A mixture of old state park trails and newly cut single track combine forces in a scintillating smorgasbord of mountain biking delight!
by Jeff Cobb, Outdoor Travels
There are 9 miles of officially licensed biking trails at Little Beaver State Park.
But that’s only if you don’t know about the other 8 miles or so of unmarked, unmapped trails that the locals have carved through the West Virginia woods in a tight, twisting, rock-and-root infested mountain biker’s paradise.
Little Beaver State Park (LBSP) is located in Beaver, West Virginia. It’s not far from Beckley, WV or the white water Mecca of the New and Gauley Rivers. The park features an 18-acre lake created by a cut rock dam and offers fishing, swimming and boat rentals. An exercise / fitness trail rings the lake. During my visit, there were a lot of people jogging and walking around the lake, and plenty of folks trying there luck with the rod and reel.
If you only go by the official state park map, visiting mountain bikers would think, “That’s pretty good. 9 miles of trails will keep me busy for a few hours.” But what LBSP offers actually goes way beyond that. When you’re on the older trail system, riders will notice unmarked trails shooting off in all directions. Some look well-defined; others look like deer paths. If I had been alone, it would have been a situation where I would have cruised past and wondered to myself, “Hmmm. That looks interesting. I wonder where it goes?” and then kept on riding the established trail without investigating.
What LBSP presents is a literal mountain biking Sunday lunch buffet, offering up a little of everything, with at least one thing on the menu sure to please the tastes of any mountain biker. Interested in a hard-packed roller coaster type trail? They got it. Do you like to slalom between trees at high speed? Affirmative. Are you fond of treacherous, bumpy rock gardens which require a good deal of technical skill to navigate? Yep, they have that too. No matter if you like your mountain biking trails well done, medium rare, or over easy, Little Beaver has you covered.
The official LBSP trails have been there for 20+ years, while the new trails are 1 ½ years old or less. One of the West Virginia Mountain Biking Association series races took place there this year for the first time. That alone authenticates and justifies these trails. As I mentioned, the only “problem” with the LBSP trail system is that approximately half of the 18 miles of single track are currently unmarked. And the new trails are the best ones at the park to ride. Local biking guru Gary Morefield has walked the trails with a pedometer and now it’s simply a matter of turning the information over to the park superintendent. At that point, the state will make the trail signs and install them. This development will greatly improve the ride experience. A topographical map is also being prepared which will provide a much better and more detailed trail map.
The Little Beaver trails are a mixture. As I mentioned, there is some roller coaster stuff, but for the most part it is rocky, rooty, and very technical. If you are true beginner, this is probably not the best place for you. These are intermediate to intermediate advanced level trails. Everything is rideable, but the skill level hovers around the above average. I rode about 8 miles in 2.5 hours on my visit. It was mentally as well as physically exhausting, which is to say, you had to stay focused at all times. Tight, twisting, gnarly single track, trees right at your elbows and a healthy dose of rocks and roots.
I want to give a great big “Hell Yeah!” to Gary Morefield, Rob Hebb, and the guys at the Ride-N-Slide bike shop in Beckley for giving me a guided tour of the unmarked trails at LBSP. They really want the word of mouth to spread about this trail system and get riders out to the park to ride. Its convenient location right off I-64 makes it a quick drive for those living in the Middle Atlantic or South Eastern states. They have done a great job cutting and maintaining these trails on there own. They are in excellent condition and a blast to ride.
So if you’re looking for a lesser-known, challenging, fun and rewarding day of mountain biking in a beautiful, wooded location, check out LBSP. It’s gnarly West Virginia single track at its best!
click on any picture above for a larger view
Trail(s): Currently, there are about 17 miles of fun single track, but the mileage continues to grow.
Difficulty: Advanced beginner to advanced intermediate. There are some sections that are fairly non-technical, but the vast majority requires some mid to upper level skill to navigate successfully.
Outdoor Travels Rating: 3.75 out of 5 bikes. Once the signs go up and the whole system becomes better marked, mapped, and documented, the rating will probably go up even more.
- A great group of local riders keep the trail system growing and well maintained. They even take a leaf blower to it in the fall to keep the rides going well into the cold months
- Highly technical and challenging rock gardens, rooty sections, and log obstacles
- You cannot do these trails on cruise control; a high degree of mental alertness is required
- A few tough climbs thrown in for good measure, but mostly rolling.
- All trails interconnect so you can do as short – or as long – of a ride as you wish
- Plentiful parking and changing facilities; nice park with a lake; gas station and amenities 2 miles from park at interstate exit.
- Lack of bike wash area.
- It was dry when I rode it because it hasn’t rained in 2-3 weeks, but most of the trails generally stay wet and muddy.
- Best trails are unmarked, although they are working on having signs installed.
Nuts and Bolts
Location: Little Beaver is located near Beaver, WV in southern West Virginia. From I-64, take Exit 129-A, It is two miles south on Route 307.
Operation Dates: Open All Year, 6 am - Sunset
Facilities: 18-acre lake, created by a cut rock dam nearly 50 years ago. An enclosed playground is centrally located near the 60 picnic areas and five picnic shelters.
Activities: Hiking, biking, fishing, bird watching, boating, and swimming.
Accommodations: At the present time, Little Beaver is a day use park only. However, they are currently developing a campground and bathhouse. Check with the park on the timeline for completion. In the meantime, there are nearby hotels as well as camping and lodges at Grandview and other nearby state parks and forests. Call WV Tourism at 1-800-CALL WVA for more information on lodging opportunities near Little Beaver.
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