we went on July 4th weekend we were terribly disappointed. There were a lot of horses on the trail and manure was everywhere and most of the trail smelled terrible. You just couldn't avoid riding through it. Additionally, while 98% of the horse riders were pleasant and, like us, eagerly moved to far side of the trail so we were both giving each other a wide, safe space, several riding two abroad wouldn't move to share the trail at all leaving only enough room to pass in kicking distance of the horse. While it's only a small percentage, it only takes one kick and I'm not willing to risk a shattered leg or worse, to ride the trail again. Even if all the riders were as wonderful as the 98%, the manure was horrible and that was only the first day of the weekend. Sadly, this mix just doesn't work.
Over the July fourth weekend my wife and I rode from Foster Falls to Bylsby dam. The section of trail from Austinville to Bylsby dam is in the worst condidtion that I have ever see it and I've been riding this trail to the tune of about 12,000 miles over the past 12 years. It's really a shame because this is such a beautiful part of the trail. The damage to the trail from horses is tremendous and it is getting worse each year. I ran into bicyclists literally walking their bikes because it was so rough and others were also asking me if there were any side roads they could ride to avoid this section of the trail.
I have no problem with the folks riding the horses. If you give them the proper warnings and yield to them there is generally no problem. I only have a problem with the damage that is being done to the trail.
The state park folks have a catch 22. This is a multi-use trail but they had no idea that someone was going to develop a horse camp right on the trail in Ivanhoe. I do disagree with one of the previous reviewers who stated that horses have no where else to ride. There are horse trails nearby in Mt. Rogers and also in Bland County, both of which have horse camp sites developed.
I would urge anyone that has a complaint or concern to register such via the state park website or by phone as I did after my ride. I would urge the state park ranger to get on a bike and ride this section so that they can see and feel the problem for theirself.
If one is running, it seems to infuriate some of those in cars. Not everyone. If one is kayaking, it seems to infuriate some of those riding jet skis or powerboats. Not all of them. If one is cross county skiing, it seems to infuriate some of those on snowmobiles. Not all of them. Likewise, if one is biking, it just seems to infuriate a certain percentage of those riding horses. Just enough to take the fun out of an otherwise great day, and really leave a bad taste in one's mouth for the rest of his or her life. It's certainly not everyone on horseback.
I guess we have to "embrace the suck" and live with it.
Let us not bash everyone on horseback, in the same way I believe that not everyone on a jetski, powerboat, or snowmobile is hostile.
And let's face it, we've all been passed by other bikes that nearly ran us over, or all but collided with us head on, and we've thought,"what a jerk!" Like the horse person said, who ever saw a bike take fright & throw someone?
I don't agree with some folks that horses shouldn't be allowed on this trail. I would much prefer that there be 'horse only' trails but sadly there are not many trails like that. I don't know what it is about a horse and a bike but most of the time they don't mix. So since we all have to share the trail please abide by the rules and give way to the horse people. We will gladly let you go by if you will just let us know where you are. It is very easy for a person to get hurt on a startled/scared horse. Never in my days have I seen a scared bicycle! So I say again - please be courteous and share the trail with all of us.
We love the New River Trail--it is one of the country's premier rail-trails and we've ridden the full length a few times. However, the portion we rode over Memorial Day was very unpleasantly bumpy and needs to be improved. After riding from Ivanhoe to Byllesby Dam, we turned around, very disappointed. We have never experienced this in the past. I called the park office and the person I talked with said that they "occasionally" do maintenance. I hope they attend to it before we're back in September--I want to give this long, beautiful trail the 5 stars it will deserve!
Agree with all the positive comments previously stated. May was a good month to ride this trail with all the flowers popping out and streams flowing rapidly. The hoof marks and poop made for a bumpier ride and more horse flies than ideal. With a southerly wind of 15 mph, It was a easy ride from Galax to Pulaski.
I've ridden the entire length over several visits in 2012 and 2013. I rode cold out of Pulaski at 38 degrees, and I rode hot out of Foster Falls in the upper 80s. I've never ridden without muddy spots. The surface is often hard-packed mud, near the river, shaded by trees, and mud holes are to be expected. From Pulaski you get the rough and rugged, cue Deliverance. The easiest entry mid-trail off I-81 is Foster Falls. The nicest end, maybe just a wee bit better, is out of Galax. Given a choice, Foster Falls south I feel is more interesting than Foster Falls north. It can get dark in those woods. Daydreams of night-roaming bears might occur. Did for me. If you like rolling over packed mud, occasionally unpacked, in the woods, by a big gnarly river, go there.
The New River Trail can checked off of our list as completed !
We did the trail on two different days. We took advantage of the shuttle that is run from Foster Falls by the New River State Park Service. For a fee you can ride the Shuttle to Galax or to Dora Junction. We did Galax to Foster Falls in the summer. There was enough shade that it was not too hot. The Dora Junction to Foster Falls was done in October and had beautiful foliage.
The trail runs along the New River. They have nice covered picnic tables conviently spaced along the way where you can park your bike or your horse and have a picnic lunch or just rest.
