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Many of the Mountain State’s rail-trails are known for their long grades up mountain valleys, but the West Fork River/Ralph S. Larue Trail is not one of them. The 14-mile trail follows the slow-flowing West Fork River in northern West Virginia and gains only a few feet between Shinnston and Fairmont.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) acquired the corridor along the West Fork River in 1860 but waited until the 1890s to lay track. By then, coal companies had opened mines throughout the river valley, and populations soared in the small river towns. The railroad served those miners and hauled the coal to markets. The Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission gained the property in 1995 and opened the trail in 1997, due in large part to efforts by commission director Ralph S. Larue, for whom the trail is named.
The trail is also a segment of the 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York that is being developed by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project.
Visitors to the trail will find that the western 3.5-mile section in Harrison County is hard-packed crushed limestone, while the remainder in Marion County is paved. Horseback riding is allowed only in Marion County, and dogs must be leashed the entire length. The trail follows the serpentine river, which might be partly obscured by vegetation in the summer. Deer and smaller mammals are often seen along the path, and it’s not uncommon for a raucous gaggle of geese to wander up from the river.
Starting in Shinnston, the trail is sandwiched between US 19 and the river and crosses a few residential streets before reaching the woods flanking the river in less than a mile. About 0.7 mile south of the trailhead on Pike Street, town founder Levi Shinn’s log cabin, dating to the 1770s, still stands (not part of this route). Always a center of commerce, the town’s economy grew with the coal boom. In 1944, it was devastated by the loss of 66 residents in a tornado.
Along the trail, you will see many historical markers, such as the Enterprise Coal Mine and coke ovens in about 3 miles, and will pass through Worthington Park, a favorite local fishing spot. As the river swings south just beyond the park, you’ll see a dam used by a mill across the river, as well as abutments for a railroad bridge that served a mine.
The trail heads south for 1.4 miles through Chiefton, at one time a bustling coal mine company town, before swinging north and east to Monongah, where, in 1907, an explosion killed 361 miners in the worst mining disaster in the nation’s history. A commemorative statue of a miner’s widow holding her child stands on Main Avenue at Bridge Street, two blocks from the trailhead.
The trail continues another 2.8 miles to its terminus just past the re-furbished B&O bridge spanning the river into Fairmont, the county seat. Because the continuation of the trail past the bridge is not on public land, trail users starting from the east should park in Monongah or about 0.6 mile south of the eastern terminus at Mary Lou Retton Park, named for the locally born and raised Olympic gold-medalist.
Note that the route to the trail is on a narrow road with a climb. To reach the trail from the parking lot at the park, head west on Norway Loop Road for 0.2 mile; then turn right on CR 56/3 and go 0.6 mile. After the road curves left, look for the spur entrance to the trail on the right in about 180 feet.
For further exploration, the MCTrail (Marion County Trail) begins on the northeast side of Fairmont and runs for 2.5 miles (including a 1,200-foot-long tunnel) to the southern section of the Mon River Trail, which is part of the Mon River Rail-Trail System and heads 18 miles north to Morgantown.
In Shinnston, parking is available by the Sue Ann Miller Trailhead (S Pike St/US 19 & Lynn St),
In Worthington, parking is available at Sunrise St & Pike St and by Worthington Park on Meadowridge Road/CR 90.
In Everson, parking is available at Everson St/CR 27 & Everson Rd.
In Monongah, parking is available at Bridge St & Riverview Ave.
In Fairmont, parking is available at Mary Lou Retton Park (Norway Loop Rd at Olympic Ln).
The starting point in Shinnston is accessible from US 19 on the southern end of town. To reach Shinnston from the Shinnston/Saltwell Road Exit off Interstate 79, turn left (west) and proceed 0.25 mile to the gas station. Turn left on Saltwell Road (SR 131) and follow this about 7 miles to US 19 in Shinnston. Turn right on US 19 (Pike Street) and drive 6 blocks. Turn left on Mahlon Street at St. Ann's Catholic Church, before the bridge across the West Fork River. Go 1 block and park on the street. The trail begins under the US 19 bridge.
To reach the northern end in Fairmont your best bet is to actually park in Monongah. In town on the east side of the West Fork River, turn off Bridge Street into the parking lot immediately after the bridge. The trail is right off the lot.
This trail is a gem! This trail will be a very important connecting piece between the North Bend Rail Trail that runs from Parkersburg to Clarksburg, WV and the Mon River Trail System in the Morgantown area. Someday, all of these wonderful trails will be connect as part of the planned Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Trail (P2P).
