|Allegheny Mountains Loop
Blacksburg, VA to Blacksburg, VA
1 Map Set (396.5 mi.)
| GPS | Overview
Allegheny Mountains Loop Overview Image
|1. Blacksburg, VA to Blacksburg, VA (396.5 mi.)||Detail
Allegheny Mountains Loop Section 1 Detail Image
The Allegheny Mountains Loop offers a wide variety of riding types — from pavement to gravel, from gentle grades along river valleys to steep, muscle burning climbs and fast descents over ridges, and from busy U.S. highways to lightly trafficked county roads and rail-trails where no cars are allowed. Besides the 396.5-mile main route there are 4 options which give the cyclist alternatives in how much mileage they want to ride. One option is a gravel alternate along a ridge top in the Monongahela National Forest. The other three options are cut-offs to shorten the main loop. The route begins and ends in Blacksburg, Virginia, and crosses back and forth between Virginia and West Virginia several times.
Blacksburg, which is located in the southwest corner of Virginia, is near the TransAmerica Trail. The largest city nearby, Roanoke, is 40 miles away. The route begins and ends with hills along the New River before heading into the first of many remote valleys cyclists will encounter in Virginia. You’ll also have to ride a three-mile stretch of U.S. 460, a busy divided highway with no shoulders. Our meandering route avoids this highway as much as possible between Blacksburg and Pembroke. Just past Waiteville, riders will make a choice to follow the remainder of the route in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. This description is written in the counter-clockwise direction.
The route heads northeast through quiet valleys and over smaller ridges on very lightly trafficked county roads. Portions of these roads are gravel, so using a bike with wider tires is recommended for this route. One highlight not to miss will be the Humpback Bridge, a single span 100-foot arched covered bridge which is possibly the only arched covered bridge left in America. Expect more traffic, especially on weekends, in the Lake Moomaw and Bolar Mountain Recreation areas.
North of Mountain Grove cyclists will have the first choice of two options. The 23.5-mile Dunmore Cut-Off heads west on a state highway, goes up and over a major ridge into West Virginia, and ends in Cass. The 23.5-mile Ridge Alternate also uses the highway to climb to the top of the ridge, then continues southward through the forest. Going south is recommended because it is downhill (though with all the short ups-and-downs along the ridge it may not seem like it!).
On map 6 an interesting place to visit is the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The site is off route north of Dunmore or south of Bartow on State Hwy. 28/92. It is home to the 328 ft. Green Bank Telescope, the largest movable radio dish in the world. The center lies within the country's only federal radio-free zone, which is why you won't pick up any stations within 25 miles of the center.
The main route continues northeast to U.S. 250, where it heads west up and over another ridge top into West Virginia. All the highways used on this route have minimal to no shoulders, and most are winding with short sight lines, especially when climbing or descending the ridges. We’ve tried to minimize use of these highways, but to get from one valley to the next they are the only roads available. Please ride cautiously and wear bright clothing to be seen.
Another shortcut is the westward 6-mile Bartow Cut-Off that ends just north of Durbin, West Virginia. The next 46.5 miles of the main route uses gravel U.S.F.S. roads in the Monongahela National Forest and the crushed limestone-surfaced West Fork Trail. It’s a combination of ascents, descents, and a 1% grade along the Trail. This is the most remote area along the route, and traffic will be minimal. The West Fork Trail’s scenic beauty includes wildflowers in the spring and summer, and foliage colors in the fall. Durbin is home to the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, which hosts four separate excursion trains leaving from various locations in the area.
South of Durbin is Cass, the home of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, and the start of the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail, the state’s longest rail trail conversion. The Park runs a steam logging locomotive train for visitors that terminates just below Bald Knob, elevation 4,832 feet, which is one of the highest summits in West Virginia. There is also a museum and overnight lodging is offered in restored former West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company cottages which were homes for its employees.
The route follows the entire length of the Greenbrier River Trail. The majority of the Trail is packed gravel, though about 5 miles have been paved near Marlinton. There is access to several towns for services such as groceries. Primitive campsites, drinking water and restrooms are available on the Trail.
After the Trail ends the route uses a short stretch of U.S. 60 before heading south on remote county roads that wind over several smaller ridges and through woods, fields, and farmland. You will close the loop near Waiteville, and return south back the way you began. There is one more decision to be made six miles south of Waiteville — instead of returning the way cyclists came, they can choose the 19.5-mile Mountain Lake Cut-Off. It’s gravel up to the ridge top and down to Mountain Lake, then paved the remainder of the Cut-Off until rejoining the main route. It passes the Mountain Lake Hotel, where the movie “Dirty Dancing” was filmed.
Services are available in the larger towns near to the route, but groceries will be limited to mostly convenience stores on route. There are a few stretches with no services, so plan accordingly. Some cyclists may want to do this route during the colors of autumn. If you do, call ahead to verify campgrounds because some may close after Labor Day. If staying indoors, or at campgrounds, advance reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
Photo by Dennis Coello
This part of Virginia and West Virginia is hilly! You'll go from gentle grades along river valleys to steep, muscle burning climbs and fast descents over mountain ridges. The West Fork Trail and the Greenbrier River Trail, both rail trail conversions, have almost nonexistent grades along the Greenbrier River.
This route can be ridden anytime btween late spring to late fall. Services are available in the larger towns near to the route, but groceries will be limited to mostly convenience stores on route. There are a few stretches with no services, so plan accordingly. Some cyclists may want to do this route during the colors of autumn. If you do, call ahead to verify campgrounds because some may close after Labor Day. If staying indoors, or at campgrounds, advance reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.
The route follows the entire length of the Greenbrier River Trail. There is access to several towns for services such as groceries. Primitive campsites, drinking water and restrooms are available on the Trail. For a free trail map that shows exact locations of amenities call the West Virginia State Parks at 800-225-5982. Maps are also available from the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-336-7009.
Some campgrounds will charge a cyclist traveling by himself less if they have hiker/biker sites, but often they will charge the price of a regular tent or RV site, and that can easily be $10-$30/night. If you're friendly and ask around, you can often get yourself invited to camp in a yard. Our routes sometimes go through national forests (moreso in the west) and you are allowed to camp anywhere on national forest land as long as you "pack it in, pack it out." Many city parks are free to camp in.