Southern Virginia’s New River Trail State Park has a very unusual shape. The park is 57 miles long but averages only 80 feet wide! The “trail” is a rails-to-trails mixed use path, much of it along the New River and Chestnut Creek, perfect to explore by bicycle. Interstate 77 crosses the park at around its midpoint; today we will explore the section of the park south and west of I-77, and leave the section to the north and east for another day.
The trail surface is crushed stone. Because of loose gravel and possible mud in sections, we would recommend cycling the trail with a 32mm or wider tire, preferably with raised tread. And because the trail is mixed use including horses, the surface can be rough, making at least a front fork suspension desirable although not essential.
Come along with us as we ride the 23 mile section from Austinville to Galax and then back. Find our route, or plan your own, with this trail guide. We took our time and enjoyed the scenery. The trail is surrounded by nature almost the whole way. The shady sections were especially welcome on this warm day.
Because the trail is a converted abandoned railroad bed, the inclines are gradual and we encountered many features related to its former use, such as passages through rock walls,
Exciting trestles over the New River and tributaries,
And even a (very dark and damp) tunnel…
The State of Virginia has done a good job adding amenities along the trail, including picnic areas and restrooms like the one below.
However, with a few exceptions there is no drinking water available so be sure to bring enough of your own. The river is placid in places, inviting us to get off the bikes and stretch our legs.
And flows more vigorously in other places including this small waterfall on Chestnut Creek.
After a full day of cycling, we headed for nearby Wytheville to spend the night. The town is working hard to attract tourists by improving sidewalks and other infrastructure in the business district. We found this 30 foot long pencil dating from the 1950’s to be the biggest attraction!
Our choice of lodging for the night was the 30-room Bolling Wilson Hotel. This historic boutique hotel was named after hometown girl Edith Bolling Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Learn more about her interesting life, including her role as the first First Lady to assume presidential functions. If you find yourself in Wytheville someday, there is also a museum in town.
But enough history. It is time to conclude our adventure. The hotel has a rooftop terrace with fire pits and nice views of the sunset, the perfect place to relax with a glass of wine after a long day in the saddle.
We will say Cheers! and goodbye for now, and look forward to sharing another adventure soon.