Potts Valley Rail Trail

West Virginia

10 Reviews

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Potts Valley Rail Trail Facts

States: West Virginia
Counties: Monroe
Length: 4.5 miles
Trail end points: Rays Siding Rd/CR 15/5 (Waiteville) and Waiteville Rd/CR 17 (Waiteville)
Trail surfaces: Dirt, Grass
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6426197

Potts Valley Rail Trail Description

Nestled in a remote mountain valley deep in the Appalachians, the Potts Valley Rail Trail skirts a wilderness area and farmland as it rolls through forests for 4.5 miles in the southern part of the state just east of the Continental Divide.

The trail is partly built upon the former corridor of the Norfolk and Western Railway. Called the Potts Valley Branch, the line opened in 1909 to haul iron ore from local mines and virgin timber cut from the mountainsides. By 1932, those industries had fallen into decline, and rail operations ended, allowing the valley to return to its agricultural pursuits. The trail opened in 2010.

About 3.5 miles of the trail run just outside the border of the Mountain Lake Wilderness in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests. Most of the remainder uses a right-of-way through private property. Along the trail, you will find interpretive signs about Potts Valley’s history, as well as benches where you can rest and enjoy the forest’s solitude and views from overlooks.

The southwest trailhead on Waiteville Road/CR 17 lies a few hundred yards from the Eastern Continental Divide and 0.2 mile from the Virginia state line. Mountain ridges on each side of the valley trail reach elevations of 3,700–4,100 feet, and the trail runs slightly uphill from the South Fork of Potts Creek, a brook trout stream. The trail traverses a forest of mixed pine and hardwood, with rhododendron in the understory.

The trail on the railroad grade slopes gently downhill from the Waiteville Road trailhead. Short side trails lead to culverts carved by stone masons to drain the streams that frequently cross the path of the railbed.

At about 3.5 miles, you’ll arrive at the site of the former trestle across Crosier Creek that once soared 98 feet over the creek on a 600-foot-long bridge. This marks the end of the railroad grade. Taking the switchbacks down to the creek, you’ll have to cross on stepping-stones near the century-old bridge supports. Expect to get your shoes wet if the creek is high.

You’ll follow singletrack through the woods for about another mile to the northwest trailhead on Rays Siding Road, which was formerly the railroad’s route downhill on an S curve. A short section crosses private land; be sure to stay on the trail. A bench just before the trailhead over-looks a pastoral view, complete with a red barn in the distance.

From here, mountain bikers often loop back to the southwest trailhead via a 4.2-mile on-road route by taking Rays Siding Road/CR 15/5 to a left onto Waiteville Road/CR 17. A right turn onto Waiteville Road would lead you to the former depot (now a private business), located at the intersec-tion with Bert Williams Road/CR 15/3, in 1.4 miles.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available off Waiteville Rd/CR 17 (1.5 miles east of N Fork Mountain Rd/VA 613) and off Rays Siding Rd/CR 15/5 (0.7 mile east of Waiteville Rd/CR 17).

From US 219 at Union: follow State Route 3 east for 9 miles to Gap Mills, and turn right onto Zenith Road. After 3.5 miles, turn left onto Limestone Hill (Waiteville) Road. Follow for 5.5 miles across Peter's Mountain. At the bottom of the mountain, turn right onto County Route 17. Follow CR 17 for 1 mile to Waiteville, and then for another 4.5 miles to the SW trailhead, on the left, not far from the Giles County line.

From US 460: about 4 miles east of Pearisburg, VA, turn onto SR 635 (Forest Service Sign for White Rocks Campground). After 5.5 miles, turn left to stay on SR 635. Continue for another 12 miles. At the Monroe County line, SR 635 becomes CR 17. The SW trailhead will be on the right, roughly 0.25 mile in from the border.

From SR 311 at Paint Bank: follow SR 600 (CR 17 at the Monroe County line) for 12 miles to Waiteville. Continue on CR 17 for another 4.5 miles to the SW trailhead.

From Mountain Lake: follow SR 613 north, past the War Spur and Wind Rock trailheads, and the road to White Rocks Campground. At the bottom of the mountain, turn right on SR 635 (CR 17), and follow 1.5 miles to the SW trailhead.

NE trailhead from SW Trailhead: follow CR 17 to the northeast for 3 miles. Turn right on CR 15/5, Ray Siding Rd. Follow for 0.75 mile to the trailhead, on right.

NE trailhead from Waiteville: follow CR 17 to the SW for 1.5 miles. Turn left on CR 15/5, Ray Siding Rd. Follow for 0.75 mile to the trailhead on right.

Potts Valley Rail Trail Reviews

good easy hike

Hiked alone on 5/21/22, very easy flat trail. My hike started at the SW trailhead to the descent where the railroad tressel was located, rested and returned to car. This area is very isolated, did not see another person on this nearly 3 hr hike. Several reviews complained about how poorly maintained the trail was, my experience was this trail is no worse maintained than most grass/dirt rail trails I have hiked.

Potts Trail

Rode this on 10/5/20 with friends. Mountain bike a must. Trail in poor condition. Numerous fallen trees, long grass, and muddy patches on this short old elevated rail track through the woods. With a little maintenance this could be spectacular.