The trail is well maintained with beautiful views of the river as well as some cliffs along with a tunnel, bridges and trellises.
Even though it is in the mountains of VA there is no more than a 2% grade. The trails are a fine gravel, I had no trouble riding it with my hybrid.
I keep going back to this trail again and again. A very well maintained trail! Keep biking!
We rode this trail on a Friday. We started at Draper, VA and rode past Alisonia and back. Crossed 4 nice trestle bridges and only saw 4 other bikers! Trail Surface was perfect for Hybrid style bikes (26x1-1/4 tires). Draper is a great entry point for the trail. It is about 0.5mi. off I-81. There is a bike rental and nice cyclist friendly restaurant for post ride meal. Make sure you have $2 to pay the State Park parking fee.
My 11-year old son and I did a good chunk of the trail yesterday. We drove to the Foster Falls station, where the park runs a bike and boat livery. They provide a shuttle to Galax that is $25 per person and takes 30 minutes. The Galax to Fries Junction (pronounced "Freeze") follows some small tributary creeks. You can check the mileage on the map but I think it was about 12.5 miles. When we got to the fork in the trail, we decided to take the side trip to Fries and back, adding about 11 miles round trip. We then rode back to Foster Falls, for a total of a little over 41 miles.
Some notes on the trail. It is generally a cinder/fine gravel surface. The New River flows south to north, so our route was "downhill". Any grade is very minor so it is virtually flat. Our bikes had 26 x 1.5 slick tires and the ride was fine. There are plenty of toilet facilities along the trail (mostly pit toilets) and they are marked on the map. Without getting some distance off the trail, there is no place for getting water or food, so pack accordingly. We had 3 20 oz. bottles and a 70 oz. Camelbak and a trunk bag full of food. There is a convenience store a couple miles out of Fries but other than that you should be prepared. The livery in Foster Falls has some snacks. From Fries to Foster Falls, the trail follows the New River, which is huge. It alternates between calm flat water and more rocky areas with mild white water. There are 3 or 4 dams along the way for local power. There are a couple big trestle bridges that cross the river along the way. There are also two short tunnels. No lights are needed for those. There are a handful of road crossings and places with a little housing near the trail, but 95% you're in wilderness. It is largely shaded so sun isn't a big issue. There is great scenery, lots of calm, plenty of wildlife and good riding. We encountered a handful of other riders and walkers. It was a weekday so traffic was light. We did come across a couple on horseback. We slowed way down, announced our presence, greeted them as we passed and had no problems. I have read comments about folks on horseback. Just be friendly and share the trail.
We had a great day on the trail. I will surely return with friends and other family members. Next time I might have to bring the canoe along as well and get a little wet. We highly recommend the New River Trail.
I've been really looking forward to this trail, however, reading some of the posts below makes me a little put off. I've never understood why the horse crowd thinks it owns the trails, and why everyone else is expected to yield to them. Bikers and hikers can control their mode of motion, however, horse riders are on unpredictable, dangerous animals (that leave poop everywhere). If anything they should have to yield to everyone else or not be allowed on the trails if they cannot control their horses. That or make horse-only trails. They really don't belong on the same trails and I have had many a miserable experience because of poor ethics by horse riders.
We broke the trail down into sections so we could do round trips and not have to shuttle cars, with each section being about a 25 mile round trip. Overall the trail has been wonderful and a joy to ride.
We did Foster Falls to Fries Junction and back yesterday, and I must admit it is not my favorite. From Ivanhoe to around Buck Dam the trail is pretty rough due to the horse traffic. Also, while I know bikers must yield to horse riders (which I gladly do), I did come across some riders who were very demanding and bossy towards us...to the point that it felt like they thought they owned the trail.
The trail is 50 plus miles of beauty. The ride parallels the New River and is an easy, gentle slope , picturesque joy. For the most part it is remote from civilization with rock walls on one side and the wide New River on the other. My favorite section in from Fries VA down to Buck Dam, about 8 miles, where you pass pastures, a few mile of rapids and then a tranquil lake. We love to stay in the RV Park located in the old mill town of Fries VA which is a stone’s throw to the trail head.
Only 1.5 hrs from my home. I rode right after a rain and the path was a little slow due to the slightly soft soil. No biggie, I just rode a little harder (after all, the purpose for my being here was to get exercise). The morning was cold, moist and perfect. I only encountered 3 other people on the trail. No horses, no doggy poop on the trail, no hassles. The trail is really, really well maintained--bathrooms, picnic tables, benches all along the route. Lots to see and some fairly nice photo op spots. I am so eager to return and ride it again.
**even though I rode after a rain shower, the path was still easy to ride. The soil, even though soft, was still easy to ride over and not through and only one very short muddy area.**
This is definately not a hard ride. My Garmin never registered a slope over 1.5% grade and that was for a short stretch. The rest of the ride it just registered 0% grade.
