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Greenbrier River Trail

The Greenbrier River Trail is a 78-mile former railroad now used for hiking, biking and horseback riding. It is the longest trail of its kind in West Virginia. The trail provides many breathtaking views as it passes through several small towns, crosses 35 bridges, goes through two tunnels and cuts through some of West Virginia’s most remote areas. Part of the Greenbrier River Trail lies within a National Radio Quiet Zone so cell phones do not work.

photo: Greenbrier River Trail Fall 2020

Length: 78.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Type: Rail Trail
Agency: State
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Bicycling (off pavement)
Camping
Dogs - On leash
Equestrian - Riding
Fishing
Heritage and History
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snow Play, General
Swimming
Wildlife Observation

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Location: The Greenbrier River Trail runs 78 miles parallel to the Greenbrier River in both Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties, West Virginia. It begins in the town of Caldwell, WV between White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg, WV and runs north to Cass, WV to the Ca
State(s):
Counties: Greenbrier, Pocahontas
Longitude: 80, 22',50''W to 79,
Latitude: 37, 47'37''N to 38,

Driving Directions

To reach the southern trailhead at Caldwell, WV, take I-64 east to Exit 175 to US 60 west. Follow this 2.7 miles and turn right onto SR 38/Stone House Road. Caldwell Trailhead straight ahead.

If traveling from I-64 west, take Exit 169 to US 219 north. Go 1/2 mile to SR 30/Brush Road. From here, drive another 1/2 mile to SR38/Stone House Road. Follow to the end at Caldwell Trailhead.

To reach the northern Cass Trailhead, take US 219 to SR 66 east; or take SR 28 to SR 66 west and look for trailhead at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park along SR 66 (Black Mountain Road).

Description

West Virginia's beautiful Greenbrier River Trail is one of America's premier rail-trails and popular with bicyclists, hikers, walkers and cross-country skiers. Most of the trail runs along the gorgeous Greenbrier River and passes through picturesque countryside as it winds through the
river valley.

Today, the trail is operated and maintained by West Virginia State Parks, but it was originally built for use by one of the many West Virginia railroads that served the once prospering local timber industry. Now the trail is for recreational use, with overnight campsites and many restroom and water facilities scattered along its route. The trail hosts the popular annual Great Greenbrier River Race: canoeing, biking and running.

Even though the mile posts start at the southern end of the Greenbrier River Trail, many choose to start the trip on the slightly uphill grade at the northern end at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and follow the river downstream.

In its 78-mile length, the rail-trail contains many of the elements that make the Mountain State one of America's favorite retreats: the peaks and valleys, the lush forests, the pioneering history, the genuine hospitality of its small towns, and, of course, the river. Sometimes silent and lazy, in other seasons full and ambitious, the Greenbrier River is an almost constant companion to the trail and flavors the journey at every step.

The Trail brings visitors into the precious wild environment of West Virginia. The towns along its route have been sustained by the Trail, but not compromised. This balance is evident in wild stretches along the pathway and in the communities that connect to it.

Trains ran here around the turn of the 20th century. Construction began on what would become the Greenbrier Division of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway (C&O) in 1899, and for the next 77 years trains hugging the river carried lumber and passengers beyond the valley and through eastern West Virginia.

When the line became unprofitable in the 1970s, the last remaining depots closed their doors. But when C&O donated the corridor to the state, a new opportunity emerged. Realizing the tremendous resource before them, local communities mobilized a force of trail supporters and volunteers behind the effort, and three decades later the Greenbrier River Trail is one of the most famous and well-loved rail-trails in America, and an object of tremendous pride among the communities that built it.

Heading south on the Greenbrier River Trail, the first town you will pass is Clover Lick, a lovely little Appalachian town with rustic remnants of the old railroad depot that once served the booming logging industry.

Beyond the Clover Lick trailhead, the trail proceeds south, winding 20 miles downstream through some of the most scenic and remote wilderness landscapes in West Virginia. Just south of Clover Lick is Sharps Tunnel, 511 feet long and built in 1899 opening to a 230 feet curved bridge, known by some as the Greenbrier River Bridge, one of the more memorable features of the trail.

Next is the only large town you will encounter along the trail —Marlinton—that hosts some great lunch spots and B&Bs. You can find a trailside information center in Marlinton's old train station near mile 55. As you proceed south from Marlinton, you will cross the river twice before reaching the halfway point at Beard.

One of the great things about the Greenbrier River Trail is the opportunity to see remnants of the old railroad, including many whistle stops and historical mile markers. Beyond Beard (mile post 31) is the second of the trail's two spectacular tunnels: the 402-foot-long Droop Mountain Tunnel, built in 1900.

Continuing south, beyond Anthony (at mile 15), the trail crosses two old railroad bridges and eventually reaches its southern terminus at North Caldwell (mile post 3). This trailhead is located just outside the charming town of Lewisburg.

The river and the trail are surrounded by forest and the occasional clearing; hemlock, red spruce, oak, pine, honeysuckle and azalea—even the occasional balsam fir, rarely seen this far south.

One of the best features of the Greenbrier River Trail is that it has achieved accessibility without compromising its remote character. A number of small shelters and fire-rings along the trail provide hospitality for trail users, yet these amenities feel more like genuine relics of the
pioneering days than intruding modern amenities. The old-fashioned water pumps and restored depot buildings along the way contribute to this vibe.

Most trailheads pop out into tiny communities of well-kept colonial-style homes, among lovely valleys and far from any sounds but the river. Though the northern reaches of the trail are a little wilder and isolated than the southern, the difference is not marked, and any stretch of this wonderful trail has a wilderness feel.

Additional Details

Width: 120 inches.
Primary Surface: Gravel
Secondary Surface: Concrete
Crushed Rock

Average Grade: 1%
Elevation Low Point: 1,696
Elevation High Point: 2,688
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:
2021

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Brochure: WV Rail Trail Brochure 2016
Brochure: Greenbrier River Trail Brochure One update to this map is that there is no longer a campsite at MM 13 due to a rockslide. Instead the camping at MM 9.5 is now developed with shelter, tent pad, bathroom & water well.
Website: Greenbrier River Trail

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Jody Spencer
Superintendent
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
4800 Watoga Park Road
Marlinton, WV 24954
(304) 799-4087
[email protected]

 

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