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History beckons around every rocky bend and in every chilly tunnel on the North Bend Rail Trail, which follows an old railroad corridor through hill and hollow in northern West Virginia. Winding through the counties of Wood, Ritchie, Doddridge and Harrison, it is the second-longest rail-trail in the state—after the Greenbrier River Trail.
Previously closed for over a year for the installation of fiber-optic cable, the entire 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail is now open to the public. The trail surface is primarily crushed stone or gravel and is typically 10-feet-wide. In West Union, there is a 0.8-mile paved section from about 0.7 miles east of Bridge #24 (over old U.S. Route 50) to Bridge #22 (over Middle Island Creek). There is a paved section roughly 4-miles long meandering through Salem between Moore Street and Brandy Gap Tunnel #2. For the unpaved sections, cyclists are advised to use tires 1.5-inches or wider. A flashlight is recommended as the tunnels can get very dark.
The rail-trail carries travelers down a corridor built for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) between 1853 and 1857. Known as the Parkersburg Branch, it carried Federal troops during the Civil War and served a string of towns between Parkersburg and Clarksburg as it became the system’s mainline to St. Louis. After more than 120 years, passenger operations ceased in 1971. The dwindling freight business was handled by CSX Transportation, which sold the corridor to the state in the 1980s. Work on the trail started in the 1990s.
Of the original 13 tunnels the builders bored through the rugged Allegheny Plateau to shorten the route, 10 are still passable today. Visitors in the summer will feel a blast of cool, moist air at the stone-block tunnel portals—quite a change from the smoke, cinders, and heat that filled the tunnels as 19th-century locomotives passed through. Some are long enough inside to require a flashlight.
At 2,207 feet long, the Central Station Tunnel, located at milepost 49.5 near West Union, is the longest on the trail and played a role in a 1915 train robbery that netted some $1 million in today’s value. The Silver Run Tunnel (1,376 feet long), at milepost 22.8 between Cairo and Petroleum, is reputed to be haunted. Tunnel No. 13, the Bonds Creek Tunnel near Cornwallis, was the site of a deadly train crash in 1956 when a westbound train emerged onto the scene of a fresh avalanche and plummeted into the creek below.
Other human-made features of the trail include the 36 bridges and trestles that visitors cross. The longest bridge spans Middle Island Creek on the east side of West Union. Old, refurbished B&O depots are still standing in Pennsboro, Smithton, and Salem. These towns and others along the route offer dining and refreshment to travelers, as well as marble and hand-blown-glass factories, arts-and-crafts markets, fairs, festivals, and veterans memorials.
A major attraction along the trail is North Bend State Park, located slightly off-trail between Cairo and Ellenboro. Here you’ll find more than a dozen miles of trails, camping, showers, and the only indoor lodging along the trail. Free camping is allowed anywhere on the rail-trail, and several campsites with fire rings and pit toilets are available along its length.
Be prepared for long stretches through rural areas (without services), where you’ll see deer in forest clearings, beaver lodges in ponds, and perhaps a black bear or two. The edges of farmland also provide habitat for bird-watching.
While most of the trail traffic is locally generated, a growing number of travelers are including the trail on longer excursions. The North Bend Rail Trail is on the 6,800-mile, coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail. It is also part of the Parkersburg to Pittsburgh Corridor, a 240-mile corridor being developed by the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation project to create a 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.
While the trail is managed by West Virginia State Parks, the North Bend Rails-to-Trails Foundation is responsible for raising public interest for the trail as well as organizing many ongoing activities. One of the most popular is the evening Luminary Walk, for which 1.5 miles of the rail-trail, from North Bend State Park to Tunnel 13, is lit with luminaries. Check the foundation’s Facebook page for details and dates.
Visit West Virginia State Parks’ official website for any weather–related issues such as washouts and land-slides which can affect the trail’s surface.
There are numerous access points and parking areas along the entire route; refer to the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions
Along the breadth of the trail, parking, restrooms, and other facilities are available at numerous points, including (from west to east):
We started in Cairo and went to Ellenboro (about 8 miles), such a lovely peaceful ride. We went through 3 tunnels, there is a 4th tunnel but you must have to verve off the path some. We have 4 little kiddos with us and they all did great! They also replaced some of the bridges since the last time, they look so good.
I have been walking and biking sections of the North Bend Rail Trail since at least 2013- over 10+ years as of this review (May 2023). I am very impressed at all of the improvements. Today I walked from the historic Salem Depot around mile marker 65 to the Tunnel around mile marker 68. Salem had paved their trail within city limits. It is smooth and wonderful! Past Salem, heading towards Wolf Summit, the current Eastern end of the trail, it is gravel. Bring a light for the tunnel!
I parked at the west end riding a touring/gravel bike with panniers on 700x38s. This is really a trail best suited for horses, mountain bikes, and fat bikes. It starts out with nice farms and is very quiet, tree-lined with multiple stream crossings. very pretty and well maintained. The state park (first place for water east-bound) was a nice place to stay with showers, camp store, nice campsites. There is a beautiful shelter that overlooks a river/stream on the trail, at the east end of the tunnel that's immediately east of the SP. Somewhere east of there, and definitely at the Dodges /Ritchie county line, the trail has been a bit neglected. There is chunky rock with deep loose gravel piles, occasional double track, and at each road crossing gate it's a real challenge to pass through with panniers. Expect to walk the underpass for Dodges county park. It's super slippery with moss, mud, and grass, then the trail stops... with no further direction. I saw a HWY sign and headed down the road to a no-vehicles gravel road that looks like the trail. Yep, good choice. But then the sign sends you pushing up a steep, muddy, rocky 4wheel drive road. The arrows on the sign need to be adjusted, or place the sign better. Go left at the sign toward the river and it'll bring you into the campground, also across more loose gravel, deep asphalt piles, and mud. The campground is nothing fancy, but there is a shower.
CAUTION! -- GRAVEL! -- In April 2023 I started from Wolf Summit and headed west on this trail, expecting crushed stone like the GAP or Mon System. This was not the case --- it is GRAVEL. I had 1.5-inch hybrid tires with a mild tread and I was getting bounced around like a carnival ride. I went about a mile and turned around and abandoned the idea of this trail. I went up I-79 a few miles and rode the Mon System instead, which is crushed stone, almost like asphalt. At least for the Wolf Summit area, you need a fat tire bike for the North Bend, or at least some really serious mountain bike tires. Maybe it will smooth out over the years, but for now this is the case.
Started in Clarksburg and rode South 26 miles r/t. This trail could be great but the base is grass, mud and stones that are so large it is dangerous to ride .2 tunnels were nice but had to walk our bikes through them. Base is large ruts, large stones with water running through tunnels. Salem was asphalt and great! I do not recommend this trail until base is safer to ride on. is tricky.
This 72-mile rail-trail is maintained by 1 Trail Superintendent with 2 seasonal workers, and 1 dedicated Volunteer. When there is a storm of the magnitude of July 2022, it is impossible to get all the trees cleared even in a week. As for the eastern end of the North Bend, there has been utility work that used the trail without proper restoration, followed by fiber optic construction that tore up $1.8 Million of work in Doddridge and Harrison Counties done a couple years ago. Drainage work is being attempted as soon as possible. Working with grants that require match funding means acquiring those funds (20% of the total costs). And once a receiving a grant, nothing can be done until a notice to proceed is received (2014 are now being given notice to proceed in my City).
Please realize that all the lovely trails we all love to ride require funds to be maintained (and volunteers to do the labor). Consider helping your trails.
Rode this trail in five segments over a course of a month with each segment starting from where I turned around at. Overall not bad but it seems like the parties responsible for maintaining the trail in Doddridge and Harrison county have failed. Wood and Ritchie Counties had a good base but the other two haven’t done much to clear the trails after storms. Large trees in several places across the trail. The two lane paths looks like car tracks and some spots is liking riding in someone’s yard. Jumped on the parallel road to bypass these. The roadbeds have larger stones put in low areas and makes riding on a disaster waiting to happen. Beware, these stones have been put in the tunnels also and creates for tricky navigation. Make sure you have a bright light when going through them.