Sept 20th 2012 after a 1.5 hour car ride from North Carolina which by the way is greatly lacking in bike trails, we wanted to get an early morning start for our ride starting at Foster Falls north to the Hiwasee Bridge and back. But not before a short stop at Shot Tower, another historical site. It was turning out to be a great day for a bike ride on the always enjoyable New River trail. This is one of the best Rails to Trails in the country for scenery and for any experienced level rider. This time of the year is always a challenge riding trails such as this one with the nuts falling from the trees and with some high winds a few days earlier contributed to a lot of small branches on the trail, but nothing to create a serious hazard, just a small annoyance. The trail is very well maintained so you can ride, enjoy the trail and not be bothered by trail hazards. Round trip for the day was approx 28.5 miles. Thanks Virginia for the great trail.
After arriving in Galax on Sunday evening, We Checked in @ The Doctors Inn Bed & Breakfast. We stayed at this wonderful inn for 2 nights. We made our way to Foster fall @ New River State Park and walked around the area and talked with some of the park crew, There was a massive storm that passed thru on Friday night with 70 mph wind and brought down massive trees. They said that the trail was fairly clean of all the trees and limbs but may have a few twigs, and small branches on the trail. We arranged a shuttle from Foster Falls back to Galax the following morning, The cost was $25.00/person. This was provided by the State Park.We started our ride around 11am and took our first rest 5 miles in. The trail was as described, but thought it was in great shape. There are plenty of benches and bathrooms along the trail to take breaks. All the people we met were very friendly. For a Monday, there were a lot of horseback, We met a group of about 60, So I enjoyed the extra break while letting them pass. My bike computer logged 28.4 miles and we arrived at the falls around 2:45. I plan on doing the other direction sometime this summer. (Pulaski to Foster) Make sure to take plenty of fluids with you, as there were no means of obtaining any.
We love this trail. Doesn't hurt that it is just 20 miles from where we live. In the past we have rode horses and campted. Since then several new horse parking and camping areas and a horse show arena have been added for riding, driving, and rodeo events. I do wish they would allow 1 horse cart driving on the trail. If not all the time, then on specific days of each month.
There is camping and canoeing. The some of the local Cross country teams take thier members out for a week of running, biking and canoeing for a fun way to charge up team morale and get in shape. Run, bike, get wore out and cool off with a river swim. Fish and catch your own supper!
What a wonderful place for all day and several day biking activities. A safe and easy trail for one and all. the views of the river and from the old RR bridges are awesome. The folks riding the trails are friendly. We meet folks driving in from Charlotte NC and other areas 2-3 hours away just to ride for the day.
Make it an all week event. I do not know anyone that has rented the horses at Foster Falls, but I am sure they are safe, sound and fun to ride. You will need to stay for several days because you have got to get on the river and canoe or innertube. Super for a hot days activity after a long bike ride. You just can't beat the lovely area, friendly folks, good home cooked meals in the towns along the trail and affordable hotels.
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Ya'll come! Not that I am advertising this place for anyone. :^) We just love it and want to share it with you.
I totally disagree with the person that had a bad experience at Foster Falls. Is a great trail with wonderful scenery. I do not know why they were admonished. Maybe they riding in an area where horse were not allowed. Certainly there is no excuse for an employee to be rude, but it too great a trail to discourage others from using. In good weather, my wife and I sometime bike some section it every week. We have found the staff to be helpful and friendly and most of the users the same.
My wife and I rode from the train station in Pulaski via the Dora Junction trail that links to the NRT. It is paved for 1 mile while the last mile is crushed stone. Before starting we chatted with the owner of Pulaski Bikes which occupies one end of the restored station; he rents bikes and for anyone not from the area is great for trail advice. The town also has built a two bathroom shelter with water adjacent to the parking lot. I have ridden the trail many times, but never started from here. I am glad this trail connection exists to help lure trail users into town. I would love to see Pulaski benefit from the NRT as Abingdon and Damascus, VA benefit from the Virginia Creeper trail.
Took the family with horses, i thought we could ride some that day, i had no idea it would be that much trouble, a really rude employee yelled and told us to "git the hell away with them horses" when we rode close to the red barn at fosterfalls. will not be returning and would reccomend others keep driving when they see the parks signs.
I met my uncle down in Galax for two days of late October trail riding. We hit this trail the first day, then drove down to Abingdon and rode the Virginia Creeper trail the second day. Both were great, but for different reasons.
We did an out and back from the Galax trail head - out to Foster Falls, a round trip of about 55 miles. I brought my hard tail mountain bike for the trip, but I should have brought my cross bike. The trail is very smooth crushed cinder and hard pack the entire way. I don't think I even saw a pot hole the entire 27 miles we did. In fact, ours were the only mountain bikes I saw all day. Everyone was on hybrids and cruisers. Also, I think we timed the visit perfectly, late fall during the week. We only saw about 20 people the entire day, and none of them were kids or families. This really added to the experience, as we would travel for literally miles and miles before we encountered other people. And the ones we saw were all smiles - like we were all just thrilled to be out there. Compared to the trails where I'm from in Alexandria, Va., this was really, really great.
Many folks have mentioned the wonderful scenery - all true. Really great. Especially with the late fall colors. I highly recommend this trail, especially the time we visited. We will return.
