Talking Trails with the MSTAJuly 7, 2020
If you ask Bill Wells of Mountain State Trail Alliance (MSTA) why people enjoy mountain biking, hiking or other recreational activities in the New River Gorge, the answer is simple: it’s beautiful. From dense forests and rugged rivers to sandstone cliffs and deep canyons, the area is supremely scenic with plenty of opportunities for adventure.
“There’s no other place like it,” Wells said.
The MSTA, formerly the New River Gorge Trail Alliance, is a nonprofit organization that works to link the recreational opportunities that the Gorge, and West Virginia, are known through the use of a regional trail system. Since its founding in 2016, the MSTA has received over $2 million in grant funding to support its mission. Last year, volunteers cleared and maintained over 250 miles of trails.
“Water trails, rail trails, mountain bike trails, equestrian trails — We build and support trails of all types, but our focus so far has been on hiking and biking trails,” Wells said.
Currently, the MSTA serves seven counties — Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Webster (added earlier this year) — and is working on a project to establish a bike trail that spans from Beckley to Cowan, through Mount Hope, Oak Hill and Fayetteville, Rainelle and Richwood.
“We’re working to connect communities in these counties with family-friendly connector trails/gentler trails. More technical mountain biking trail loops will be built along the connector trails so that you can ride from town to town and access the mountain bike trail loops,” Wells said.
Many mountain biking trails can be found inside the boundary of the New River Gorge National River, including the popular Arrowhead Trail network. (Insider’s tip: check out Arrowhead Bike Farm for easy trail access, bike rentals and repairs as well as camping and dining.)
MSTA members even have access to the 30-miles of mountain biking trails at Summit Bechtel Reserve, thanks to the organization’s partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.
“It’s restricted in the summer because of the BSA’s programming but open to MSTA members during the off-season,” Wells said.
Additionally, the MSTA has received a grant to extend the White Oak Rail Trail in Oak Hill to Glen Jean. MSTA volunteers have also been hard at work at Wolf Creek Park in Fayetteville to build and maintain 12 miles of mountain biking trails there. Fayette County has contributed $150,000 to hire a contractor to finish the construction of the Wolf Creek trails.
“These trails will be a series of loops, and you can choose which best fits your experience level,” Wells said. “We always want there to be something for everyone.”
The regional trail system that the MSTA is establishing will connect communities, promote health and wellness and increase economic development through tourism.
“The trails will provide the perfect opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience the amazing natural beauty that we have in the New River Gorge and surrounding areas,” Wells said.