Not to be confused with it's more famous cousin "The Appalachian Trail," the Allegheny trail is one of two trans-state trails crossing West Virginia. The other being the Big Blue Trail. The trail is a 330-mile (or will be when the last 20 miles are completed) north-south trail that starts on the Mason-Dixon Line at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border near Bruceton Mills and wends its way south until it meets the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain at the Virginia-West Virginia border. Volunteer workers maintain all sections of the Allegheny Trail, which is marked by 2"x 6" yellow blazes.
The Allegheny Trail is broken up into four sections. Sections 1 and 2 are the "northern" section, while 3 and 4 make up the "southern" sections. Portions of the trail are incomplete at this time and you should check with local volunteer groups before tackling a particular section. In addition, severe weather and major floods regularly bring down trees in several areas. Volunteers work to remove blowdowns and repair damaged trail, but the work is slow. Please be patient and be prepared for obstacles.
If you plan a through hike or even a less extensive long-distance hike, you will want a printed hiking guide. Keep in mind, however, that the guide is not reprinted every year and sections of trail occasionally get relocated; so, if in doubt when the guide and the blazes don't agree, follow the yellow blazes.
The Allegheny Trail is one of the many riding options along the Route 92 corridor in southeast West Virginia. Strangely, I hadn't heard much mentioned in the way of biking this trail, although it's popular with hikers, with portions of its 330-mile length going through or near some of West Virginia's more popular state parks and attractions. In retrospect, this should have been an omen.
I knew going in that any ride would be an out and back trip seeing as how the trail is a 330-mile North-South trail that traverses the entire state of West Virginia. The parking area and trailhead are very well marked and you can't miss it. It was also very well maintained, save for a section of map that was missing under the broken panel of a plastic covering. Unfortunately, the missing section happened to be the portion of the local Bear Branch section. (my guess is that a discourteous hiker had helped himself to the map).
With the trailhead well marked and well-maintained (for the most part), I was really looking forward to the ride. You can take the trail north or south. Going south will eventually take you to the Lake Sherwood Recreation Area, 11.5 miles away. I had actually ridden a short section of the Allegheny Trail on a previous loop ride there. Going north will put you in Watago State Park, 9.5 mountainous miles away.
I strapped on my helmet and headed south. I hadn't gone 50 yards when I was greeted by a huge field of shoulder high weeds. I could barely make out the wisp of a trail through the brush. It also looked rather swampy. Since I could barely make out the trail, it didn't look like I could ride through the weeds, and since the prospect of bogging down in a swampy field didn't appeal to me, I dejectedly turned around. North had to be better than this.
I rode back through the parking area and took the mown trail heading north. It started out promising enough. A little bumpy, but clearly maintained. The trail was very wide, probably closer to triple track. The vistas were very nice, too. I passed several abandoned buildings which led me to believe that this area was once a bustling village.
After I cleared the meadow, the woods closed in and the trail quickly became technical single track, with hard packed soil and many logs and fallen trees. At first it wasn't too bad and I had to do very little dabbing. But eventually, I crossed a creek and the trail took an upturn. It was at this point that blowdowns hindered my path to the point that I couldn't ride at all. The trail was uphill, and every time I got any momentum going, I'd encounter a new obstacle. Sweating and breathing hard, I dis-biked and looked up ahead. I could see the trail winding up the hill for a good distance, and all I could see was deadfall and blowdowns littering the trail. I didn't want to dab the entire trail, I was there to ride. Dejectedly, I made the decision to head back to the car.
I've since found out that the Allegheny Trail is divided into four sections for volunteer maintenance reasons. Section I and II near the Pennsylvania border and south to Cass have fulltime volunteers who help keep the trail clear of trees. Unfortunately, the sections south of Cass to the southern terminus at the Appalachian Trail in Monroe County, are not well maintained for the most part.
In general, the Bear Banch trail section is pretty nice as far as scenery and the trailhead goes. It would make a pretty good backpacking trip. However, I would not recommend this particular section of the trail for biking because of the deadfall and blowdowns.
click on any picture above for a larger view
Trail(s): Bear Branch Trailhead: a section of the Allegheny Trail north of Neola, WV. Very primitive single track, except for a mown double track through an initial meadow. Once in the woods, trail becomes hard-packed soil, with numerous fallen trees, logs, and various other obstacles.
Difficulty: Unrideable for mountain bikes since it's designated a hiking trail
-Privacy (I encountered no other human beings; just plenty of critters).
-Drier than most area trails.
-Nice hardwood forest scenery.
-Couldn't make progress beyond the initial double track going north.
-Turning south will run you smack dab into shoulder high weeds, with only the slightest hint of a 12-inch wide trail.
-Not maintained very much, if at all. Lots of blowdowns and debris.
Nuts & bolts
Location: Starts on the Mason-Dixon Line at the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border near Bruceton Mills and wends its way south until it meets the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain at the Virginia-West Virginia border.
Directions:Allegheny Trail access at Bear Branch is on WV State Rt. 92, several miles south of Minnehaha Springs, WV and north of Neola, WV.
Facilities:The nearest campground is Pocahontas Campground a few miles north of the trail access on Rt. 92. This campground includes 9 rustic campsites located in a beautiful grove of white pine trees. Open mid-March to mid-December. Each campsite has a parking spur, picnic table, fire ring with a grill and a lantern hookup. Waste receptacles are provided. Several campsites also have a tent pad, although all sites are suitable for tent or trailer camping. Vault (pit) toilets and a hand pump well are located in the campground. There are no hook-ups available. Camping fees are $6.00 per night (honor system). Sites are on a first come, first served basis. Maximum length of stay is 14 days..
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