My husband and I take our bikes wherever we travel. We try to ride any Rail Trails we find along the way. This summer we made two Rail Trail trips. The first was to the Creeper Trail in Abingdon, VA. We'd ridden this trail before, and we absolutely love it. This was our favorite ride until we took our second bike trip this summer to the New River Trail. If possible, the New River Trail is even more breathtakingly beautiful than the Creeper Trail, and has become our new favorite.
We rented a cabin in Ivanhoe, VA. It was very nice, clean and was nestled right between the New River and the New River Trail. It couldn't have been more convenient. The first day we rode from Ivanhoe to Pulaski. This was a great, flat ride. We stopped and explored Foster Falls State Park along the way. This park has primitive camping facilities,kayaking, fishing, stables, bike rentals, etc. If you're into primitive camping, you couldn't find a more beautiful spot to do it than Foster Falls. Riding on from Foster Falls to the Pulaski end of the trail were some beautiful scenic views of a wider, boating and jet skiing section of the New River. Everyone living in this area was definitely enjoying their river paradise.
On our second day, we rode from Galax to Fries Junction, then from Fries Junction to the town of Fries. From Galax to Fries Junction the trail follows Chestnut Creek. The scenery is gorgeous here. There are numerous beautiful water falls and rock formations along this leg of the trail. When you get to Fries Junction you make a U-turn and continue the ride to the town of Fries. From Fries Junction to the town of Fries the trail follows the New River. Whoever said this section of the trail wasn't scenic must have missed the U-turn, because the New River is incredibly beautiful along this leg of the ride. Really...you don't make much progress because you're stopping every few feet to take pictures. Once we reached Fries, we ate lunch at "Big Daddy's". The people were so friendly. The owner of the restaurant even came outside to take our picture in front of "Big Daddy's" for us.
If you're limited by time, or don't want to ride the entire trail, we suggest the Galax to Fries ride. You couldn't possibly see anything more beautiful than this anywhere. We're going to be going back this fall to see it when the leaves have turned. We can't wait to do this ride again.
I rode this trail from Galax to Fries to the Buck Dam. The trail was well marked, easy to follow, and had ample bathroom facilities along the section I rode.
There were severe thunderstorms the night before I was there, and several trees fell across the trail. The trail maps (available at the trailheads) were a little confusing to a visitor unfamiliar with the area. It would have been helpful if I could have taken a detour to bypass the downed trees using the roads. However, by afternoon, the VA Parks people had them cleared (or at least moved off to the side).
Dirt pathway with some gravel. It has been a very rainy spring, and there were a few minor muddy patches.
Section from Fries to Fries Junction was mostly residential and not that scenic. Section from Fries Junction to Buck Dam offered very nice views of the New River. Section from Fries Junction to Galax offered nice views of Chestnut Creek.
Trailhead in Galax is right off US 58 and was very easy to find. Trailhead in Fries was down a side street (which was marked) although the actual parking lot was not marked. There were several outhouses, water pumps, and campgrounds along the trail.
Might be a little tough on a road bike, but it was no problem on a mountain bike. Tunnel was unlit so bring a flashlight if you want to explore.
I haven't been on this trail, although I'm looking forward to doing so. Can anyone recommend a bike rental shop?
Just a note about horses. The horse people some of the posters have mentioned seem like real jerks. As a former horseperson who has been on horses spooked by bikes, though, I thought it might be helpful to know what type of problems horse people experience.
Horses have weird eyes and weirder brains.
-For some reason, they get freaked out by moving bicycle spokes glittering in their vicinity. So they do better with stationery bikes than bikes that are coming toward them or past them. If you can stop the bike while they pass, it's much better than if the bike is moving.
-Because they are prey animals, they are programmed to bolt when anything that could be a predator comes up quickly behind them. That combined with the passer being on a bike makes it every worse. For that reason, if you overtake a horse and rider from behind and have to pass, it's best to get off and walk past. It's especially helpful if you can speak before and while you're doing to. (E.g., "Good morning. Is it ok I pass? Nice day isn't it [etc etc]...") so the horse is less likely to be surprised.
-A lot of horses are very nervous about crossing bridges. It's best to avoid being on bridges---especially with bikes---when horses are on them.
Two years after a devestating fire the 19th century era depot is scheduled to re-open soon. It will contain a town welcome/information center and meeting rooms as well as the farmer's market in season. There will also be a new bike shop opening there in mid-April that will sell, service and rent bikes. The depot is at the Pulaski trailhead.
We rode the trail from Pulaski to Galax on Oct 18 and returned to Pulaski Oct 19. The trail was beautiful and we were lucky to have a good deal of leaf color. The moisture level was perfect-no mud, no dust. We encountered many friendly people on the trail and enjoyed talking with them. We only saw 2 horses and they were tied up at the edge of the path. The trail is in excellent condition, but we we would suggest that the areas that have a grassy center be scraped and packed to have the complete width to ride on.
We stayed at the Doctor's Inn in Galax and enjoyed it very much. We also enjoyed our lunch near Fries at the convenience store along the trail. (We rode to Fries on our return trip.)
We would also like to suggest that there be more informational signage about local history, nearby sites of interest and more railroad history along the trail.