From Parkersburg to mile marker 33 they have put down new gravel. In most places it’s been compacted and is smooth to ride. There is some spots of loose deep gravel that will slow you down. In Petroleum there is a covered picnic and bike repair stand with restroom. Past #33 it is still smooth pea gravel and good to ride to #44 that’s as far as I got. I would do it again. The only warning I have is the gates are closed and can be tricky to get around, one person actually took a bad fall trying to get around one. If you don’t feel confident walk your bike around.
We rode 10 miles from Parkersburg to Walker on a cool late fall day. The scenery was beautiful! We passed only 1 person on the trail during our ride. The gravel trail covered in leaves was challenging. Definitely need wider tires - we rode Trek gravel bikes. But the real reason this trail got only 3 stars was 19 closed gates blocking trail that you had to ride around. Dangerous edges to squeeze around gate - my husband almost wiped out.
I rode this trail out of North Bend State Park North to Pennsboro. It was about 11 miles each way. The next day I rode to Petroleum from North Bend State Park. The area is very nice. I saw a lot of deer on my morning ride south to Petroleum. Petroleum had a nice rest stop with bike work stand, restroom and shelter. It happened to be on a road and in someone's front yard. I went thru the "haunted" tunnel. fairly long, one could not see. Either bring a light or walk. I walked and I still went into a wall.
Cairo was in sad shape. The town needs revitalization. Services will be spotty.
Pennsboro has services but it was a Sunday and almost everything was closed. Horse droppings was prevalent going east. It would be a mess on a wet day. Went thru 4 tunnels, it was nice to break the trail monotony.
The trail is in generally in poor quality. Maintenance is done by putting down 1-2 inch gray stone rock as fill. Too bad the people responsible for the trail do not see how other trails across the country are kept. The Pumpkinvine trail in Indiana accepts donations online. There is a fiberoptic underground line being put in along the trail. I hope royalties help with trail maintenance. A town like Cairo could use some business from trail users. A better trail would bring people.
North Bend State Park is a very nice campground. It is very convenient to the Trail. It has showers and flush toilets.
We rode 6 miles in from west end, 5 miles each way from park connector - did not hit any trail closures. They are working on fibre optic, but we able to get around the minor digging where they are pushing the cable.
Tunnels were dark and covered in slick mud - we ended up walking the three east from the park connector.
This is no place for skinny road tires - gonna need fat ones for the mud, dirt, and gravel/ballast.
Riverbend campground is ideal spot to camp and have direct trail access.
I AGREE with the latest prior post: "One of the more challenging rail trail rides because there were sections where the surface was covered with large gravel which was extremely bumpy", the longest stretch was between mile 18 to 19. There were other short rough sections but they were manageable." However there were MANY other sections that were much easier, that allowed for enjoying all the varied natural scenery including MANY scampering deer and rabbits. Between Ellensboro (mile 33) and mile 0 there were 5 tunnels, 2 of which are long/dark enough that having a good light is all but essential. The floor of 4 of the tunnels was very wet and slippery (perhaps due to a major rain the previous day), so a slow ride is prudent. The 5th (longest tunnel, ~mile 16) fortunately was where the road bed has been substantially improved with a compacted fine crushed gravel that made for a DELIGHTFUL ride to the beginning of the trail (mile 0).
Hopefully the roadbed will continue to be improved, if only for those sections that have the large/chunk gravel. If this happens, this rail trail will become a 5 Star "must do".
One of the more challenging rail trail rides because of the varied trail conditions.
The trail deserved a three star rating because there were sections where the surface was covered with large gravel which was extremely bumpy and threatened to flat your tires. We literally rode the edge, or off the edge of the trail for short periods to avoid the chunky gravel. Bikes with road tires would need to walk these sections. While the large gravel was used to patch the trail surface on many damaged areas along the trail, the longest stretch was between mile 18 to 19. There were other short rough sections but they were manageable.
The first mile of trail on the Parkersburg end, navigates past a horse farm through tall grass and ends in a random gravel lot behind a self storage facility. There is no trailhead parking here. Cut through the self storage buildings to access route 47. Once on route 47, it's an easy road ride to Parkersburg.
There were a couple other short sections where the trail crossed through grassy fields and doesn't look like a trail. You may wonder if you're still on the trail. While these sections are a little weird, it was easy terrain and actually added to the adventure factor.
While the inconsistent terrain brought some challenges, the scenery and wildlife more than made up for it. The forest along the trail is absolutely beautiful. The trail is flanked by rivers and streams which was home to abundant wildlife. We saw otters, turkeys, snakes, hawks, rabbits and many deer...one which bolted across the trail just a few feet in front of us.
By far the coolest scenery on the trail are the tunnels. The air temperature was a sweltering 94 degrees so the tunnels were a welcome respite. The tunnel acts as a natural air conditioner so we were very pleased to ride through seven tunnels between Pennsboro and Parkersburg. The trail surface inside of the tunnels was wet and a little muddy. There were also ruts and puddles which you can't see without a light. It was never so muddy that you couldn't ride through, it was just that you would slip and slide a little.
Overall, a little more challenging than most rail trail rides but it added to the whole experience.
Been riding the Parkersburg end of the North Bend trail, just wanted to update fellow riders of utility work on the trail. Trail was great until about the mile 6 marker then it was a mess and we had to walk our bikes around the equipment and get on the hardtop road and we finally turned around and rode back until we found the trail on the other side of the construction area.
My husband and I started at the main pavilion at North Bend State Park and walked to mile marker 30 before turning back. Great exercise for my recent complete ACL reconstruction, nice and flat. Bonus was walking through Tunnels #12 & #13!
I biked the North Bend Railtrail this past week. My summary:
Happy Valley to Petroleum: trail quite manageable, however some areas have gravel that is too large for a rail-trail, but not quite as large as comment below.
Cairo-Ellenboro: very nice, smooth
Westbound Wolf Summit- Ellenboro: first 16mi to Smithburg characterized by very soft surface with numerous large vehicle ruts in the trail—very little gravel-based portions. Would recommend for only the most hardy of bikers.
Smithburg- Pennsboro: smooth and in good condition
Pennsboro Tunnel (tunnel 8)– MM36: a total disaster—gravel the size of rail ballast. Whoever decided to cover the trail with ballast-sized gravel has never ridden a bike on such! Remainder to Ellenboro manageable.
EASTERN SECTION. Starting at the Wolf Summit terminus, I rode 10 miles (and 10 back) on a Saturday afternoon 10/19/19 on an old Schwinn LeTour w/ 27 x 1 1/4 tires. I knew it was not an appropriate bike for this trail but it's what I've got.
Yes, the trail is in awful shape, and the state should invest in its improvement. Even during an especially dry fall, I encountered mud and soft ground frequently. The surfaces really varied. The most common surface was grass, but there were sections of fine stone/hard trail (w/in Salem especially) and sections of single and double track. There were a few spots where gravel had been put over previously-muddy problem areas. But the gravel was too big and laid thick to bike through. In the 10 mile section I biked, there were a lot of paved roads that ran parallel to the trail in part. On the way back, I took those to switch it up.
I will bike here again because I live closeby, the tunnels are cool, and it's remote. I will absolutely not bike here in the spring (trail will be soft&wet and a mess then) or after a lot of rainfall.