I was able to go directly to the trail head in Shinston, WV by typing "City of Shinston Rails to Trails Trail Head" into Waze.
There is a nice, shaded parking lot with enough room for several vehicles. The trail starts right there between the highway and the parking lot. I unloaded and was on it within 5 minutes. I had noticed on TrailLink that it looked like I'd have to travel some city streets. This was so, because short sections of the original railroad bed ran through private property and wasn't accessible. I actually rode a short distance up a couple of streets and back before I noticed there were LARGE YELLOW PAW PRINTS painted on the street to guide you back to the trail.
There are short sections of paved trail mingled with longer sections of well packed gravel base for about the first 3.5 miles. After you reach Marion County (it's marked) the trail is paved nearly all the way to Monongah - with a few very short exceptions like where the pavement has deteriorated and had to be replaced with gravel. There are mile markers.
I rode the 10.5 miles to Monongah, then back to Shinston. It took me almost 2 hours but I stopped a few times to sight-see and grab a drink. The pavement was mostly pretty smooth but there were places where freezing and thawing had broken it and pushed 2 - 4 inch ridges across the trail, making me slow down.
Overall, it was a quiet, pretty, and peaceful ride and I regret not riding the last 5 or so miles of the trail. I'll be back to ride the entire trail from the Fairmont end soon.
Rode 2 miles from the Shinnston terminus. Trail was in excellent condition to that point. They are presently digging up the trail to lay down a sewer line toward Shinnston. About 3 inches of fine gravel sits on the trail north and is currently un-bikeable.
I have ridden the WFRT prior to this construction and found it to be minimally traveled, and in good to excellent shape. Here is hoping they restore it to at least that, if not lay an asphalt base.
I have ridden the West Fork River Trail several times and went yesterday for a full ride. Parked in Monongah as I always do. Nice parking area right along the trail with restrooms. Rode downstream and crossed the newly redecked Norway bridge. There's new railing also. Two years ago there was only a metal cable on each side - a bit scary and unsafe. Past the bridge is an unimproved dirt road to what is supposed to be a parking area on a dead end street in Fairmont. I've ridden part of the road but it just isn't worth it.
Other than that part the rest of the trail in Marion Co. is paved. However, the asphalt is not as nice as it used to be. It needs repaved or sealed. Several places the asphalt is getting gritty and not as easy to ride on as a good crushed limestone sand trail. The Harrison Co. side is unpaved and the first mile through Enterprise may make you want to turn back. Yesterday part of the trail was newly laid semi-course gravel as a sewer line is being put in along the trail. Persevere through Enterprise and the trail gets better. The ride to Shinnston is fine then and once in town you'll ride on some back roads for a ways - there are faint blue arrows on the road but if you just stay on the roads closest the river you're in the right place. The last little section crosses a decked railroad bridge to a little park area - very nice.
There's a pizza place at the end of the trail and an ice cream shop one minute from the trail plus a local bike store. Shinnston has several other stores for anything you might need in a pinch. It's on it's way to being a decent little trail town.
If I could I would give the trail 3.5 stars but went for 4 since some maintenance on the trail would improve things but it is definitely worth the ride if you're in the are.
Labor Day gem! First time visit and would recommend to anyone. Can view the river most of the way. Lots of shade and easy grade. Really is a 5 star.
Great trial for running and biking. Scenic. Love it. It never gets old.
Had a great time. Went from Shinnston to almost Monongah. Very beautiful and pretty easy ride. There is 2 parking lots at the beginning of the trail in Shinnston. There is a sign where you turn in to them.
We biked this in early October. Parked in Monongah at the lot next to City Hall. The trail is nicely paved except for less than three miles at the southern end in Shinnston. DO NOT try to park at the Mary Lou Retton park shown at the North end of the map. The loop shown on the map is a rural residential area with very narrow roads and you have to go down a short, steep dirt hill to get to the real trail. I've uploaded pictures of the trail's sign, which shows several parking areas along the trail.
My goal is to ride 10 miles in all 50 states, we have now done 42 states and this is one of the most enjoyable trails that we've done. Great trail!!
Started from Shinnston, which was hard to find where to park. we parked in the church parking lot. 3/4 mile to trail once parked. From Shinnston to Marion co. trail very rough. two gravel ruts for a while. Once to Marion Co. trail was well maintained. quiet and peaceful ride.
We did a three trail weekend 7/8-7/10. West Fork Trail, Blackwater Canyon Trail and parts of the GAP.