We are glad to have discovered this gem of a State Park and are grateful for a safe place to ride and relax in a beautiful setting.
I have had similar problems on that section of the trail this year. It even sounds like the same group. A couple of tactics I've seen them use: 1) they will ignore when you call out to pass on the left (the riders at the end of their line will turn around and scowl at you and say nothing) and then act pissed off when you slowly go around; 2) they will block the entire trail whenever they see bikers approaching. Why are they even allowed on this trail? Walkers and bikers are here to get exercise but these horsey people seem determined just to ruin it for everyone else.
To adddress the below reveiw by gbread. Common trail procedure is for bikers to stop their bikes as horses pass. However most of the horseback riders will motion for you to come ahead. There is no excuse for the horseback rider to confront you in the manner that you describe. I also recently had a very negative expereince with a horseback rider on the same section of the trail. My wife and I had pulled to the side for a drink of water and heard a commotion coming from behind. There were about eight bikers coming and right behind them were two horseback riders in a run only a few feet behind very young bikers. The tendency for a young biker is to drift in the direction they are looking when they turn around to look behind them. This literally could have been a fatal situation as the horses proceeded to pass the bikes. Many bikers who ride this trail avoid this particular section as there has been a horse camping area developed next to the trail in Ivanhoe and on some weekends and holidays there are literally hundreds of horses in this area. Not only are the situations ocurring as you described but the surface of the trail is also suffering due to heavy horse use. 95% of horseman and 95% of bikers follow the rules and co-exist. However, the other 5% really can cause some problems. I'm afraid that it's really going to take a serious accident before these problems are addressed. I would urge you to registar your complaint via the Commonwealth of Virginia, State Parks web site. I certainly did in the incident that I had.
My Husband and I are new to trail riding. We rode 1/2 of the creeper trail during the summer (Damascus to Abingdon)and thought we would try this one during Labor Day 2010. We started at Fries and rode toward the shot tower. We were having a great time, enjoying the views, watching the geese and cranes along the way. We rode for 18 miles and met many different people (all friendly) riding bikes or walking or on horseback. We decided to turn around before we got to tired (to late) and started back to fries. On the way back we ran into a group of horseback riders who were spread across the trail with no way around. As with the other times we met horses we slowed down and got as far as possible to the right of the trail. We coutinues to ride but made sure not to spook the horses. As we got closer the group got over to one side and as they passes one Man rode his horse up to me making the horse shy and jump and shouted (if you can't get off then maybe getting knocked off will teach you) Then a woman in the group started shouting that we were suppose to stop and get off and let the horses by. I didn't understand that, every other time we met horse riders they were friendly and if the horse was shy (a couple times they were) they stopped until we passed. This of course ruined our ride. We really want to go back and ride the rest of the trail but are not sure about it. Did we do something wrong! If we were to stop every time we saw a horse we would never get anywhere. I thought as long as we respected and looked out for each other and allowed plenty of space, things would go smoothly and we would all get alone and have a great time. Again, am I wrong and what is the best way to handle horse riders. Could you clue me in? I would really like to continue trail riding without this hanging over my head.
My family just rode the New River Trail for the first time. We have previous experience on the Creeper and Blackwater Trails. This is now our favorite trail. We stayed in the wonderful Whistle Stop Inn in Allisonia. Just feet from the trail and a great view of the river. The Holt's have done an excellent job of preserving this bit of history. We were able to rescue one rider with a flat tire and gave a tour of the Inn to another family riding through. The area is beautiful and peaceful as well. Everyone that we encountered was quite nice.
We took a short ride across the Hiwassee River Bridge and back our first day. I wish we had ventured on to the town of Draper as well. On our second day, we waited out a hard and steady morning rain by having brunch in the always delicious Cracker Barrel. The Foster Falls shuttle service was very kind in letting us postpone our departure until the afternoon. They shuttled us to Galax where we began our enchanting ride along the Chestnut Creek and New River. We rode the 28 miles to Foster Falls in about 4-1/2 hours. This included numerous stops to take pictures and enjoy the views. Our 10 & 12 year old children were real troopers in completing this longer than our usual ride.
What a well maintained trail. Our helmets off to the Park Service/volunteers for doing such an incredible job! We only saw two pieces of trash the entire trip. Other than a VERY recent beaver downing a small tree across the path, it was clear and recently mowed.
We are already planning a return trip with other friends to tackle the entire trail. I highly recommend this trip to anyone that wants a peaceful escape to enjoy nature.
I am manager of the New River Trail Cabins in Galax, VA. I have many guests who have ridden to Fries from our Galax entrance. Come and enjoy!
According to a news release form the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation:
The trail will be closed from mile marker 39.8 (Fries junction) to mile marker 42.3 (Gambetta Road) from now until May 1, 2010 to restore the tunnel on that section.
I spoke with a member of the trail maintainence staff and they actually hope to have the work done faster than that, but they wanted to use a safe estimate of May 1 on the completion date.