Is an all weather surface really too much to ask for? this trail is soft with giant puddles after a rain. numerous trees across it. just a mess. could be a great trail of adequately funded by the state
I rode the NB trail July 5 and July 6. July 5 I rode r/t from Ellensboro to just a few miles west of Cairo. The trail was a beautiful fantastic ride. If I had stopped I would have said as good or better than any trail I have rode in OH & PA. The tunnels & landscapes were spectacular. The trail was well-maintained crushed limestone 90%. I was so pleased with my ride I rode into North Bend State Park up to the cabin area and talked to some people staying in the cabins. The cabins look fantastic as does it’s other facilities and I was ready to plan a trip to bring some people back down to ride this trail and stay in the state park. July 6, I rode r/t from Ellenboro with plans to ride east of toll gate. The trail was too much grass, some mud and a few very small areas of aggregate too large for a bike trail. I stopped at the Pennsboro depot which was very nice. I spoke to the volunteer manning the depot. He informed me the North Bend state park director is in charge of the trail and only has two part-time employees to maintain the trail. It’s really a shame W V state park system doesn’t have the resources to properly construct or maintain this trail. NB Trail would be one of my favorite trails if it had the proper construction maintenance. I could really see Cairo becoming a fantastic stop if it just had the bicyclists to frequent the attractions, stores, and restaurants. Based on the other reviews I’ve read it looks like I’m planning my next multi day bike trip at the Greenbrier Trail, PA GAP trail or TBD.
For a non-paved rail trail, it’s just what you would expect! If you are looking for an easy paved route, you should go elsewhere. We went at the beginning of June with 4 boys, 9-12 years old and did fine. We traveled from west to east, carrying our camping gear. Did 42 miles the first day and 28 the second. Rode through some mud, grass and water but most of the ride was hard packed. Tunnels were awesome and the scenery was beautiful. Camped at the state park, which was well taken care of. Only complaint is the price of a shuttle back to Wolf Summit ($250 since we had 7 bikes). Instead I paid my daughter to come get us, rather give her the money!
I rode the trail from Happy Valley to Pennsboro (about 39 miles) and then back to North Bend State Park to camp (10 miles). Then I rode back to Happy Valley. (About 30 miles)
Pros: Awesome scenery along the route. Tunnels galore. Quiet and peaceful. The people I met in the towns seemed very welcoming. There is also the ability to camp along the trail so it can be inexpensive if you can forego a shower.
Cons: The trail is very rough in spots and sometimes it was hard to discern where the "track" was. There were muddy and wet spots but with all the rain I can't say that that was the trail's fault. The main thing I'd say is that some sections are really smooth much like the GAP and others are worse than the C & O.
Know what to expect and plan accordingly. Wide tires are very helpful (I rode on 2.2 29ers). A suspension seatpost and/or stem would probably be enough to take the edge off. I don't think a suspension mountain bike is necessary but it might be the best for comfort. The trail itself isn't hard. There were no scary descents or tough climbs. I really enjoyed the challenge and I hope to see this trail develop more and more over the years.
My family and I rode the whole length of the trail June 7-8, 2019. We started in Parkersburg from the trail head at Happy Valley rd. About 10 miles in it was grassy and muddy. Some parts of the trail was nice with hard packed gravel but the honestly the majority of the trail was nothing but grass and mud. We were all very disappointed in this trail because it has potential and it was fun to ride through the tunnels and take a tour of the railroad station at Pennsboro. The Long Run tunnel was terrible with 3” of water at each end and very large gravel in the tunnel. Such a disappointment.
We rode this trail in May 2019 from Happy Valley to Pennsboro. This trail is designated a WV State Park and it is in dismal shape which is too bad because it really has great potential. We rode after a rainy few days so I would expect puddles and mud but this was beyond puddles. Much of the trail is a made up of two single tracks thru grass or gravel so soft that your tires sink. Other sections someone has put down #2 gravel that only a Mtn bike could traverse. For the most part the scenery was nice and we saw several deer. We rode this over the course of a few days hoping each section would be in better shape than the previous...nope. I would NOT recommend this trail.
I notice that the bad reviews for this trail typically speak of the eastern portion. I have ridden most of the trail, riding various sections at different times. Most recently, my daughter and I rode from the easternmost end to Ellenboro (about 38 miles). We had intended to ride the entire length, but much of this portion has not yet been fully developed. Some sections had been improved since the last time I rode them. However, for now, the only portions of this trail I would recommend are those west of Ellenboro, although the tunnel near West Union is worth seeing and that section has been improved recently. Considering only the western half of this trail, I would rate it behind Greenbrier River, Virginia Creeper, and New River Trail in that order. When fully developed it has the potential to challenge all of them for the top spot in my book.
The River Bend State Park section (which was all I had time for) was very interesting historically as well as great scenery. The trail was easily navigable with awe-inspiring tunnels that cut through the terrain. With more time I would have liked to have biked west to Parkersburg.
Trail not maintained well at all. Disappointment to bikers from Ohio. Won't return or recommend to fellow bikers.
I am rating this based on my experience only. Riding mountain bikes..started at the end of the trail, around mile 70 went about 8 miles in and turned around.
The trail started out very muddy and then after that we were riding mostly on grass, although the ground was hard as if it was previously paved so it wasnt an impossible pedal. Not very scenic in the parts I saw, riding mostly alongside a highway and near homes.
I would not recommend this trail
This is our local rail trail, so we use it because it is convenient for biking with the family. We have covered from North Bend State Park to the Eastern Terminus near Wolf Summit on hybrid bikes and a trailer for our two small children.
The Good: The section between Ellenboro and North Bend State Park is beautiful! Surface is good, very scenic, a joyous experience! From Central Station to Smithburg has been re-surfaced this year, and is also very nice. Central Station Tunnel is now well surfaced and passable. Tunnels in general are really cool! The kids get a kick out of them. I like the fact that there is little concern with road traffic, especially with the children in tow.
The Bad: While the section b/w Ellenboro and North Bend State Park is great, it is also frequented by horses. With horses comes manure...that is sometimes impossible to dodge. Trail surface around Central Station is in progress (uneven, industrial gravel, etc). Trail surface east of Smithburg is fair until you get past the Long Run Tunnell, and then things get iffy quickly. The surface between Long Run Rd and West Salem is non-existent in places, there is a large slip between miles 61-63. The trail through that section has a slight uphill grade, which we definitely felt while pulling a trailer and a tag-along bike through tall grass and mud. The trail surface is also horrible in places, muddy, lots of rocks and debris, etc from East Salem to the Eastern terminus in Wolf Summit. Plan accordingly.
We will keep riding this trail because it is local. It's a great opportunity to get our nephews out and to explore, have adventures, etc. There is an opportunity for some school projects down the road based on our adventures. However, we also look forward to getting somewhere with some asphalt or finer crushed rock as pulling our kids in the trailer is difficult on the current surfaces of certain areas.
This trail could really be a nice riding experience. Its maintenance is very spotty. It does have a number of tunnels which is unique. The trail in a number of areas is not maintained. I believe that the multi-use feature deteriorates the trail. ATV and horseback riding results in some of the damage.
Today 10/11/16 traveled thirteen miles on Rt 50 from Ellenboro, WV toward Clarksburg, WV to Central Station Exit. Then went about two miles to Tunnel road on right. Went about half mile to trail entrance on right. From trail entrance to tunnel #6 was about three to four hundred yards. Trail was muddy in places due to recent rail. Inside tunnel was smooth. Lights are needed to go through the tunnel. The tunnel is straight and you can see light at the end. Tunnel road is now being used by fracking companies and there are flaggers to go through. It probably would be better to wait till they are done but I had driven for 45 min to get there and they were very helpful in letting me pass. Nice tunnel to see.
I'm spoiled maybe. My home trails are the New River & Virginia Creeper. The North Bend seemed totally gosh forsaken to me. We arrived at the east side early on a Sunday evening, hoping to take advantage of one of the many listed primitive camp sites for the night in order to get an early morning start. We found nothing and went back to Bridgeport for a motel room.
