One of the best parks in the entire state delivers a variety of biking trails in an out-of-the-way location .
by Jeff Cobb, Outdoor Travels
Pipestem is considered by many to be one of West Virginia’s best kept secrets. Many consider it to be one of the best parks in the entire state but it is not usually overly busy because it’s situated in an out-of-the-way location. The setting is gorgeous and you’re bound to see a dozen deer or so grazing peacefully alongside the road as you make the 2 mile drive into the resort.
In addition to the trails for hiking and biking, golf and horseback riding is a big draw at Pipestem. There is a large stable, and a championship golf course that is supposed to be top notch, although neither one of us have played on it. There is also a tranquil lake for fishing and boating.
McKeever Lodge is the best place to go and check out the views of the Bluestone Canyon. The scenic vistas are truly breathtaking no matter what time of year you’re visiting. There is also a restaurant and snack area here if you need to refuel.
Also, be sure and take advantage of the aerial tram which takes you down to the bottom of the gorge. You can ride your bike several thousand feet down to the bottom of the gorge and then use the tram to shuttle yourself and your bike back to the top. Otherwise, you’re left with a hellacious climb back up to the park or you’ll have to stick to the upper level trails like we did the day we visited. There is a lodge and restaurant located at the bottom of the gorge as well. The tram is open only during the active season so be sure and call ahead and plan accordingly.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem, off the beaten path, with adequate and enjoyable trails for beginners and intermediate level riders, this is the place for you. If you’re looking for big obstacles and expert technical trails, you might want to steer clear.
4/17/04 - by Jeff Cobb, Outdoor Travels
Christopher came down for the weekend and we wanted to ride somewhere that we haven’t already ridden before. I’d been meaning to visit Pipestem, so we packed up a lunch and headed off.
I can drive to Pipestem in just a little over an hour, so it’s not too far. However, I wouldn’t make a habit of driving there to ride if I’m by myself. After consulting the trail map, we decided to make a loop by parking at the McKeever Lodge and riding counterclockwise on the River Trail to the County Line Trail, and then ride back to the lodge on the park road.
The ride was basically down and then back up. There were a few rock gardens but mostly it was double track and then a lung busting single track climb back up to the road. It was enjoyable but not overly taxing from a technical standpoint. It was, however, a highly exerting climb, so be prepared for high stress on the lungs.
After a break for lunch, we did a short loop by taking the Law Hollow Trail down to Long Branch Lake and taking the Lake Shore Trail that circumvents the lake. It was a fun, rolling trail with pretty views. If a rider were familiar with this trail, I can see where it would be a lot of fun to go balls-to-the-wall and ride this trail at a high rate of speed. As it was, it was still a fun ride. Not so fun was doubling back and making the climb back up to the road on Law Hollow Trail.
I’d give the Lake Shore Trail a 3 rating and the rest of the trails we rode a 2.5. There are several other trails within the park that we did not explore so I cannot report on them at this time. Later this summer, I plan on going back and exploring the trails that take you to the bottom of the canyon, as well as several trails that meander around the Bluestone River. After the screaming downhill, the tram will take you and your bike back to the top of the canyon if you don’t feel like making the 1,100 foot climb on two wheels!
Trail(s): 19 ½ miles of ORV, double track, and single track. Surfaces vary from leaf to grass to dirt to rocks.
Difficulty: The trails we rode at Pipestem would fall between beginner and intermediate. A lot of down and up (or up and down). Good place to work on your endurance but not a lot to offer the mountain biker in search of obstacles or technical riding.
Outdoor Travels Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bikes.
Not all Pipestem bike trails are reviewed yet.
- Well marked trails
- Easy access
- Nice Amenities
- Park has other things to do if bringing non-biking friends or family along
- Starting from the lodge means that all return rides are uphill
- More double track than single track
- The more fun trails are downhill, requiring a hellacious climb or tram ride back up
Nuts & bolts
Location: Pipestem, WV 14 miles ne of Princeton, WV; 12 miles sw of Hinton, WV.
Directions: From I-77, take Exit 14 and the park entrance is 14 miles north on Rt. 20. From I-64, take Exit 139, the park entrance is 22 miles south on WV 20.
Facilities: 82 camping sites; 31 with full hookups, 19 with electric only, and 32 primitive. A heated bathhouse, laundry, and campground store are also provided. There are also cottages, two lodges, and several restaurants. Contact the park at (304) 466-1800, 1-800-CALL WVA or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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