Photo & Words: Tory Powers
Riders: Colvin Harvey, Ethan Flanigan, Missy Giove, Harrison Dixon
The eastern United States has a true gem that often goes overlooked, the Appalachian Mountain range. A recent hot spot for new mountain bike expansion, the land east of the Mississippi River contains thousands of miles of extremely unique terrain. Pocahontas County, West Virginia, is no stranger to this knowledge. Pocahontas County has been hard at work for a number of years providing access for riders of all skill levels matching and exceeding the same caliber of riding seen across the globe.
Pocahontas county covers a large portion of West Virginia including the infamous Snowshoe Mountain, which has hosted World Cup races for years. The riding across Pocahontas County is some of the most diverse that I’ve ever personally had the pleasure of checking out all across North America. Rolling hills, steep climbs, and a multitude of ecosystems keeps things interesting in a very compact area.
We ended up staying at Snowshoe Mountain for the easiest access to the area (plus the benefit of riding out of the door for more than just the bike park).
Our first day began at Tea Creek, about 25 minutes away. Tea Creek is a deep woods trail system that is often a stage for the local enduro race series. Tea Creek felt the most "backcountry" to me out of everything we rode. The vegetation was extremely dense and it was true singletrack- and I mean that. It was tire-width in a lot of areas.
We rode Tea Creek Mountain Trail, the local favorite, but it's worth mentioning there is a lot more good riding in this area, such as Bear Pen, Turkey Point, and Tea Creek Trail for a longer ride. Tea Creek Mountain Trail was a quick pedal up, about 400ft, but leaves you with about 1600ft of descending over 3.5 miles. This trail had a short amount of technical riding (mostly at the top, including one of the trickiest rock gardens at the summit I've had to pedal through) and quickly shifted into the feeling of being in the Millennium Falcon with stars flying by at warp speed in the dense trees.
There was a great mixture of tight trail and more spread out woods here, but the speed was unmatched. "Trail Speed," as Ethan and Colvin called it, was ludicrous, especially because of how narrow the trail was. I guess it pays to have raced in these areas.
The trail ended at a lower parking lot, where we conveniently had a shuttle waiting, but you could easily pedal back up the road to the top lot as there is not very much traffic at all. Also at the bottom was a fresh water tap that was oh so refreshing.Tea Creek Area mountain biking trails
We headed just back up the road to Snowshoe where we decided it would be criminal to not do a quick evening ride. There’s an abundance of trails within riding distance of the village, and one of the easiest access zones is notoriously called “The Fingers” because, well, just look at the map. This spiderweb network sits atop the high point of Snowshoe with trails primarily being level with short ups and downs. Should you decide to do all the descending, it’s just a quick ride back up the low-traffic road to the top. You could easily rack up mileage here without even realizing it. New trails at every turn and countless variations of rides are available here.
Riding here felt like a fairytale. The thick moss lining the sides of the trails has the same compound as memory foam. No wonder those pillows are so expensive, I finally understand where they come from. If you get a room atop Snowshoe, there’s a good chance you’ll see a photo of this area on the keycard. And yes, it really does look that nice in person, too.
The north side trails are where the tech lies. You can get some fast, flowy riding on the top, but if you want some big rocks and roots, you know where to go. T.T.B. (To the Brewery) and Tiger King were my personal favorites. Chock full of big rocks and slippery roots, both of these trails have it all packed into descents that are a few hundred feet in less than a mile. Perfectly designed for lap after lap. Oh, and did I mention that they both end at Old Spruce Brewery? Or maybe the cheeky trail name gave it away. Unfortunately we were there in the off-season and early in the week didn’t get to catch a drink there, but it does seem to be a local favorite. Definitely perfect placement for a post-ride beer. Snowshoe Backcountry mountain biking trails
Day 2 was another venture straight out the door into the Snowshoe backcountry. Not often do you get this much backcountry riding in pedaling distance from a proper bike park. Head south through the village and you’ll see Cheat Mtn Ridge Trail, a 4 mile double track that serves as a great warmup. Deep in the trees, you don’t get to see much beyond woods until right near the trailhead to Bail Out, where an old fire watchtower sits. This fulfilled a bucket list item I didn’t even realize I had written down. At least ten stories high, this fire tower had full 360 degree views of the area. Being here in late September, trees were just starting to change color and we had a perfect view of Snowshoe and the west side of the park.
Bail Out is a double black trail that is another common stage for the local enduro races. I wouldn’t let the rating scare you, because personally, I thought there was only one really tricky area but nothing to be too worried about.
I think Bail Out was one of my favorite trails that we got to ride and I would gladly go back again. It starts out with some fast, snappy turns through woods with roots (and luckily for us, the most perfect tacky dirt). About a third of the way down is where I assume the double black rating comes from: a drag strip of a rock garden.
The trickling of a creek runs straight through this section, making the already tricky technical riding a bit tougher and slicker. Everybody thinks of this section of the crux of the trail and definitely acts as a squirrel catcher in races.
Once that’s in the rear view, it goes back to a similar style as before but peppered in with a few more rocks here and there.
The trail ends at the opposite side of Shavers Lake as where the bike park ends. In the summer months, Shavers is a hub for summer activities on the lake, a pump track in the woods, and lift access for the bike park. We took the road back up around the bike park which was a quick 2 mile climb back to where the Fingers trails end at Old Spruce Brewery. We figured, why not get another zone in before lunch?