The next day we rode from Pennsboro to Ellenboro and back. Pennsboro is a cute old town with a restaurant and shops to look at. That was pretty much the end of neat things to see and look at. The trail is overgrown. If you want to have a seat on one of the poorly located and sparsely placed benches along the trail, expect to be joined by a foot+ of grass and blistering sun.
The trail itself is very rugged. It could be a nice trail, just doesn't seem that anyone cares to make it so. Two single track lines for coming and going, sometimes just one good one. The tunnel on the way west from Pennsboro seems to have a spring on the west side exit, making a significant pool across that opening and running all the way down one side of the tunnel. At least the water in the pool on the way out was clear and didn't muddy us up when we exited and entered. There are a culvert and a wash out area just west of the tunnel. Those were pretty dicey. I hit a pile of rocks in the wash out area on the return trip and fell. My partner didn't make it across the rutty culvert and careened into the brush.
The gates at crossings made me wonder if the state of WV really wants people to use the trail? They block the entire entrance. If there were large openings to the side, boulders were put down to limit the egress to ~1.5' or 2'. It was very unnerving to me as an above knee amputee struggling to regain my balance on a bicycle. As a former touring cyclist, I had difficulty imagining how a bicycler with a full set of panniers would make it thru without dismounting.
I was excited to reach Ellenboro to see the glass and marble facories mentioned in the description. Ellenboro is all about the drilling boom rather than itemms of interest to trail riders. In fairness, I did see a sign that mentioned marble a few blocks away from the trail. A building just above the trail said "glass outlet", but it looked empty and abandoned. We rode a bit further to make sure this was truly the Ellenboro described, which brought us to the Rt 50 overpass. Aaargh!!! You bottom out in some sandy mess, killing all momentum to get over the rocky climb. Same way both sides. Whoever dreamed that up clearly hates and wishes to sabotage bicycling tourists.
On a positive note, anyone who did wish to ride the full trail r/t would have no trouble setting a simple camp site for the night on the eastern end. Nobody to notice, nobody to care.
Just road this trail from Happy Valley (Parkersburg) to Salem and back as part of a four-day group event. There were definite pros and cons. The tunnels are amazing, including a “raw” tunnel blasted straight out of the rock with no finishing of the walls. We traveled through 10 tunnels each way, some very long and requiring headlamps. The towns of Cairo and Pennsboro were interesting and very welcoming. There’s lots of history to explore in both. There were several small road crossings, but the trail is quiet and away from traffic. And North Bend State Park is a great facility. No reports of problems with dogs, but lots of free-range chickens. The trail is basically flat, with a slight grade going east to west (Salem to Parkersburg).
On the negative side, the condition of the trail is bad. From Parkersburg to North Bend Park (mile 29) the trail is ok: packed gravel with, usually, at least one tire track to ride in. It does get a little bumpy, grassy in some parts and muddy. However, east of North Bend Park to Salem, the trail gets much worse. Often overgrown, packed grass to ride in and sink into, with long muddy patches many of us couldn’t ride through. Repaired sections and road crossings had large (industrial size) gravel and had to be walked. In one tunnel with water problems repairs were made with such large stones it was almost unwalkable.
Be aware there are no water stops, toilet stops, or signage about interesting parts of the trail. I doubt I will do this trail again, unless I hear of significant improvements to its condition.
I parked at Happy Valley Saturday, June 18th and rode to Ellenboro, then back to North Bend State Park where I stayed overnight. Then back to Happy Valley the next morning. I really liked the trail. I have ridden on the Little Miami in OH (paved), the Elroy-Sparta and 400 Trails in WI (crushed limestone), and the entire Katy in Missouri (crush limestone). Compared to these trails, the NB is more primitive, remote, and in somewhat rougher condition, though with wide tires, it's fine. The area on the west end of the supposedly haunted tunnel--Silver Run--was being repaired and after lots of rain, was very rough for about 1/2 a mile, though I was able to stay on my bike and get through it. I would recommend walking your bike in this area unless you have really great wide tires as there are splintered pieces of very sharp shale in the construction zone--came across someone who blew a tube and was walking back some distance to Cairo.
I liked the quiet, lack of adjoining streets and highways when you get beyond the outskirts of Parkersburg, and tunnels are relatively short and a real treat as well. I would recommend the campground at NBSP or the lodge where I stayed--room 208--huge and really nice. The stretch between NBSP and Ellenboro was perhaps the prettiest I saw--the cut through the stone in the that area resembles a beautiful little gorge in places.
Last but not least, a group of 130 riders from the RtoC Conservancy embarked on a multi-day ride from Parkersburg on June 19th, and I came across them between Petroleum and Walker. The first few people I passed were fine, but the trail in that area is pretty much limited to two parallel bands of crushed limestone. A few dozen riders were in the same band (wrong side of the trail) and came right up to me without looking up until the last second and seemed to expect me to veer off to the side to avoid a collision. Would highly recommend schooling groups to be more aware of people come toward them and stay on the right side of the trail. Otherwise, it was good to see them out there having a good time and getting to know the trail.
I recommend it highly and hope to do the eastern half in the fall.
I rode the eastern end of this trail last week, from Wolf Summit to middle-of-nowhere-somewhere west of Salem. It was a little rough in a few places and somewhat grassy, but it was a good ride. A dog nipped me in Salam, but did no damage--as it attacked my bike shoe. The one tunnel I went through contained a fair amount of water.
I've been riding this trail since 1999 in various sections, and I've never had a problem with mean people or dogs as some folks have experienced.
I'm about to head out on it again after staying away for a couple years due to distaste for the fracking activity near Smithburg.
You need a fat tire bike!
I live on the paved Hockhocking Adena Bikeway in Athens, Ohio, which is lovely but rather highly used. Which is why I appreciate the unpaved North Bend Trail, it has a lot more solitude.
If you like solitude, stay west of Ellenboro, and be prepared with water,food and bike maintenance kit, as well as a decent light to traverse tunnels.
If being deep in the woods scares you, head east from Ellenboro, as this part of the trail never strays far from US 50 (and its associated road noise). With a decent sense of direction, it is never too far to the highway if you need help and can't get a phone signal.
just finished my first ride this season. 10 miles round trip from Ellenboro to North Bend. trail is in good condition. I appreciate the multiple rest stops with picnic tables. can't wait to explore more!
Road this trail today. The trail was dry and in some places soft but not too soft. The ride from Cairo Bike Store to the tunnel was three miles. The tunnel is 1376 feet long and you will need a light it was mostly dry except at the entrance and exit had some water. Did not see any ghosts even though some say this tunnel is haunted. The ride back to Cairo was better since it is a down grade ride. Total time on trail with stopping, looking and eating about an hour and a half.
I rode from the terminus at Happy Valley to the eastern end of the first tunnel you have to go through. There were some rare mud holes, but overall it was a good ride on crushed gravel with good scenery and excellent weather. Just a good trail.
Went down to Ellenboro to North Bend S.P. section for an early season ride on the horses. Had the trail pretty well to ourselves except for a couple of hikers and one runner. Ran in to pipeline construction early in the ride with deep footing and netting along the trail. Rest of the trail was in good shape. Was looking at bridge decking by state park entrance...showing its age, as were the posts separating the Cornwallis road from the trail. We enjoy coming here and usually ride the park trails as well, making a day of it. Have biked and horsebacked several other sections of it.
I had been wanting to do this trail for a long time and stayed at the North Bend State Park lodge. First day I went west all the way to Happy Valley and back for a total of 54 miles. The trail starts out great until you get to Cairo and then gets rougher with varying surfaces. The scenery is nice but not spectacular, and there are long stretches that can be a little boring and feel like a long slog if you are doing a round trip. Second day I went east and again trail conditions were good and the scenery was pleasant until you get to Ellenboro, where you have to go up and over a bridge with steep grades and loose gravel and rocks. Why don't they pave this bridge? This is an industrial area and not very interesting. Right now there's a break in the trail after Ellenboro and best thing to do is get on Rt. 50 for about a mile until you can get back on the trail. Thankfully, I was warned by some people also staying at the lodge. Pennsboro is a nice town where you can get food and water. I went as far as the Central Station tunnel and walked through it and back for the return trip to the lodge. As others have noted, there are long stretches of grass and some mud along the way as well as thick and large or deep gravel in parts.