This is a pretty decent trail system which follows the Monongahela River- West Fork on this trail. We went from Shinnston to Fairmont. Shinnston is turning into a nice Trail Bike town and it is well worth the visit. The Town of Monongah is also worth a stop. It was the site of one of the worsts mining disaster in our history. The trail is asphalt part of the way and packed gravel part. Fairly decent grade.Total trip is about 27 miles to and from. This is also part of additional trails to Morgantown and vicinity. Well worth the trip.
I just got back into cycling this year and have ridden this trail a few times this year. I was pleasantly surprised to see that once you reach the Marion County line it was paved almost the whole way to Fairmont, which makes it very nice for riding a road bike on.
I have ridden the trail with both road and mountain bike and enjoyed it. It would be nice if the Harrison County portion was also paved and something done about the one "dip" that you have to ride through, as it has some erosion that could cause someone to have an accident, but overall even the unpaved portion is in good shape and provides a smooth ride for a road bike.
Trail provides some nice scenery and is enjoyable to ride, but would like to see the connector to Mary Lou Retton Park marked better and have a better surface for the transition from the trail to the road.
It provides an nice alternative to get to Fairmont without having to ride on roads with traffic and I have used it to get to Fairmont and then ridden the surface streets to the trail leading to Prickett's Fort.
All I can say is WOW! This trail is now updated and very rider friendly. I parked at Monongah and rode the short trip to the northern end in South Fairmont. Crossed the old converted tressle that my cousins and I used to brave nearly forty years ago which brought back memories.
Then I turned and rode the 16+ miles south to Shinnston (paved to the county line). In Shinnston I toured the little museum there on Main street, Had a hot-dog, and rode through some nice neighborhoods above the Veteran's Memorial.
Along the trail were several waterfalls, parks, and little coal mining communities. All of it very hospitable and friendly. I highly recommend it.
In 2013, i began walking from Shinnston to Worhington. They had a wash out about a mile and a half from, Shinnston. It needs to be fixed.
They need to have seats about every half mile. also toilets along the way. I don't mind walking on packed gravel, as long as it is leveled off.
Marion County has the best trail. Asphalt. They also need more seating on the trail. I am planning another walk on the trail starting from Worthington and walking to Prickett's Fort.
This will be in the spring of 2015. But the overall view, the trail is really great.
Thank you Marion County Park
I never read the trail description before since we live close and ride this trail quite regularly. As stated before, Mary Lou Retton park is not the place to access this trail. Like others the place to park is in Monongah (N 39d 27m 40 s, W 80d 12 m 53 s). There is the largest areas for parking here along with restrooms. It gets a little crowded in the late afternoons when the kids have soccer or baseball practice in the fields nearby or there is a function in the adjacent community building. It's approximately 3 miles to the trestle that crosses the West Fork River in Fairmont where the asphalt ends. There's a good deck on the trestle but the trail on the other side is passable but not paved for a short distance till it runs into private property and closed. I usually turn back about a hundred feet from the trestle where there is an access road that comes down from MLR Park. Going the other direction from Old Town Monongah, it's a little more than 6 miles to the county line and the asphalt ends again. There's parking along that section where the trail crosses Everson Road (N 39/27/5 W 80/15/18), then again at Worthington Park (N 39/27/5 W 80/15/4) where there are restrooms again, next at Hutchinson (N 39/26/27 W 80/16/31) where there's plenty of parking at the local ball field but is a little off the beaten path. From the county line it's a little less than 4 miles to the trailhead in Shinnston. The trail is fine gravel for a ways then weaves through the back streets and is a bit difficult to follow. (I don't ride that section often, so I will let someone else make better comment). The coordinates are from the compass app of my iPhone so they are in degrees minutes and seconds. Checks it out on google earth then come and enjoy the ride.
I have ridden trails in Marion, Mon and Harrison County. By far this is the best riding trail, Marion to Mon county trails are nice but the pavement of the West Fork River Trail (the Marion County side only) makes for a much nicer ride.
Personally I think getting on the trail in Monongah is best. There is a parking lot and bathroom right there along the trail. The lot is lighted and feels more secure than other trail entrance points.
If you feel you want the whole length of the trail head towards Fairmont, see the railroad bridge and back track. It's a short length so it's easily done.
The trail does have a few places that one must look out for. There is 2 slips that if you don't see them and you veer off the trail you will be seeing the river up close, not something you want to experience. There is also a place where there is a clump of dirt across the trail where rain water carried it and it hasn't been removed.
The beauty of the hillside waterfall is a sight to see and the light splash of water is refreshing during a hot day.