We had heard the stretch from Galax to Fries was extraordinarily beautiful--and it was! We made plans to bike this stretch of the trail and stay in a nearby B&B to celebrate our anniversary. We selected The Doctor's Inn on the basis of information relayed in previous posts--it, too, was wonderful. The Inn is beautiful, cozy, and spotless! Brenda, the host, is truly delightful and could not be more accommodating. We give the trail and the Inn highest marks and plan to return another day!
I just spent two nights camping on this trail, riding out and back from the Millrace campground at Foster Falls and from Allisonia to Pulaski. I have always thought VA did a great job on their parks, and this beautiful stretch along the New River just shows how far ahead they are. By the way, please don't go here. What I meant to say is this place stinks! You have to camp along this beautiful, I mean ugly, stretch of the New River (New. HA! All the rock outcroppings and rapids- Come On. This river is old). The camping is primitive but there is water and firewood nearby. Very convenient to major roads and very well kept and attended. Damn, I mean its awfuly hard to find, and you'll just spend days lost in the woods. The people you meet on the trail are friendly....no they are thugs on motorcycles like Hells Angels. Please do not go here to camp, especially the last week of September-first week of October. That's when I....eh, that's when I've heard they have the most trouble with floods, tornados, and savage disease ridden beasts.
My husband and I rode the New River Trail from Galax past Fries Junction to the first dam. We went out 15 miles and returned 15 miles. The scenery was beautiful. Lots of waterfalls and quaint reminders of the original purpose of this trail.
The ride from Galax to Fries is very slightly downhill (hence the waterfalls on the New River) so just be sure to remember that if you plan to ride back to Galax. The return trip is slightly uphill which is very managable but will require at least 1 gear difference on your bike.
We stayed at The Doctor's Inn after reading the recommendation from a previous post to this sight. Awesome place! The Innkeeper, Brenda, was a delight and hostess extraordinaire! The house is meticulous with all the original features restored but it is subtly updated with modern amenities in case you need them (WiFi, flat screen TVs, DVD player, WII). Breakfast was scrumptious and she even accommodated my food allergies. We will definitely consider taking this trip again.
Cathy and Ted Mazanec
My wife and I rode the entire length of the NRT last year. We broke it down into five different segments and rode each one on a different weekend. The shortest segment was the Fries to Fries Junction which was about six miles each way. The longest was from Foster Falls to the Fries Junction which was about fifteen miles. That one almost got me. I swear it was uphill all the way, both ways. But each segment we rode was even prettier than the one before. It is the most gorgeous park I've ever been in with the exception of the Grand Canyon. We plan on going back this year and doing it again. And next year too until we're too old or the bikes are just worn out. This fall we want to see about renting a cabin nearby and ride the trail every day for a week. Maybe someday we'll ride the entire length of the trail on the same trip.
Camille and I spent 2 days on the trail over Easter weekend. The trail surface was excellent. Camille has thin "Hybrid" tires and the trail was plenty hard enough for her to ride easily. We started at Galax on Saturday and rode the 24 mile round trip to the Fries (pronounced freeze) spur, the next day we started at Fries and did the 12 mile round trip to the spur junction again. The scenery is spectacular with waterfalls and rapids, flowering trees and railroad trestles. There is plenty of company on the trail without being over crowded. Galax has plenty of places to stay and eat. We stayed at a B&B called "The Doctors Inn" the Innkeepers are fabulous & the hospitality was Superb.
Oh yes, I should mention that, Camille and I are in our 70's and we were able to complete the trail with ease. We were also delighted to meet several groups of Senior citizens along the trails. Everyone shared their stories of trails that We had not traveled, wetting our appetite to return for additional challenges.
One bit of advice that would be helpful in case of an accident or just exhustion , would be for riders or walkers to purchase a disposal cell phone with local service. We found that our cell phones were not functioning in the area that we explored. We mention this to Brenda, The owner and manager of the B&B, she thought this was a great idea and was going to provide them for her future guests.
Ray and Camille Dumentat
The trail extension from the current trailhead of Dora Junction will officially open on June 7, 2008 into downtown Pulaski. This two mile spur will allow riders easier and safer access to restaurants. This extension is not part of the State Park but was constructed by and will be maintained by local government. Kudos to the Town of Pulaski! This project was long awaited and is much appreciated.
We began our ride at Foster Falls Station, which unfortunately was closed for painting, and cycled south toward Shot Tower Historical State Park. The weather was beautiful and the trail was in great shape. Shot Tower was also closed so we continued on toward Fries. The trip included one tunnel and several crossings of the New River before reaching the junction of the Galax and Fries spurs. Since I had done the Galax spur on a previous trip, we chose to head toward Fries. This section of the trail runs along the New River and is very scenic. With noon approaching we asked several passing riders for a lunch recommendation and were told there was only one option in Fries, Big Daddy’s. Big Daddy’s provided us with plenty of good food and friendly conversation.
After lunch we retraced our route, with a small side-trip to visit the second tunnel approximately 0.5 miles up the Galax spur. Overall it was a very nice ride and highly recommended.