I was exhausted both days after a lot of hard riding. If you can do this trail in two days going in the same direction, you will enjoy it more. I found it a grueling experience to ride back to my starting point both days.
I'm still glad I did it and may go back to do the Wolf Summit to West Union section, but I'll have no illusions about trail conditions. Definitely not for the casual rider. It's a bit of a stressful experience if you're not a mountain biker because of the constant vigilance needed to navigate the changing surface.
I was disappointed the trail is not better maintained given its billing as a premier eastern US rail trail.
Rode from Parkersburg to Ellenboro and back .66 miles in all . Wonderful trail with plenty of wildlife along the way . The tunnels are spectacular with 5 in all on the part of the trail I rode .And many bridges were crossed .The remoteness of this trail is appealing . This is not for road bikes . I have a Trek hybrid and it works fine for this trail. The trail that I rode was maintained pretty well , they were out mowing and taking care of it as I rode thru . I do recommend riding this great trail , just be aware there are not many amenities on the way thru . Cairo WV is a nice quaint little town worth stopping for photos and chatting with the locals .I will ride it again .
I am blessed to live in West Virginia and near the NBRT. This summer I decided to take advantage of the trails in the area and began riding the trail mostly between Salem and Greenwood. Everything was great until one morning I started from West Union to Smithburg. In someone's infinite wisdom, the trail was graveled so thick that our bikes sunk. We walked the bikes for a mile hoping it would end and finally turned around and walked back to West Union. I really appreciate the gravel and filling in the mud holes, but the gravel is too thick for an enjoyable ride.
It could be the best of trails, it was the worst of trails. The tunnels are awesome and numerous. The trail is deteriorating and getting worse. Enjoyed the trail up until Toll Gate (about mile 41). The initial miles out of Happy Valley need some attention or will soon be hard to ride a bicycle on. The crushed gravel surface is becoming overgrown with grass. The town of Cairo was really welcoming to riders. A trail side restaurant, general store, and town square are evident this town understands the potential the trail could bring. The trail from Cairo to Toll Gate was in pretty good shape. Toll Gate is where the trail gets bad, really bad. Overgrown grass and mud pits become the norm. It's very difficult from this point to the end in Wolf Summit. Just passed West Union the trail has inches deep gravel that cannot be ridden on. Then completely grass covered surface becomes the norm. There was also construction that blocked a section of the trail and no detour signs, nor prior warnings were given. Another negative is the narrow gate opening at each road crossing. This trail might be good for hiking, and maybe horseback riding, but only the few miles around the state park are good for cycling. It appears West Virginia has abandoned this potential jewel.
All the local people we met along the trail were very friendly. Many were concerned about the deterioration of the trail.
Three of us (males in our early 50s) rode hybrid bicycles. The next day we rode the entire 78 miles of the Greenbrier River trail from Cass to Caldwell. I recommend skipping the North Bend trail in favor of the Greenbrier River Trail or the GAP trail.
My wife & I made a quick trip to West Virginia for a funeral, & we stayed with my brother-in- law who lives near Pennsboro. He mentioned the trail, and I did get a chance to walk about two miles of it from Pennsboro, so my review will be limited. The trail itself was okay, crushed stone & mountain bike useable. No road bikes, please! The tunnels are very cool & I saw hardly anyone. The Cross Roads restaurant in Pennsboro is a great place to stop. Please read all the other reviews, & prepare to take care of yourself with lots of liquid, food, etc. Going on this trail would be a real adventure as the scenery is beautiful.
Rode from Salem to West Union. Parking in Salem is almost non-existent with signs everywhere. Found a spot and started from the west end of town. Immediately after leaving town headed west the trail condition deteriorated until the trail was almost non-passable with very high grass, over growth, wet spots and trees across the path. After reaching long run road the trail improved but still had areas that were very wet and would suck in your tires.
Do not attempt to ride through the tunnel. It has very large rip rap that will flat you tire and a considerable amount of water. During the day it is passable without a light but is better with one.
I still need to ride from Salem to Shinniston to complete a very long trip but will ride old 50 instead of this trail. Avoid all Harrison county bike trails they are not properly maintained.
The one thing I like about this trail apart from other rail-trails is the scenery and tunnels. I have also witnessed the state fixing the trail in some of the washed out areas near Ellenboro. I prefer solitude and uncrowded trails; this one has that.
Horses: On the weekends in the summertime and early fall, you will encounter people in groups on horses. The people who own them are fairly rude and disrespectful to bikers. They also ruin the trail surface making it very bumpy. They only ride horses from Ellenboro to the direction of Cairo, but stop before the tunnels I would assume.
Surface: In the fall the trail is particularly bad. This time of year sees the most rain in West Virginia, and the Sycamore trees losing their leaves adds to harder pedaling. The trail is literally always muddy in some spots due to the tunnels. I don't really mind the trail condition so much
Residents: Being a resident of West Virginia and from a small town, I am already aware of the type of people I will encounter on the trail. However, It never fails that I find some strange people on the trail. or some old guys drinking beer near the tunnel. I haven't had any bad encounters with them though (yet).
Dogs: This is one of the biggest problems on this trail by far. I have learned where most of these dogs by now and can get ready to speed through the areas. When I ride this trail, I usually only ride about 20 miles or 27 miles out in one direction starting in Cairo. I can usually expect up to 5 dogs to chase me in this distance. The first 12 or so miles of the trail is dog free. I need to invest in pepper spray. Oh, I had a goat chase me for 5 miles once on this trail, that was interesting.
Utilities: This isn't a big deal to me, but I know it is to a lot of people. I generally come fully prepared with more than I need just to be safe because I know I won't have cell service or see another person on this trail. Preparation is important because you won't find a water source a long the trail.
Opinions and Recomendations:
If the dogs were not a problem, this trail would be more fun to ride. It is challenging but the scenery is decent. It's not as pretty as the trails in the Eastern part of the state, but it isn't bad.
-Be prepared to outrun dogs
-Take lots of water
-Don't expect to have cell service
-Take a light
-Don't stop in a sketchy area
-Ellenboro has a Dairy Queen and GoMart right off the trail; easy to access
-A good restaurant called Cross Roads located near the Pennsboro train station
-If tracking progess with GPS, you may have to manually resume after going through a tunnel
Started in Ellensboro riding west, despite a couple of short rough patches, good trail the whole way to Happy Valley, plenty of places to have a picnic or pitch a tent in the mountains, though less so once you get closer to Parkersburg. Did an additional leg from Ellensboro to Pennsboro where the trail was definitely a bit rougher (but still quite workable).
Don't expect any amenities from Cairo to Happy Valley, I did not find any stores/restaurants/gas stations for provisions.
Cairo is a nice little town with a couple of stores, a restaurant and a bed and breakfast potentially coming soon - I highly recommend a stopover to relax and talk.
All in all, nice trail, great tunnels/scenery/picnic tables, abundant wildlife, and a great small town. Highly recommend - though make sure that you are completely self sufficient!
We stayed at North Bend State park in Aug 2013. Great park, nice access We rode West 18 miles on Friday (36 round trip). Didn't meet up with anyone until we got back to Cairo. Ate at Freed's restaurant. Nice food, nice people. Trail was a little rough in spots but overall not too bad. Most of the time you were in the woods and 2 long tunnels. Lots of Butterflies, stream crossings, deer and turkeys. Luckily we brought a water filter as there was no place to refill our water bottles.