Head north from here, instead of south back towards the village, to head to the Airport zone. A bit more climbing lands you more incredible views facing south back at Snowshoe. From here, head west along the Airport Ridge trail to get to my second favorite trail of the trip, Linwood.
Linwood is a 3 mile trail with a whopping 1500ft of descending that’s rated as a blue trail. I’m a sucker for fast, flowy riding, so maybe I’m just biased here, but Linwood was a blast.
The top feels similar to the fingers, with a northwest style environment. Once you get through some meandering woods tight woods, things open up and the ecosystem changes completely. Less canopy trees and more sparse woods allows for even more speed.
This trail does end at the bottom of the west end of the bike park, so if you have an e-bike or a shuttle, you’re in good shape. Snowshoe Backcountry mountain biking trails
SNOWSHOE BIKE PARK
We figured we couldn’t get enough, so we did an evening session on the west side of the bike park. This is where the infamous UCI World Cup Downhill trail lies. Unfortunately, that trail isn’t open to the public for riding, but when you’re nearby or on the lift, it’s always nice to put a face to that gnarly of a trail. We did a quick ride-thru on the top of 10 Gallon, the Cupcake Drop (road gap), and the beginning of Skyline, which we would ride in full the next day.
Ending our second day, we went to The Junction Ale house, a classic spot that has all of the best American cuisine goodies. I’m not kidding when I say their grilled cheese and tomato soup was some of the best I’ve had. You don’t normally pair resort villages and good cuisine at a decent price, but Snowshoe was on another level. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the grilled cheese, probably because I ate it so fast, but here's a chicken bacon sandwich on ciabatta. Also outstanding.
Our third day was all about the bike park. A cold, rainy morning greeted us as we walked outside, and I was honestly a bit worried. However, Ethan, Colvin, and every other rider was patiently waiting, knowing that it would blow over and provide dirt that was to die for. They were certainly right. Snowshoe is no stranger to these types of storms, and they’re gladly welcomed by the community. The dirt that we got to ride that day was all time.
We began riding on the east side of the resort, the lesser of the two sides in terms of trail length, but certainly not a worry about quantity nor quality.
We checked out Trail P, Rooty Pebbles, and Giant Slalom.
Rooty Pebbles was one of the most creative, yet specific, names for a trail I’ve ever heard of. It was just that.
Long, technical rock gardens mixed with slippery roots but in the best way possible. This black trail was high speed enough to even have a handful of jumps thrown in the mix. I thought that the contrast between tech and flow on this side of the mountain was excellent. It didn’t feel like the rock gardens would rattle your hands off because there were moments of relief with smooth sections and jumps.
Giant Slalom was a personal favorite of mine at the park- large berms and big rollers created the feeling you were just on a huge downhill pumptrack.
After our first lap, we met up with local legend Missy “The Missile” Giove, who showed us around her stomping grounds. Missy has been riding bikes longer than I’ve been alive, but her demeanor doesn’t give that away. Missy was extremely spriteful and always willing to have another go for a photo.
We spent the rest of the day checking out more of the west side of the park since there were so many trails we didn’t get to ride the day before. We rode Skyline and Big Ash for a taste of everything. (Note that you need to ride Ninja Bob/Ball N Jack to get to Big Ash the normal way). I could ride these blue trails all day long.
Wide, paved flow trails for an entire lap? Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly was mine. The reason I like trails like this is because you are in control of your speed. You can take things as fast or as slow as you want to go and it’s fun no matter what.
At the end of Skyline, we ran into Harrison Dixon, one of the lead trail builders. Harrison was the ultimate addition to our party of four. He and the crew have done an outstanding job building these trails to last. You can tell when you ride bike parks that have crews that don’t even ride their trails, but Snowshoe was the opposite. Harrison reminded me a lot of Brage, not just because of his long, flowing hair and his stature, but his riding style and sweetness in nature. Harrison opened up Big Ash for us, which had just recently been reworked, for the crew to check out. Are you kidding me? This trail was nuts. The huge jumps and berms reminded me a lot of Whistler, but in MUCH better shape due to the lower traffic Snowshoe gets. Yes, it was just opened up, but the entire park was this way.
This was definitely a trail you need to take a look at before you go for it, but everyone was having a hay-day. Even though it was windy up top, the deep woods created by the canopy style trees was more than enough blockage to make even the biggest jumps in the park totally rideable. Snowshoe Bike Park mountain biking trails
We got to end our final day of riding with a beer and Reuben or turkey sandwich from Old Spruce Tavern at the base. Ethan couldn't even wait for a photo before he tried to devour it.
That wrapped up our riding for the trip, and this was one of the few trips I’ve been on like this where I really felt like I could have spent an entire week and not gotten to ride everything that was worth riding. Pocahontas County definitely wowed me with their diversity, easy access, great riding, and above all else, community. We chatted with a handful of other riders we ran into and everyone was here just purely enjoying cycling. I’ve traveled to a lot of locations where the riders don’t even seem to be out having fun, but everyone in Pocahontas County just wanted to be friends and share their experiences. This absolutely lands Pocahontas County at the top of my “Come Back to Ride Without a Heavy Camera Bag” list, which believe me, is growing rapidly.
A very big thank you to Pocahontas County, the riders, and everyone else that made this possible. This was a memorable one, and whether or not you’re already on the east coast, this is a destination worth the trip to.Pocahontas County mountain biking trails