Such potential, so poorly maintained

Rode from NE trailhead, finding the first mile plus nearly impossible to bike. Treacherous descent / ascent through area of former trestle (pushed / pulled bike, cannot imagine riding it). Many downed trees and branches at intervals the entire length. Although we pulled smaller ones that we could manage, off the trail, significant more remain, most will require tools. Good signage, including reflective markers through the first section where the trail is nearly indiscernible; mileage designations would be helpful. Recommend riding from SW trailhead 3 miles to trestle site, then turn around and ride back. Those 3 miles scenic, with the trail elevated through woodlands. No mountain views while trees in leaf. Consider that elevation rises from NE to SW.

Excellent trail for all ages!

June 6, 2018-
Parked at the west trailhead. There is room for about 6 cars about 50 yards from the hard surface road. My dog and I hiked about three miles to where the trail descended into a hollow where there once was a railroad trestle. We then turned around and came back due to lack of time.
This part of the trail is nearly flat and level. Rhododendrons in full bloom. Several springs where dog drank and cooled his feet. Took about 2-1/2 hours for a leisurely 6 mile round trip. Trail is wide and clear with little brush or limbs. I suggest long pants or long socks as there were just a few briers and nettles. Also a mud hole where you will likely get your shoes wet.
We encountered few gnats and mosquitoes, but it was windy and cool.
At about the three mile point going east, the trail depends steeply into about a 600 foot deep ravine, but it looked like the trail was well worn and had switchbacks.
Suggest setting up a shuttle with a vehicle at the far end (about 4 miles) so you don’t have to double back.
Or you could walk back on the hard surface road, not much traffic during the week.
One of the nicest and easiest trails in this area. Has some interesting history told by a placard on the east side of the gorge.
Your grandma could hike this trail with ease.


great trail- challenging

We read the reviews and were not too surprised by the need for mountain biking skills. We took two horses and a bike. Trail is wonderful for horses and the creek crossing was just a little slippery. Only a couple of trees down which the Back Country Horsemen will try to get cleared soon. Cold breeze blows down this valley so prepare for a cold north side of the mountain experience in winter. I am sure it's just the place for a hot summer day!
West parking lot is small, no room for trailers, but East lot near Waiteville is plenty big.

Wow...not what I was expecting

Hard trail because it is steep and has dangerously sharp turns. My husband and I did have a good time but we suffered.

Pretty, and Pretty Overgrown

Had a great trip this morning (Mid June 2015) with my dog. Parts of the trail had trees down or were overgrown but the trail was easy to follow and fairly level most of the way. Just remember it isn't a loop so when you finish, have another car parked at the end unless you want to walk all the at back (like we did). The benches were well located but the grass was too tall for me to want to climb through for most of them.

Looking for solitude? This is the place! We hiked the whole trail -- in and out, and never saw another human being! Trail is easy for the first 3 miles, except for the downed trees from the summer storms. However, the next half mile or so is much more challenging due to the missing trestle. We started at the southwest trail head, so had a steep walk down to the creek. There is nothing but some rocks to balance on to get across the creek... definitely would not want to attempt with high water or any ice! Once across the creek it was relatively easy (but not flat) to the northeast trail head. On our return, it was a steep climb back up from the creek. And a gentle uphill back to the southwest trail head. Interesting changes in plants, terrain and scenery. All in all an enjoyable hiking trail, but not your typical rail trail.

fun trail to play on

We had a lot of fun playing around with our mountain bikes on this trail this past weekend, and it was wonderfully picturesque forest. I recommend using a mountain bike on this trail, or at least fat tires, because it was no longer cinder track in most places but more grown over and bumpy with tree roots, dead branches, and an occasional rock or mud. You need to like such things; if you think you might like these things and want to find out, this trail is a good learning trail for new mountain bikers because the gentle slope lets you ride over obstructions more easily without losing your balance. The weeds weren't tall at this point of the season, late September. The second half of the trail was a mildly steep single track rather than a railroad bed.

The downhill direction is eastward, with the top of the hill being the parking area near the WV/VA border off 635. If you're not too hardcore, you may want to take 2 cars and just do the downhill part; we did a loop by coming back on the road.

Potts Valley

Trail is in a remote forested area. Easy to find; coming from Pembroke, Virginia and after turning on route 635, the southern trailhead is on right just after entering West Virginia. At first I thought I had to park along road, but there is a small parking area an 1/8 mile in from the road. Gorgeous, rugged area along trail because the railroad needed to cross eastern continental divide along this stretch. Great scenery and a very peaceful trail.
However, it is not surfaced nor has it been “graded”. Very undulating along with “mud holes” and grass (August) 8 inches tall obstructing your view of the too numerous stones and tree branches that you have to avoid taking your attention away from admiring the area. I am not wanting rolled crushed stone, although that would be great, but at the very least provide a trail more maintained then now.
Granted this is a newly opened trail and perhaps more bikes can “beat” a path of single-track along R-O-W. As stewards the Forest Service knows how to maintain a successful rail trail in the Jefferson National Forest (Virginia Creeper). I only hope this trail will benefit from their experience.

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