This is an exceptional ride in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It starts and finishes with relatively easy riding crossing an open field area that can be stunning, particularly in late afternoon sunlight. Here there are views of beautiful Canaan Valley offset by blooming wildflowers and golden grasses. You'll also loop around the trails of Canaan State Park, which make for interesting, moderately challenging riding. With these trails you'll gain access to the spectacular meadow that contains Club Run, part of the headwaters of the Blackwater River. As you leave the meadow you begin an ascent up a recently improved trail that ranks as one of the best enduro-style downhill runs in the area. Yes, you'll be huffing up it, but don't worry, as soon as you complete the climb, it will be time to turn around and rip your way back down. Allow at least 2h for complete Nirvana.
Most of the time you'll have these trails to yourself. But, relative to other nearby trails, the State Park trails Club Run, Middle Ridge, Railroad and Back Hollow do get a fair number of visitors. Please be courteous and yield to pedestrians. Once you leave the State Park on Allegheny Trail there is the possibility of encountering hunting.
Start on Back Hollow Trail
: You'll see the trailhead on the Park entrance road just opposite the parking area. It starts as a dirt road, then a right turn takes you onto a trail crossing an open field. It meets a road and follows it to the right for a few hundred feet before reentering the field and paralleling a tree line. Continue up a brief ascent, turning left where it meets the Back Hollow Trail Extension
doubletrack and ride the track through some trees to another field. Stay to the left (on unmarked Monarch Trail
) to the junction where you'll see a signpost for the Allegheny and Railroad grade trails.
Right on the connecting trail: This right is at the signpost and it will take you onto a doubletrack behind the State park cabins out to a signpost for Club Run Trail
Left on Club Run Trail
: Take this singletrack until the next possible left, which is a branch of the same trail.
Left to stay on Club Run Trail
: Take the branch down to Club Run and follow the trail as it loops back up to the next trail crossing, which is Ridge Top Trail
Left on Ridge Top Trail
and continue to Middle Ridge Trail
: After the left, stay to straight up the hill and then enjoy the thrilling (but too short) descent down to a meadow that is part of the headwaters for the Blackwater river. Here you'll see a signpost marking the Allegheny trail.
Left on Allegheny Trail: This will take you along the west side of the meadow across two bridges to another signpost.
Right to stay on Allegheny Trail: Stay to the right at the signpost to avoid the Rail road grade trail. This will take you uphill past a ski sign. You'll now continue several miles of ascent on mixed terrain (meaning there are bridges, roots, rockgardens, and small stream crossings) until the trail tops out in a meadow and reaches Canaan Loop Road. At this trailhead there is a small parking area, often used as a campsite.
Reverse direction at Loop Road: Loop road offers access to all the gnarly trails of Canaan Mountain and various combinations could be used to extend the ride. However, our ride turns around here. Having just come up Allegheny, you'll no doubt be thinking that it would be much better in the opposite direction. Now is your chance! Enjoy the perfect enduro-style downhill. At the completion of the descent you'll again see the signpost marking the Railroad grade Trail. Staying left, continue the way you came back to the signpost marking Middle Ridge.
Left on Middle Ridge Trail
: This will take you up a short steep section and then continue until a junction with the loop going right and a bridge ahead to the left. Continue to the left, across the bridge and up to the State Park road.
Left on State Park Road then first right up a hill past tennis courts. At the parking area, look for the Back Hollow Trail
on the far side of the parking area.
Descend Back Hollow Trail
and continue until comes out on the Park road. Cross the road and continue on Back Hollow Trail
making a left down a hill to start retracing your steps back to the start/finish.