GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Mountain biking options in southern West Virginia will be expanding next year, thanks to a new partnership between the New River Gorge Trail Alliance and the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.
Normally, the 35-mile trail system within the reserve is available only to visiting Boy Scouts. Under the recently-finalized agreement, the trails will be open to the public during the spring, summer, and fall, whenever scouting activities are not taking place. In exchange, Alliance members will assist in year-around maintenance of reserve trails. Alliance board member Phil Waidner said he expects the agreement will be mutually beneficial.
“It really helps the trails to be able to have people riding them, to be clearing falling debris off of them, sometimes, and to be just helping to keep the soil compacted and the weeds down by actually riding them, all the time,” he said.
Waidner recommended that beginners sign up for an introductory mountain biking and safety course, which is available at no cost through Active Southern West Virginia and the National Park Service. A membership with the New River Gorge Trail Alliance will be required in order to ride the trails. A discounted family membership option also will be available, according to Waidner, who said the popularity of mountain biking as a low-cost alternative to traditional summer vacation activities has been increasing, over the years.
“We do have some really, really easy trails out there, and a lot of people have found it a really convenient place to be able to take their family, so it’s a great opportunity to get a family membership, bring the kids out, and we have some super easy, very short beginner trails available to them,” said Waidner, who added that street bikes are generally prohibited, even for the beginner-level trails.
“Make sure it’s a bicycle that’s made to be ridden off-road. The road bikes are generally not appropriate. Your typical kind of hybrid bike that you might get from Wal-Mart or Dick’s Sporting Goods would be okay on certain trails but would be a pretty rough ride, and I really encourage people to bring at least an entry-level mountain bike,” he said.
The addition of the Summit Bechtel Reserve trails will give experienced mountain bikers access to flow trails, dual-slalom courses, a skills park, a dirt-jump learning zone, and multiple pump tracks.
All new members of the New River Gorge Trail Alliance who use the reserve’s trails will be required to sign a liability waiver. Membership information is available at www.nrgta.org.