It was one of those perfect, crisp fall days where you can watch the leaves turn through the filter of a golden afternoon. The temperature had not yet made its steep decline into winter, but there was no mistaking the absence of summer. For us, this was the perfect day for a ride down the North Bend Rail Trail.
If you are unfamiliar, North Bend State Park is comprised of almost 2,500 acres along the North Fork of the Hughes River in Ritchie County West Virginia. The park offers a wide array of recreational facilities in a beautiful pastoral setting. One of the more popular features is the 72 mile North Bend Rail Trail, formerly an abandoned run of track for the CSX rail system. The trail is part of a 5,500 mile coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail and is designed for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Stretching from near Parkersburg in Wood County all the way to Wolf Summit in Harrison County, this scenic trail crosses over 36 bridges and runs through 13 train tunnels.
As novice bikers, (let’s face it, this was the first time we had hopped on bikes in years) we greatly appreciated the minimal grade changes that were once-upon-a-time determined by the railroad codes. Although we picked a perfect Saturday in the middle of fall, the trail was rather empty and we only ran into other bikers after we had ridden for 10 or so miles. We had plenty of space to take our time, stop for pictures, and enjoy each other’s company.
We hopped on the trail in Cairo, rode through three tunnels, over dozens of beautiful wood plank bridges, stopped in Ellenboro for lunch and then turned back around. I would recommend packing a flashlight or a head lamp for your passage through the tunnels– although they are not incredibly long, there are no lights and it can be difficult to see the ground under your feet (or wheels.) Our favorite tunnel was Tunnel Number 10 west of Ellenboro — it is 337 feet long and is a “raw” or natural tunnel that was bored through solid rock. On our ride back through, we spent a little bit of time exploring the abandoned settlements along the route. The trail runs through wild and natural areas, farmland, rural communities, as well as numerous parks.
A perfect escape, the Rail Trail is a lovely way to soak in the season while burning a few extra calories. Whether you set out for a leisurely picnic date along the trail or race along the grade for miles, you are sure to find yourself smiling as you bask in the golden glow of the autumn sun, watching the leaves dance around you in the wind.