There are also bathrooms along the Worthington end. You have to go down into the park to see them.
I ride this trail often and find its peace and serenity very pleasurable.
This trail is only a four star for two reasons. 1. There is no water or toilets along the trail. 2. The Harrison County portion is rough and can be dangerous if not paying close attention.
We started at Retton Park. The signage to get to the trail is virtually non existent and the entrance is by a lot of old single wide trailers with mean but tied dogs. After entering, this is a wonderful trail and is well maintained in the Marion County portion. The waterfall and seating area near it were a wonderful place to stop but be careful on the small concrete walk leading to the seating area as it is above grade and can cause a fall.
The trail is paved in about 97% of the Marion County section and not at all in Harrison County where conditions deteriorated rapidly but was still passable with caution at a reasonable pace. Once you get to Shinniston the trail ends in an industrial area with no additional signage.
Harrison county should be ashamed of this and the trail that continues to Clarksburg but is closed due to the Spelter zinc tailings contamination.
The Fairmont Trailhead that we put in at was behind the 84 Lumber/Big Lots Shopping Center. Ride down Edgeway Drive and over the hill from the shopping center there is a old railroad spur that runs along the river. About 1 mile down this old rail spur is a railroad trestle that takes you over the West Fork River. A very nice ride, paved along the first 5-6 miles. There were some repairs done along the 6 mile mark were the asphalt was replaced with fine gravel. The repairs are near a wet area with a wonderful waterfall very close to the the trail. At the Harrison Co. line asphalt again was replaced with gravel. We rode into the town of Shinnston and ate at the local hot dog shop. A great 3 1/2 hours.
Rode this trail for the first time today and took note of prior reviews and parked at the Credit Union parking lot directly across from Anthony Chevrolet dealership. I share the experience with other trail riders who encountered some shady folks down at the trail access in Norway. Leaving the parking lot you have to almost make an immediate left on a dead end street, once you follow the road to the turn you will see signage for rail trail access. However, from this point it is all gravel, fairly large and would be unsafe and unwise to attempt going down seated or standing. I walked my bike down the hill and from there took off on what looked like to be a trail that was once a road. You follow this for about 8/10th's of a mile and then cross a very nice railroad bridge. Once you cross it is smooth riding on a nice asphalt surface until you reach the county line. I did encounter some graveled areas about 6 miles into my trek that were apparent repairs to the steep bank. Overall nice trail and was quite surprised to see how much was asphalt.
I recently rode this trail, and found that the most difficult part was getting on it at the Fairmont end. Here is how I would advise you to enter the trail: First, forget about Mary Lou Retton park. It is very confusing. Instead, I parked at the shopping area on Country Club Road. (Near the Locust Avenue end.) Edgeway Drive is adjacent to the shopping center and is easy to enter without having to ride on Country Club road. This street is level for two hundred yards or so, then dips down and around a tight curve. At the bottom, and just to the right you will see a course shale (rock) road leading down into the woods. WALK YOUR BIKE TO THE BOTTOM, then proceed through the forest for approximately 1/4 mile. You will come to a railroad bridge which crosses the West Fork River. Cross the bridge and Viola! you are on asphalt. You are at mile marker 14. From there to approximately mile marker 2 you are on level asphalt. There are a couple of places where the trail has been washed out or repaired, but nothing very lengthy or hard to navigate.
You will pass the former coal mining town of Monongah, then to Worthington, Enterprise, and Hutchinson. Lots of back yards, playgrounds, and a few rural road crossings. There are some waterfalls, and nice river views, along with just a quiet ride through the forests.All in all a very nice ride. When you leave Marion county, the trail turns to a fine shale base, and will seem a bit rough at first, but you will soon get acclimated to it.
As you near Shinnston, the trail here is also used as a horse riding trail, and there are some dropping that you need to steer clear of.
In Shinnston, you will travel behind the buildings that line the main street, then the trail goes into a narrow walking path to the end.
When you return to the northern end, you will have the uphill-walking-bike-dragging chore of getting back to Edgeway drive, but the ride, all things considered, is well worth it.
I rode this trail on Sunday, June 3rd, leaving from the trailhead in Shinston. I rode five miles to Worthington and found steel cable across the trail with a sign noting that the trail was closed for construction by order of Marion County Parks and Recreation. I was ready to turn back, when I met another cyclist who said that construction crews did not work on weekends. I lifted my bike over the cable and went on, meeting several other cyclists on the "closed" section. The trail was closed for approximately 4 miles. There was construction equipment along the way, but otherwise the ride was smooth, and I went through to the railroad bridge just outside of Fairmont. The Marion County portion of the trail is paved (approx. nine and one-half miles) and is very nice to ride on. If your planning a ride, keep in mind that there will be active construction along the trail on weekdays.