Headed east on Saturday. Started out even better, 3 tunnels within a couple of miles, woods and streams. The end of the nice trails started shortly before Ellensboro. Where they had been trying to maintain the trails they just dumped a couple of inches of loose gravel. Our tires would sink into it. Obviously whoever is maintaining this trail does not ride a bike. We alternated between grass and mud and loose gravel, but not terrible until Toll Gate. There were 2 nice tunnels by Pennsboro. We stayed on the trail until Greenwood then the struggle became too much and we dropped off onto the road. That sections was a mowed bog. Our tires were sinking into hidden mud. We had a nice lunch at a small diner in Greenwood then took the road back to Toll Gate. We met up with other bikes that came from East union. They had wished they had taken the road. I ride mountain bikes and I would have welcomed a mountain bike trail over what they were passing off as a trail in this section. I was a shame that this isn't better maintained. We never got to the longest tunnel because of the condition of the trail.
Rode trail over two days with my Dad. Went west to east. Over all we had a good time. Took one star off due to some portions not being mowed. There also was a significant portion where the trail was grass and not really a trail at all. The other thing folks should be aware of is that there are very few places to get help for your bike. Got a flat the first day from some glass and couldn't find another place to pick up a spare tube. Food was hard to come by as well. Recommend bringing plenty of supplies.
My friends and I made a 2 day ride on this trail last year. The trail web page looked much better than the trail. It has a lot of potential if someone would just take care of it. The tunnels are the highlight of the trail. They are great. If you ride it be sure and bring a light. The longest tunnel is 2297 feet long. Most of the scenery is great also. If the the trail was taken better care of it could be one of the best in the state.
As a West Virginia native, I was thrilled to be able to finally ride this trail with my father on a recent visit back to my home state. There is a lot to see on this trail, and I really enjoyed the scenery the whole way. For those who are wanting to visit the trail, I will say that the western end (mostly crushed gravel) of the trail is far better maintained than the eastern end (dirt, grass, mud), and in a few spots, the trail can get quite sloppy when it's wet (which is often in WV). However, there are no points that can not be done, either by bike or on foot. The tunnels are a great treat, but it is wise to have a headlamp or a light on your bike to help navigate them. For experienced mountain bikers (which my father and I are) there is nothing on this trail that I would consider "technical", but the main challenge is sitting in a bike saddle for an entire day.
I have only rode the trail twice since I live in Michigan but it is a great trail. The scenery is beautiful and trail sections I've been on were in great shape. My last trip was from Walker to Cairo and back which was a wonderful Sunday morning ride. The other trip was a few years ago on a rainy day from Cairo to Pennsboro and using a borrowed bike. It was still a wonderful ride and would recommend this trail to anyone. There are numerous spots to access the trail but most are only known to locals.
We rode this trail 12 years ago on our cross bikes. It is truely beautiful country but the condition of the trail was apalling. We witnessed neighbors of the trail unleashing their dogs on us. One of our group was knocked off his bike by a big dog while the dog owner stood there watching, smirking really and did nothing to stop it. Another neighbor had 4 big ferocious dogs on leashes that enabled the dogs to come onto the trail by 2 inches. The dogs were foaming at the mouth, barking and jumping in the air. Not only is this trail very dangerous, it is unsuitable in many areas for any kind of bike. It is like trying to ride your bike over small boulders. There are so many more great trails to ride that I can't imagine why anyone would want to bother with this one. After reading many other people's encounters with dogs and nasty neighbors in recent years, It discourages me to know that nothing has been done to correct this dangerous situation on the North Bend.
I've been riding the rail trail for three years.I ride mostly from Ellenboro to the Silver Run Tunnel west of Cairo.This 11 mile section is very well maintained.I rode from Pennsboro to Greenwood and was disappointed with the condition of this section.The trail was mostly grass which made for difficult riding.I have also seen four Otters and a black-footed ferret on the trail.To protect these animals I am keeping their location a secret.
I just recently learned about the rail trails. My 11 yr old son and myself started our trip at Wolf Summit near Clarksburg. We parked in the church parking lot , the begining of the trail is really tore up. The company who ran the water and sewer lines should be ashamed of themselves! It's only bad at the very begining about a couple hundred yards. We only rode 4 miles each way, so it was a 8 mile trip in 94 degree heat and the humidity was high. The trail is clearly marked and changes from, dirt, crushed rock, grass and pavement. There is plenty of shade along the trail. The ride was easy no steap hills and we met several nice people along the way. One couple that lives close to tunnel #2 was happy to talk to us about the where the tunnel was and told stories about the track they still walk on it a little everyday(they were mid 80's). You will need a light for the tunnel my batteries were going dead in mine but just enough light to make it thru both times. At the end of the tunnel there's a nice shaded area with a picnic table. We stoped there and had lunch and rested. We crossed a couple bridges and the lanscape in place were beautiful. we started on mile marker 71 and stoped on marker 67 but like I said we had to ride back and didn't want to over due it. We both bought new bikes for this we are in no way seasoned cyclist. We are going tomorrow and starting at marker 67 for another ride we hope to ride the whole thing this summer. I will say be careful the first 50 ft or so it's muddy from the new pipeline work. I slipped in the mud and fell scratching my knee and brusing it pretty bad that's the only reason we didn't continue the ride the next day I had to wait a few days for it to stop hurting. So far its a great ride and can't wait to go the next few miles!
July 2 & 3, I rode from Parkersburg to West Union, a 50 mile ride. I stayed over night at the shelter at West Union.
After an evening of heavy rains, I awoke to a front flat tire. Having pushed my bike for about an hour, I spotted
a house with an air compressor. This was the 3 act of kindness from the West Virginia people.
Dispite the wet tall grass, muddy trails, flat tire, rough big rocks, long lonely stretches, and bug bites, it was the best ride. It's not a walk in the park, but for the person that likes an adventure!!
We biking a total of 57 miles on the North Bend trail during the first week of June, 2011. What a disappointment! This trail was perhaps never truely developed for bicycles, or perhaps was allowed to decline to its present sorry state. We based ourselves at the North Bend State Park campground, which was a very nice experience - site 10 is the best site but cannot be reserved in advance. We covered the trail between Eaton and West Union, avoiding the connectors near both Parkersburg and Clarksburg. The only decent experience was between about Petroleum and Ellenboro, a distance of about 15 miles with some nice bridges and tunnels. The only shelter we found was at Petroleum, with a toilet, plus a small pavilion in Cairo (pronounced KAY-ro). We could find no water anywhere on the trail, including at Cairo where it would have been a simple matter to have erected a tap in town for trail users. We saw NO other users of the trail except one hiker, and two families who had apparently driven or walked near to the trail and were illegally digging up old rails for scrap. The biggest problem with this trail is the inconsistency of the surface and the frequent discovery that there is NO surface except mowed vegetation. It is VERY difficult to pedal grades through tall weeds. I don't understand why some kind of gravel surface for bikes doesn't exist the entire length of the trail. It would only have to be about 2 ft wide for all but trikes. A simple herbicide application would soon create a barren strip kept free of weeds by users. Nearing Central Station, the trail was completely overgrown and we were forced to jump to local roads to get to our vehicle parked at West Union. These narrow paved roads were a relief in some respects, but traffic and the speed of going downhill was dangerous. If you are a hiker, then this is a good trail for you if you can find or carry enough liquids to sustain your travels. You will likely have to leave the trail in the few places that have any stores or fast food places for drinks or restrooms. If we missed the best parts of the trail with the 25 miles or so that we didn't do, apologies. But if you are driving in as we did (8 hours) in search of another rail trail for biking to add to your list, you should keep looking.
I rode this trail from Parkersburg to Cairo and Ellenboro to West Union. I was very disappointed in this trail, and I feel that the conditions along it pose a serious danger to cyclists. The pathway was rutted, overgrown with weeds, and had poorly designed vehicle barriers.
