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Five old railroad trestles serve as scenic attractions on this dirt trail in the New River Gorge National Park, although one of those trestles has been closed for safety concerns, splitting the trail into two shorter segments of 1.97 miles and 1.2 miles.
The Rend Trail traces the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway’s Arbuckle Branch, which, beginning in 1906, served the coal mines that dotted the now-forested landscape in southern West Virginia. Although the railroad pulled out years ago, you can still see evidence of tracks in the forest, as well as remains of coal mines and coke ovens along the route.
The longest stretch of open trail starts at the Thurmond Trailhead on Thurmond Road/County Route 25 near Dunloup Creek. You can find remains of the Newlyn coal mine in the vicinity as well as overgrown foundations of South Boyd.
In about a mile, find an overlook with views across the New River to the old railroad boomtown of Thurmond. Created along with the railroad in the 1870s, the town flourished in the early 1900s with two hotels, two banks, a movie theater, and other businesses, as well as a depot and other structures to serve steam trains. Its decline started with the Great Depression in the 1930s, when the population numbered nearly 500 residents.
Today, the National Park Service owns most of the town, which recorded just seven residents in the latest census. The park restored the depot, which is open as a visitor center during the summer, and has stabilized other buildings. It is still served by Amtrak and is reachable via County Route 25/Thurmond Road.
Continuing on the Rend Trail, you’ll pass the third trestle about 1.8 miles from the trailhead. Close by, the 0.3-mile Arbuckle Connector heads to the right down a short, steep, rocky slope to the Southside Trail.
This southern segment of the Rend Trail comes to a dead end at a trestle. In 2014, structural engineers determined that the supports were rotting and that the bridge could fall at any time. The park has no timetable to repair the trestle as of 2022.
To visit the northern segment of the trail, use the trailhead at Minden, itself an old coal mining town where several old coal camp houses are still inhabited. The trail crosses one trestle and then ends before the second one in about 1.2 miles.
For the southern segment, parking is available at the Thurmond Trailhead on Thurmond Rd/CR 25 (1.1 mile west of McKendree Rd/CR 25).
Parking in Minden for the northern segment is at Minden Ave & Thurmond Rd.
To access the Thurmond trailhead, head north from Beckley on US 19. Take the Glen Jean-Thurmond Exit and turn left onto State Route 25. Go 0.5 mile to Glen Jean, following the signs for the Rend Trail or Thurmond-Minden Trail, located 5 miles outside of Glen Jean off SR 25.
To reach the Minden trailhead from Beckley, head north on US 19. Take the Oak Hill/Main Street Exit and turn right onto East Main Street at the end of the ramp. Turn left at Minden Road and follow it for 2 miles. Take a right across a small bridge to the Minden trailhead.
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