I use a cross bike and generally try to spin along at approx 15 mph. I found the first 3 miles of this trail to be incompatible with my style. the cinder portion of this trail stretches from shinnston to the marion county line, approx 3 miles. it has heavy horse traffic which gives the trail a mogul effect. you have to slow down considerably and ride tall. at mile two or therabouts, there is a deep rill of erosion about a foot deep. I was able to get stopped but it would certainly result in an accident if hit directly.
from marion county heading north the the fairmont section, it is nicely paved, however there are frequent road crossings. altough the road crossings do not appear to have heavy traffic, the trail has very narrow posts to prevent vehicular traffic. they are so narrow that you can put your feet out while going thru and touch each post. point being that the fast portion of this trail is frequently interupted with dangerous barriers.
scenery is modest, mostly going through residential areas.
As another reviewer noted, the Mary Lou Retton park entrance is not a desirable place to begin your ride. I would recommend starting your ride at mile 3 (approx). From Shinnston, cross a bridge then take Rt. 19 north approx. 3 miles. there will be another bridge near a low water dam with a sign that says 'public fishing access'. take that bridge (right turn off Rt. 19) and immediately across it there is parking immediately adjacent to the paved trail, and I believe a port a john. ride north from that point, not south!
hope this helps anyone considering the west fork river trail.
We (wife and I) rode this in two sections. We are fairly new to biking and are keeping rides under 25 miles per day at a slow under 7-10 mph pace at this point. Our first ride was from Shinnston going north. This was a great ride with a lot of awesome scenery. We rode a few miles past Worthington which had a very nice park to stop and rest at. The next day we started in Fairmont at the Mary Lou Retton Park. It was difficult to pick up the trail and it appears that the trail shown on trailLink that loops around Fairmont is not really a "Rail to Trail" and mostly city streets with typical WV hills .. not fun .. at least for us. Once we got off the city street (Norway Rd) that leads to the actual trail it was great. We road south past Monongah to near our turnaround spot from the day before. On our way back, we stayed on the rail trail and went just past the spot (about a half mile beyond) where we got off Norway Rd onto the rail trail. We followed that to the Rail bridge which crosses the West Fork. Very Picture worthy!
Advice: Ride this great trail, but avoid Mary Lou Retton park and Norway Road. Use Shinstonn, Worthingon, or Monongah to get on the trail. Also, do ride all the way to the Rail Bridge in Fairmont .. just not through the city streets in Fairmont.
This trail is wonderful and I have enjoyed it several times....however....I took my son (8) to check out the Mary Lou Retton Youth Park Entrance. We not only didn't ride from that point, we locked the doors as we drove by! There where several people in the street (and they would not move to let the car pass at first). A young man stopped his car in front of us and talked to another youth for over 5 minutes blocking the one lane road. When we finally did find the entrance there were 5 shirtless young men hanging out by the gait blocking it. My son said "please don't stop here".
Definitely try out this trail but NOT at this entrance!
Rode this trail in 1998 from Durbin to Gladys. Camped at the Durbin town park. This is a superd trail, very beautiful, very private. The river is an ever present feature and impressive in its own right. The Gladys end had absolutely no services. Rode back on the Forest Service road and only saw one vehicle. Very highly recommended!!
This was a nice trail. It follows the river and is relatively flat. I didn't like going through the town of Shinston where I started. It is small gravel for about the first 3 and a half miles then it turns into paved. Very nice ride with a lot of wildlife. I saw turkey, deer, rabbit, geese, birds, and more. It isn't as much of a challenge as the Elkins to Phillip trail but a good trail and well kept for the most part. A great family trail since it is so flat and paved for such a long way.
My wife and I just decided to ride this trail on our way home after completing the North Bend Trail. We were a little confused about the trail access after reading that the trail only could be ridden 2 miles. Not so! The only washout is about 1 1/2 miles from Shinnston. Solution, start above Shinnston at any of the other access points and ride from there. The actual washout is only about 50ft. long, so if you want to complete the whole trail just ride back to to the wash out point above Shinnston. This trail should not be missed if you are in the area. Pa. tandem team. Roger and Marilyn
This trail has been washed out -- from Shinnston you can only ride approximately 2 miles.
This trail is kept in good shape and is a wonderful ride. Lots of scenery and good food too.
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