West Virginia is a top statewide destination for mountain biking

Tracy Toler and her daughter Kaya cycle down a winding trail in southern West Virginia. (Photo courtesy Huntington, W.Va., CVB)

With its ideal mix of terrain, elevation, and unspoiled beauty just waiting to be discovered, West Virginia is an ideal destination for mountain biking, according to one of its leading proponents.

Tracy Toler, co-owner of Adventure trail systemssays that while there are great opportunities for mountain biking in the West, it’s one of the fastest growing sports in West Virginia.

“The Appalachian hills are really picture perfect,” Toler says.

“When people think of mountain biking, they think of the roots, rocks and hills of terrain like West Virginia. I hope that we will really put in place the infrastructure to welcome visitors in a state of complete tourism.

Tourists and residents can play sports here all year round, with fat bike in the winter and mountain bike series every summer, he says. West Virginia’s soil also has great diversity, with sand, clay, rocks, and roots adding to the attraction.

“We really have everything you could give someone when it comes to mountain biking; we’re about as good as it gets,” says Toler. “We just need to make a lot more investment in even more trails, and we’re seeing more of them than ever.”

BJ Gearhart opens new trail at Twin Falls State Park.
BJ Gearhart leads a trail at Twin Falls State Park near Pineville, West Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Adventure Trail Systems)

Adventure Trail Systems was recently hired to build some of the newest trails in the state at Huntington’s Heritage Farm Museum. These trails, which opened Memorial Day weekend, are a family-friendly downhill mountain bike system that is part of the farm’s new Adventure Park. Toler will continue to build on the park – a one-of-a-kind trail system he created, designed and built from scratch – throughout the summer.

Mountain State youth are also getting more involved in the sport through the West Virginia Interscholastic Cycling League, a branch of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, or “NICA”. Toler, the association’s coach, has been involved with the organization since its inception in the state. He built one of his first bike racing courses at Twin Falls Resort State Park in Wyoming County, and it’s one of the projects he’s most proud of.

“As a trail builder, you have to be very proud when you’re building in a really nice state park,” he says. “It’s unique because often you’re in an area of ​​the forest that maybe no one has ever been through or been to in 20 years.”

The International Mountain Bicycling Association encourages more trails closer to home, and with more trails being built across the state, including at Nitro’s Ridenour Park and the hurricane Meeks Mountain Trail Systemit benefits bikers and communities in so many ways.

“We’re lucky to have trails in almost every part of the state, and a lot of new little pocket trails are really where they’re at,” he says.

“Every little community should have trails that you can get to in 15 minutes; it’s what really encourages families to take up a sport like mountain biking.

From a tourism perspective, building trails closer to home allows officials to see how much they are used, he says. In direct correlation to the success of the trail, in Hurricane alone, several small businesses, including a bike shop, have opened alongside the Meeks Mountain Trail System.

“In Hurricane, there are places to eat and different things that are right there,” he says. “You get off the beaten path, you have a place to spend your money immediately. This is a huge advantage when trying to push more trails. Good to have accessible and fenced trails.

The mountain biking boom is happening across the country in part because people are getting out more during the pandemic, which the state needs to continue to take advantage of, Toler says.

“With our loss of coal and everything, I think the state is finally recovering,” he says. “I have never seen such development of trails. I’ve never seen the state government redo all of our major state parks; lodges and everything else have been completely renovated one after the other which was much needed.”

Toler says one way to build trails and the mountain biking community is to advocate for change, and he encourages others to reach out to their local councils and city government. When he started building trails in Nitro, people asked him how he got help from his town.

“If you ask, you might get exactly what you want, because these people are here to try to help their city and make decisions based on what their people want,” Toler says.

“Any time kids come out and help me do trail work, or we try to teach some kids how to do trail work, I really try to explain the whole process that it’s is simple, especially in West Virginia where everything is really quite small,” he says. “It’s especially important to let young people know, because they’re going to be directing this later, that you can totally get involved.”

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