The worst thing about the trail is the fact that many nearby residents do not leash or restrain their dogs. On 10 separate occasions, I was approached by dogs displaying varying degrees of aggression. I don't know the leash laws in the area, but this seemed to be an accident waiting to happen.
Dirt pathway with some gravel. There were long patches of deep mud, and the trail had not been mowed. Some sections had tall weeds that were difficult to ride through. The large gravel used to fill in some old mud puddles was very slippery.
Section from Parkersburg to Walker was mostly residential and not that scenic. Section from Walker to Cairo was mostly wooded but did have some neat tunnels. Section from Ellenboro to West Union was mostly residential and not that scenic except for the neat tunnels.
Trailhead in Parkersburg is totally unmarked and difficult to find. Trailheads in Ellenboro and West Union were easy to find and well marked. There was only one outhouse (in the tiny town of Petroleum) along the Parkersburg-Cairo section and only one along the Ellenboro-West Union section.
Do not even attempt this trail on a road bike; it was difficult in spots even on a mountain bike. The tunnels are unlit so if you want to go through the longer ones, a flashlight is essential. I would highly recommend wearing long pants and bringing a can of pepper spray in case of an aggressive dog. Count on getting muddy.
The tunnels (especially the Central Station Tunnel) were really neat to see. If you want to see them, park at the closest trailhead and go straight there. Otherwise, I would avoid this trail.
My wife and I enjoyed a great two days on the North Bend this past weekend (Happy Valley to Cairo on the first day; Pennsboro to North Bend Park on the second). As noted in other reviews, this trail is a little rougher than some, but that description shouldn’t scare anyone off. We ride a road tandem with 700 x 32 (1.25” wide) tires @ 80 psi and found the ride comfortable. There are a few spots with some large-sized gravel that shouldn’t be used on a bike trail, but it accounted for only a small percentage of the ride. Someone noted the need for a flashlight in the longer tunnels; a light jacket/sweatshirt is good too as the temperature in the tunnel is significantly cooler than outside.
We parked one day at the Happy Valley (western terminus). Not really much of a “parking” area, but just a wide dirt/gravel path. There was a porta-john at this location. There is a more established parking area, covered picnic area and permanent restroom facility at Petroleum; not much else. We turned around in Cairo, where the path runs right through this small town. There was a small store for drinks, sandwiches, etc. that was open and plenty of parking. (Note the ice cream shop had a sign indicating it was closing the next weekend).
Our second day started in Pennsboro, which is right on the trail. This is a nice small town with a restaurant adjacent to ample parking. We turned around at North Bend State Park which has parking, water, etc. You have to get off the main trail and ride about a mile to get to the main park area.
We rode the entire length of this trail. It is hard to believe that it is a National Trail because it is so unkempt. Lots of long grass and rough spots. The trail is very remote and the many tunnels are quite long. The only part of the trail that I feel is suitable for families is a few miles around North Bend State Park.
My wife and I (60 and 63yrs.old) just completed the trail out and back in four 35+ mile days. Riding our mountain bike tandem, we began each day at a different access point. Parkersburg (Happy Valley) , Pennsboro, Smithburg, and Wolf Summit. Route 50 which parallels the rail is a four lane, 65 mph
route to each access point. The trail itself was fun and challenging at the same time. Some areas between Pennsboro and Happy Valley have large all gravel paths, but most of the trail consists of two gravel paths about a foot wide with a grassy middle. Still other sections of the trail have little or no gravel and are all grass, which makes for very hard pedaling. Take a flashlight for safety in the tunnels. We walked all tunnels because of wet slippery conditions in some areas of many of the tunnels. This trail needs more gravel and some work on the tunnels to give it a broader appeal to more riders. If you come expecting a smooth groomed trail you will be disappointed, but if you are the least bit adventurous and willing to accept changing riding surfaces then give this trail a try. We did. You might even get to play in some mud and feel like a kid again! P.S. The family restaurant in Pennsboro, adjacent to the train depot, has breakfast available all day in addition to a regular menu. Roger and Marilyn
We just rode this trail. We stayed at North Bend State Park.
The trail is a beautiful place with lots of wildlife present. We stayed about the middle of the trail and rode west one day and east the next. All told we rode from Happy Valley to West Union.
My reservation on this trail is that there is no place to get water or help if you are riding alone. The repairs on the western section were done in places with fairly large (for bike tires) rip-rap rock. These rocks are completely unacceptable for bike trails but they could be avoided by riding into softer grass areas generally. We experienced 1 flat that I attribute to the surface. Don't expect to buy food along the western section of the trail there is no place from Cairo to Happy Valley. There also is no water going from west union to happy valley. And finally there was only 2 unpleasant pit toilets in fifty miles.
The section from Pennsboro to West Union was unfinished and VERY difficult to ride. When we rode the trail it was damp and the the tires would get sucked into the mud. I ride 700x35 and it was enough for the conditions but was really tough. When damp, plan on going half the distance with the same effort in this section. It is a good thing we had our car in West Union because we were exhausted in riding 21 miles from the state park. The longest tunnel near West Union was under construction when we were there. The west end had new rough rip rap and the east end was a giant mud puddle but passable while walking through the mud.
What a great place to hike....We have been on several hikes on this trail and come down from northern OH. I actually proposed to my fiancee at MM 53.
We like the old tunnels and the old towns you pass through...for someone who lives in the city, its a great get away! Hikers should know as of 6/13/09 Tunnel #6(longest on the trail) Near West Union was COMPLETELY underwater. When we approched we could clearly see that the ??West?? end of the tunnel was underwater, so unless you have waiters...(or a GOOD mountain bike) dont plan on passing thru this tunnel. A good alternative is the eaton tunnel,(tunnel #21) besides spraypaint this is one of the best tunnels, smooth and dry! Silver run tunnel is a little damp in places, but how it bends, it makes it a rush to go through as you cant see the other side! Overall we love the seclusion, and nature on this trail.....we currently hike all areas of it, but have yet to do some sections a little further to the east....(near clarksburg)
"I moved to Harrisville, WV, because of the North Bend Trail! As a cyclist and horseback rider, this Trail really fits the bill for a pleasurable ride. Although the trail is not as groomed as many urban riders would prefer, the rural setting more than makes up for the effort! Be sure to bring plenty of water, though... facilities are sparse.
My favorite ride is from Ellenboro or Cairo to Petrolem, or even on to Parkersburg.
As you head west from Cairo, you start feeling that you have traveled back in time. The homesteads are spaced pretty far apart, and at times you will wonder if there is ANY civilization at all!
There are access points to the trail all along US 50, but they aren't always easy to find.
North Bend State Park offers lodging for a reasonable rate, and it's got horse-friendly campsites. There's a new horse-friendly B&B opening in Ellenboro this summer ('06). There are also other B&B's tucked in along the trail.
The Park is also kid-friendly (pool, fishin' pond, general store, put-put).
The trail between Ellenboro and Cairo is most-heavily traveled.
There's a half-mile spur from the Trail into the heart of the Park. Cyclists and trail-riders can hitch their ponies to appropriate locations outside the Lodge and enjoy a good meal, reasonably priced, in the Lodge restaurant.
Additionally, a new flood conrol project created a 305-acre lake. Any motorized boats but be unde 10 hp, and the surface is perfect for canoes and kayaks. There's about 11 miles of shoreline. An old narrow gauge rail-bed follows along one side of the lake. It is being developed by local volunteers as an equestrian trail, but for now is available to all users. (I don't know if bikes will be restricted in the future. I doubt it.)
Ritchie County is one of WV's best-kept secrets! Come here for a visit and you won't want to leave!"
"We rode the section of the trail from Cairo to Pennsboro(15 miles) on a beautiful Fall morning. That section of trail has lots of tunnels and bridges, and both towns are interesting to wander through. It is easy to find the trail in Cairo, since it passes directly through the downtown. The old Bank of Cairo is now the county visitor center. The local bike shop is at the other end of the square, and both are adjacent to the trail.
