Allegheny Mountains Gravel Loop
The gorgeous Allegheny Mountain Range — part of the southern Appalachians — is considered one of the most stunning spots in the U.S.
The Allegheny Mountains Loop lets you experience the beauty of these impressive mountains and offers a wide variety of riding types — from pavement to gravel roads and rail trails, and from gentle grades along river valleys to steep, muscle-burning climbs and fast descents. The tour begins and ends in the beautiful West Virginia mountains and crosses back and forth between Virginia and West Virginia several times. The scenery is as diverse as the riding — from valley farmlands to majestic mountains, and from friendly small towns to remote and secluded wilderness.
After this amazing experience, you’re certain to appreciate why West Virginia is affectionately called the “Mountain State,” and you’ll understand why “Virginia is for Lovers” — lovers of great riding, awesome scenery, friendly folks, history, and must-see attractions.
"This was our first tour, but it won't be our last!"
Day 1. Gap Mills, West Virginia, 0 miles
We’ll gather for the first time together in West Virginia, known as the “Mountain State,” about 1.5 hours to the northwest of Roanoke, Virginia. We’ll get excited as we go through our orientation and map meetings, preparing us for the week ahead before we lay our heads down for a good night’s sleep alongside Moncove Lake.
Day 2. Gap Mills to Marlinton, 64 miles
We’ll head out early in the morning, and after a few brisk climbs on pavement, we’ll drop down to a beautiful gravel trail. Once a C&O rail line, the Greenbrier River Trail follows 78 miles of the longest free-flowing river in the East and winds through two counties rife with wildlife and scenic beauty. We’ll spend the night along the Greenbrier River.
Day 3. Marlinton to Cass, 37 miles
As we head north today out of Haines, we’ll ride past the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where as mWe’ll have the pleasure of a short, leisurely ride on the Greenbrier River Trail today over interesting bridges and tunnels to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, an area filled with unparalleled views and rich history. The town features an artisan’s co-op, a restaurant, an old soda fountain, the Historic Theatre, and the Historical Museum, America’s only authentic operating museum of lumber railroading. Let’s not forget the main attraction: the Cass Scenic Railroad offers daily excursions to Whittaker or Bald Knob using the same Shay engines that once hauled timber from the mountains. We will immerse ourselves further into the history by staying in the original logging company cabins.
Day 4. Cass to Bartow, 50 miles
A 15-mile rolling, high-valley ride brings us to the railroad town of Durbin, the start of the West Fork Trail. We’ll climb gradually for 22 miles on the old railbed to the town of Glady. After one mile of pavement, we will be on gravel for 10 miles to one of the most interesting overnight locations on our tour, located near the Laurel Fork Wilderness and sitting at 3,750 feet above sea level. Here, cabins share a half-acre grassy field surrounded by red spruce and yellow birch, and we’ll utilize an outside hand pump for drinking water, a gas stove, and a fireplace that will be reminiscent of days past.
Day 5. Bartow to Sunrise, Virginia, 57 miles
Delight in nearly 35 miles of gravel in the Monongahela National Forest. Pocahontas County, West Virginia, provides a roller-coaster ride up and over Burner Mountain and Frank Mountain to our high point of the day, Allegheny Mountain at 4,391 feet. From here it’s all downhill into Bath Country, Virginia, along Back Creek, to our campground beside the lake at Bath County Recreation Area, home of the “largest battery in the world.” The Bath County Pumped Storage Station is open to the public and produces electricity for nearly 750,000 homes — the largest of its kind in the world.
Day 6. Sunrise to Covington, 50 miles
Today’s ride offers scenic valley views along the western base of Boler Mountain before climbing up to ride along the shore of beautiful Lake Moomaw. We’ll enjoy a nice descent from the heights of Coles Mountain as we drop down to the Jackson River Scenic Trail. Twelve miles of waterfalls, river views, rugged rock formations, and spring flowers — these are the sights that put the “scenic” in Jackson River Scenic Trail. The serene rail trail traces the route of what was once the Hot Springs Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and leads us to our last overnight in Covington.
Day 7. Covington to Gap Mills, 41 miles
Our last day of riding is a real treat. The morning starts with a visit to Virginia’s oldest remaining covered bridge, the Humpback Bridge. It was built in 1857 as part of the James River and Kanawha Turnpike. This 100-foot bridge is one of the few of its type remaining in the U.S. We then begin our last section of gravel, a 2,100-foot climb through nine miles of the gorgeous George Washington National Forest. After summiting Peters Mountain, we descend into the Sweet Spring Valley, onto a beautiful Farm Heritage Road. Be sure to stop for a photo op at the historic 1872 Sweet Springs Resort. In Gap Mills, you can satisfy your taste buds or pick up souvenirs at the Mennonite-owned Cheese ’n More and Kitchen Creek Bakery. A gentle climb brings us back to Moncove Lake where it all began. Take a moment to sit on the banks of Moncove Lake with your new friends and reflect on a week well spent.
Know before you go
Please consider the terrain and road surface when preparing for this unique mountain tour. Portions of the tour require riding on rough, challenging, unpaved backcountry roads that are unsuitable for a road bike. Bicycles that can accommodate 42mm tires or larger are recommended. You can expect substantial climbing with some grades up to 18%. The recommended gearing is 23 gear inches or lower.