Over twenty years of sweat equity by the trail builders of the River Valley Mountain Bike Association have gone into creating exciting, scenic, and sustainable singletrack at western West Virginia's Mountwood Park, and this circuit ride takes in most of it.
While the suggested direction of travel is generally counterclockwise, this loop may be ridden in either direction, and each way possesses its own unique character. Also, if the full ride is more than you wish to do, numerous bail-out and shorter-loop options may be chosen.
While riding at Mountwood Park, be sure to take the time to appreciate the peaceful setting of the forest and to explore the ruins and relics of what was once an early 19th century oil-producing region. Interpretive signs throughout the park provide fascinating history lessons for those who are interested.
There is also primitive and full hook-up camping, as well as beach house accommodations for those who wish to spend more than one day riding the 34+ miles of trails within Mountwood's boundaries.
It should also be noted that the Mid-Ohio Valley has over 150 miles of singletrack open to mountain bikers. Places such as nearby North Bend State Park and Ohio's Marietta City Trail Network, the Wayne National Forest, Sells Park, and Strouds Run and Lake Hope State Parks offer great riding experiences. These are all within relatively short driving distances, making the Mid-Ohio Valley a fine choice for an extended stay.
This ride starts at the Mountwood Lake marina parking lot located on Volcano Rd. less than a mile from its intersection with US Rt. 50. Cyclists leave the marina and cross Volcano Rd. onto the Copperhead Trail
. This follows a small creek uphill and leaves the drainage onto Rat Snake Trail
. Shortly thereafter, you are dropped back onto Volcano Rd. for a brief paved section. Follow Volcano Rd. to the next paved left at the northern end of the lake and take it around to a parking lot next to the lake house and the start of the gravel Lake Trail
. Almost immediately, take a right into the woods onto the Tecumseh
From here youll cross over three ridges, three drainages, and four singletrack trails (Tecumseh
, Medicine Man
, Warrior Ridge
, and Tomahawk
) as you make your way around the western side of Mountwood Lake. These trails offer happy climbs, swooping turns, blazing downhills, and quite nice dirt. If this loop didnt offer so much more, you might just want to turn around and ride this series of trails again.
Once you cross over Walker Creek on a sixty-foot bridge below the dam and into an open area, Tomahawk
Trail leads you up onto the northern edge of the upland marsh south of the spillway above Mountwood Lake. Be sure to keep on the lookout for the abundant wildlife in the area (deer, herons, raptors, beaver, muskrat, etc.) You join with the Lake Trail
again and eventually drop into the forest, past a rock formation, and down to lake level. There, you cross a small bridge over a stream that feeds a narrow cove, then round a promontory and climb away from the lake on the Prolog Trail
. Look for a historic foundation on the right and stop for a second at the top of the climb to take in the rocky power line right-of-way view.
At Prologs end you turn left for a pleasant spin on the gravel Walter Taitt Trail
that drops you back toward the lake. At the end of the Taitt Trail, hang a right onto Haystack
Trail and start to climb up onto a broad shoulder of Sand Hill above the Mud Lick Creek drainage. Once on top, meander across Log Jam
, Collar Bone Cutoff
, and Caretaker Trail
before stopping to explore the many remaining sandstone foundations from the mid-1800s oil and gas boom era at the Stiles Mansion Ruins Historical Complex. This is an interesting area with much to see, and interpretive signs provide insight into what life looked like in the oil town of Volcano before it burned to the ground in 1879.
From the Stiles complex head north on the Mansion Trail
, then turn toward Volcano Rd. again on Hunter's Roost
and Power Line
trails. Once you cross Volcano Rd. into the northeast portion of Mountwood Park, ride up White Oak Ridge
and Gary's Grind
trails onto the central ridge of Sand Hill and pass below the Wood County high point before blasting down a nearly mile-long downhill. At the bottom, cross a small bridge over the head of Mud Lick Creek.
At this point the Little Gnarly
trail takes you up a beautifully bench cut climb that eventually becomes a roller-coaster descent that ends at a three-way intersection. At this juncture, take Savanna
trail for nearly two miles away from Sand Hill and back toward Mountwood Lake. This trail wends in and out of the woods as it passes abandoned recreational areas, and it also offers some nice views as it crosses a high open area known as The Moon.
From the bottom of the Savanna
switchbacks, take Trip to the Moon
trail west on fast, fun singletrack for two miles as it climbs in and out of south-facing hollows to intersect with the Copperhead Loop trail. Ride this loop counterclockwise as it first climbs, then becomes a sweet final downhill before depositing you back at your vehicle again at the marina parking lot.
Mountwood Park and the former town of Volcano are in the heart of the Burning Springs Anticline, whose rugged geology allowed for the mid-19th century discovery of shallow oil deposits there. Old stone foundations and rusted machinery can be seen throughout the park, and historians have made the claim that the world's first engine-drilled oil well was sunk nearby. Late September's Volcano Days antique engine festival celebrates this area's rich history.