Pennsboro seems to be the center of glassworks in the area. We bought some beautiful glass marbles at a shop near the station in Pennsboro, and saw piles of molten glass next to the trail at a factory in nearby Ellenboro."
"I loved the North Bend Rail Trail! I had wanted to bicycle it ever since I read about it Rails to Trails Magazine. I stayed at the Rose Hill Inn in Pennsboro, WV, and the owner graciously allowed me to use one of his bikes for the day, and I rode the section from Pennsboro to a little bit beyond Cairo, to the infamous tunnel that's supposedly haunted. Cairo was incredibly cute, and taking a walk around R.C. Marshall Hardware is worth the trip alone. We wanted to go to the ice cream parlor, but unfortunately it was closed for the day.
The trail itself is a great combination of beautiful wilderness views, including rivers and mountains, and a snapshot of West Virginia life in they heyday of the railroad era and today. You can get a map of the trail and the area from the Ritchie County Chamber of Commerce, along with information about other local tourist attractions. The section I rode was in great shape, and there even workmen repairing a section of it. It was definitely worth the trip, and I'd highly recommend it to others!
"The North Bend State Park Rail-Trail is one the best kept secrets in the state of West Virginia. Is it intentional, because there is a complete lack of signs marking the trail's location. Even the trailhead parking lot in Parkersbug was not marked. Was this the acts of vandals or just a lack of funding?
Just finding the trail is a small adventure in itself. But trust me, it's worth this small adventure. I did the whole trail in two days in early June during the raining season and had to maneuver around numerous puddles.
The best parts of the trail are the eleven tunnels along the seventy miles. They are nicely spaced throughout on the trail. I admit the tunnels can be challenging at times because of pools of water, the mud and the coarse gravel, but a little dirt never hurt anyone. Leave your racing bike at home. Because real men don’t use flashlights, I was able to navigate each tunnel without the aid of any man made lights. Some of these underground passages provide as much thrills as a ride at Disney but far cheaper. The longest tunnel is almost a half-mile long and is very dark, lights are not provided. The secret to navigate is to aim directly towards the light at the end tunnel. Although one cannot see the walls you get a sense of where they are. In addition you cannot see the ground below. It almost gives you almost the sensation of flying. Each tunnel has its own unique pitfalls.
The first 40 miles from Parkersburg to Pennsboro is as scenic as any rail-trail I have been on. The overall conditions for this segment are pretty good considering the heavy down pours the previous day. The grass was quandary in several places, but it was the growing season. There are several small towns along the trail. My favorite was Cairo. A visit to the bank turned museum is a must for the history buff. Plus the town offers a bike shop for repairs
Another interesting element and seems unique to the North Bend trail is some of train signals still mark the trail. It’s a nice nostalgic touch. The trail got less scenic after Pennsboro and was more challenging for the rider but it's not without its own gems. There are more tunnels and towns. Salem is an interesting community. It's a perfect place to replenish supplies or to take in the sites. It’s easy to take in the trail at a leisurely pace. The trail ends abruptly at Wolf Summit. Are there plans to extend it to Clarksburg, which is a rather large town?
I got the impression the trail is practically ignored by the local communities, but the North Bend State Park Rail-Trail just begs to ridden by those who are looking for more adventure than just a ride in the park and deserves your consideration."
"We rode this trail in the Spring 2003 and '04. For those from the south, June is still spring and the trail is rough, especially between Ellenboro and Pennsboro. We have not done the eastern end, which I hear is rough.
The area near North Bend State Park is in pretty good shape. My 8-year-old daughter had no trouble here, although you wouldn't want an 8-year-old to do some of the other sections. I used to ride the B&O National Limited through here as a child, but it went through at night and I never saw anything except the snow. This is remote country and we saw lots of deer. The people at the State Park are really nice. Ten miles on this trail will really wear you out, and I am in good shape."
"After reading the article in the ""Rails to Trails"" magazine produced by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, I was very curious to bike this trail and take some family along who don't bike much. It worked out great as we leap-frogged segments and made the entire 72 miles in five days.
There was only one bike rental place available and that was Country Trails in Cairo. The Loghouse Homestead was a great place to be for one night with its wilderness setting and amenities including a wonderful breakfast.
The Rosehill B/B was in the town of Pennsboro and was also very comfortable. The completely furnished cabin in North Bend Park was very nice too!
We saw lots of wild life on the trail including box turtles, ground hogs, deer and snakes. The tunnels were eerie but fun. Trees were turning color more and more as we rode. "
"My friend Ed and I rode three of West Virginia's trails on the same trip last summer (7/02). We started on the Greenbrier trail, then did the West Fork trail, after which we rode to Wolf Summit and did the entire length of the North Bend trail. I rode a Mtn. Bike with a shock stem and seatpost shock and 1.5 inch tires, while my friend rode a hybrid with 700 by 35 tires.
The North Bend trail was easier to negotiate than the Greenbrier trail due to the use of a finer grade of crushed limestone, which was hard packed for the most part. The trail had a good combination of remote feel, especially after moving away from Rt. 50. There were multiple interesting small towns where you could stop for food or drink or to camp. The low point was arriving at North Bend park on the 4th of July and being assigned tent camping space in the blistering sun next to Goose Poop Pond. We achieved space for a single tent free of fecal material by moving a picnic table. The park appears to cater to large RV's, while tent campers are assigned to Goose Poop ghetto. This is a shame, since the park is large with multiple areas which would be better suited for tent camping.
All tunnels on all trails were rough, with railroad ballast surface at best, mud and water over the ankles at worst and a low hanging fog which obscured your feet even if you had good lights. Forget trying to ride any of these, unless you have a death wish. We also had the misfortune to be following behind the gravel trucks and graders which had deposited 4-6 inches of new fine unpacked gravel on the final 20 miles of the trail. This made the riding slow and very difficult.
The end of the trail was not immediately obvious to us and we ended up riding a freshly bulldozed segment a few additional miles to a massive tangle of downed trees, where we cut up to a parking lot and got out to the main highway going into Parkersburg.
We plan on coming back this October to see the leaves change and to stop at some of the shops which were closed during our last trip. All told, a great facility! "
"We rode the trail from Petroleum to Pennsboro on July 12, 2003. The trail is gorgeous. We saw deer, turkey, squirrels, chipmunks and a weasel (we think, never having seen one in the wild).
The ride is 40 miles round trip and we had a wonderful time. The surface in the tunnel between Petroleum and Cairo is messy (wet and needs gravel). Otherwise the surface is great. Good stopping off points."
Absolutely beautiful trail. Went roundtrip from Petroleum to Ellensboro last weekend. Trail in excellent shape. Has a nice remote feel to it.
"Sections of the trail were a little rough. Tunnel #19 just west of Cairo is the one that is supposingly 'haunted'. It is very rough, pitch dark, 1376', slight curve, with huge, not evened out ballast & another area with soft gooey mud. Dismount & walk thru this tunnel. I think it is the locals who make it haunted. I found a large boulder (18"" x 24"") & a railroad tie or a huge plank of wood. By walking thru with a flash light you can really appreciate the brick arched architechural structure. You also avoid falling off your bike, breaking a hip & lying on the cold dark damp floor until help came. Medical Help is remote & it would be a long wait. You may encounter horses or other bikes coming thru ..so, whistle a little tune. Another hint - take extra water. There are No water spikets. You have to rely on businesses in Cairo, Pennsboro or Salem to fill your bottles. Rails-To-Trails boasts that this trail has the most Tunnels. It is worth the ride & we will be going back because we want to experience ALL the Tunnels. I believe there is 11 Tunnels full of history!"
"Although relatively level, this trail was really rough to ride. Surface is not smoothe... Tunnels were hard to traverse, even with adequate headlamps..."
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