"My wife and I enjoyed our first ride on the New River Trail on 16 September 2007. We started our trip at Fosters Falls and rode to Byllesby Dam (27 miles RT). We had a level ride for most of the trip. We did feel a slight grade as we approached Byllesby Dam, but that made it easier on the way back. We went through one tunnel at Austinville and a long bridge at Ivanhoe. There were plenty of places for breaks and several restrooms along the way. There was no food or drink available in this stretch. The weather was perfect. The temperature was in the low 60s in the morning, reaching about 70 by afternoon, and sunny. Our only complaint is the large quantity of horse droppings along the trail. We were dodging them the entire way. Fosters Falls was a nice place to start our trip. They have snacks and drinks at the gift shop. There is also a bike shop and canoe livery on site. We will definately be going back to enjoy other parts of the trail."
"Fall arrived early in SW Virginia this year. I began my ride to Pulaski on a crisp, wet morning at the Galax trailhead (MP 51.7). Severe hail producing storms had passed through the area the night before leaving the trail covered with wet leaves and ushering in much cooler temperatures. Despite the overnight precipitation, the trail was in good condition with very few puddles. The trail from Galax takes you along the Chestnut Creek before finally reaching the New River (MP 40) and it is here that the trail is joined by the Fries spur. Much of the trail is carved into the hillside and you are often riding with a towering rock wall on one side and a 30’ wooded slope to the river’s edge on the other. There are plenty of covered picnic tables and restroom facilities along the trail however, few places to purchase snacks or drinks. From Galax to Claytor Lake the trail is very flat however there is a noticeable incline from the lake to just beyond Draper. The incline is not severe but did have me checking to see if my brakes were stuck on or my rear tire was going flat. The trail is fairly isolated and I passed only two other cyclists and six pedestrians over the entire 51 mile ride. The many river crossings and two tunnels made for a more interesting ride and overall this was scenic and well maintained trail. I would recommend saving this one for spring when the temperatures are warmer and the trees are all in bloom."
"My wife and I started out our three state (Va., tenn, Ohio) biking vacation taking the Pulaski to Alsonia trek. Great day, great ride, could not have gone better. Friendly riders along the way, never overly crowded. Especially for a Saturday morning. The tressels gave great views. The river that wound along side of us gave spectacular company. The little store in Alsonia was the perfect break. A long, gradual hill back to our starting point gave us the challenge we were looking for. I would highly recommend this trail to anybody. Well maintained, easy to negotiate. "
"We recently rode the trail from Galax to Alisonia on a beautiful fall day. We rode it on our recumbent bicycles which are ideal for paved surfaces but ""borderline"" for a trail like this (even 'tho the trail is in excellent condition). We stayed at the old railroad stationhouse in Alisonia (refurbished by Don & Chipper Holt; 540-250-1135). It was a perfect, cozy place to stay complete with a deep soaking tub for those aching bones and lots of entertaining ""antique junque"". We contacted New River Riders in Galax (877-510-2572) for a shuttle from Alisonia to Galax where we started our ride. They were right on time (to the minute!) and picked us up right at our front door! As has been said by others, the trail is beautiful and was definitely worth the 5+ hour drive from Virginia Beach! The only things we wished we had taken were gloves and headbands for the first 15 minutes or so of the ride (we started at 9:30 a.m. and it was a bit nippy ... but warmed up fast. "
"Myself, wife, son, 2 daughters, one son in law and 5 grandkids finished all the main trail with the exception of the Fries spur in one full day and half day on sunday. What a great ride and great scenery. Even the 6 and 5 year old with a one speed bikes did fine. The 4 year old on a trail bike and the 3 year old on a bike seat were a real treat to be with. We witnessed a pretty bad accident, luckily the MD who flipped his bike was wearing a helmet, I would have hated to see his head if it had taken the impact that his helmet showed. A ranger happened along the scene and took control. WEAR YOUR HELMETS!!"
"Draper was the start point for my wife and I when we rode our Cannondale road tandem on July 10. It was a hot and muggy day but the cool shade in the woods made it very tolerable. Again, our 700x35c Pasela tires worked very well with our 500+lb mass on the mostly smooth packed surface. On the way to Alisonia the description mentioned a few trestles to cross. These turned out to be thrillingly high tower-type bridges where the tracks (now trail deck) rest on the very top of the structure. It was like flying. Plus, the long bridge over the New River is a scenic highlight of any rail trail. Access is easy in Draper (right off 81) and the little store across the street cannot be missed. This trail section has grades we could definitely feel but managed in the best double-headed locomotive way. Altogether we felt safe, comfortable and pleased to be there. Be aware of the chains across the trail center at road crossings. We will be back soon and try more, maybe at the Shot Tower park.
J & B"
"My brother and I rode this trail in July 04'. We started at the Xaloy entrance and rode to Galax. We camped near Galax at Cliffview campground. The next day we rode back to Pulaski.
If you are biking the trail the Pulaski to Galax is a slight uphill grade for most of the trip so you will need to spin the entire time. Rest areas and trail are well maintained.
Make sure you bring plenty of water if you decide to go long distances. The only water stops I know of are the store in Draper, Foster Falls, the store in Ivanhoe, and Cliffview campground. Foster Falls and Cliffview campgrounds have potable water tanks.
The store in Draper has a good rainbow sherbert cone which is a nice way to finish a trip."
"I have ridden this trail several times over the past three years. The Galax to Fries segment is challenging yet very doable for the cyclist with some endurance. The views from the bridges are breathtaking and the one tunnel adds to the overall experience. Favorite part of the trip is to have lunch in Fries with lunch consisting of a hamburger and french ""fries."" Overall it's a very scenic trail ride."
"We biked the southern half of New River Trail State Park in late May 2003 and 2004 from Foster Falls to Galax to Fries. This trail is not only scenic, but it's in great shape even in the spring. It is in much better shape than the North Bend Trail in WV, which is also quite scenic.
Near Galax, there is a trail store that has some books about the history of the railroad. The map and guide is excellent. There is a nice riverside place about two miles before Fries that I think also rents bikes on the weekend. There is also a small restaurant at Fries itself but no bike shop.
There are excellent bike rentals in Galax and Foster Falls, where at the latter paddle boats can be rented. I hope to do the northern half soon. This is one of the most scenic and well-maintained unpaved trails I have seen."
My grandparents live just a few miles from the Austinville entrance to the trail and I ride on it every chance I get. It's a beautiful trail with many amazing scenic views.
I've almost killed myself spending too much time enjoying the scenery and not enough time making sure I stayed on the trail!
"We rode the NRT from Galax to Fries Junction to Fries. We stopped for lunch in Fries and retraced our ride back to Galax. It was a very nice ride of about 34 miles. It was flat and hard packed all the way. All in all, it was a nice scenic ride."
"This is an awesome experience for anyone interested in the outdoors, hiking, biking, or just railroading. I recommend trying Virginia Outback, which rents bikes, tubes, and kayaks in Austinville. "
This was the first bike trip for my wife and I. We entered the trail at Galax. It was awesome! The trail by the river was a good ride. It was beautiful! The Park Police and staff were most helpful in giving us details of this trail for our first ride. We experienced a bridge over the New River and a tunnel. The junctions are well marked for directions and mileage.
"The NR trail is about an hour from my home in Floyd. I enjoy several rides a year. I have several photos of the Trail. I am not sure if I can write the URL of the address in this text box, but here goes: http://freepages.travel.rootsweb.com/~hohnke/index.htm
This is one of the finest rail trails around. I think this trail should remain unpaved to preserve its uniqueness, because so many of the others are paved. However, some of the horses create a rough surface in certain parts of the trail because of their iron shoes."
"Scenery abounds on this trail which follows the New River in VA. The trail conversion preserved the train trestles with several high and long ones. Quite an exerience crossing Claytor Lake and the New River on some of the longer ones. Also, the railroad was cut into the sides of the hills. Sheer cliffs plus some tunnels make this trail a unique riding experience. The scenery varies too with farm pastures, river scenes, and lake views. Never a dull moment! We biked the entire trail just this past Sunday (10/29/2000). The trail had numerous access points but parking did seem limited at several of them. We biked from north to south and knew we'd be going with a slight uphill most of the way. After 30 miles, I felt it but it wasn't bad. There are two converted train stations which serve as gift shops and information centers. We saw development going on to improve park facilities and the website indicates this as well. Many small picnic shelters and benches are available along the trail. We saw a few groups of horse tours and at least one stable at Foster Falls. There were many places to tie up horses and park bikes. There were also adequate restroom facilities. The only couple of things lacking were water supplies and more detail on historical points of interest (POI). Bring plenty of your own water if you're going to do long distance along this trail. Only found a few places to refill my camelback container. Also, bring lunch as some places to eat at are way off trail. Since we had covered a lot of ground in the morning, some of the places we thought about stopping at were already past. Also, the town of Fries doesn't have much and it was basically closed on Sunday. Fortunately, Riverside Foodmart at mile 43.2 had sandwiches and snacks to buy. Plus fresh water as well. Now, the only indication of a POI is a mileage marker. So you have to either have a map or stop and look around. We missed the Shot Tower because it was way up on the side of the trail and not marked. Believe we had to go off trail to actually visit it. We also didn't have the map we bought ahead of time and that's essential. You can get this great map of the trail for $4 I think through Custom CAD Maps, Rt 1 Box 117-A1 Draper, VA 24324 (540) 980-2433. We planned our visit based on this map. Since it was only 2 of us and we were driving a long way, we didn't want to take 2 cars. Well, New River Riders in Galax (877) 510-2572 (toll free) will shuttle you from one trailhead to the other for a fee. Saved us some time and was good to not have to drive after 60.8 miles of biking. Take supplies to fix problems on long rides in the park. Not many facilities just off the trail. My friend developed a problem and had to run his bike 6 miles before figuring out a way to deal with the problem until the end of the trail. There are campgrounds in the park with some others under development. Best one I saw was at Cliffview, southern end. The gift shops had interesting items for sale and the one at Cliffview had snacks and drinks as well. There are a few road crossing but none of these were bothersome as some trails have much higher cross traffic. Hope you enjoy the trail as much as we did. Feel free to email if you have questions."
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