Southwest Virginia has long been an escape for outdoor pursuits. Scenic mountains and small-town charm have traditionally brought people to this corner of the state for things like hiking, camping, mountain biking, and fishing. But now those who like a little more power in their outdoor activities are in for a treat as the region has created a number of off-road ATV trails to create a new way to enjoy the area.
Turns out, the Appalachian Mountains of Southwest Virginia are the perfect place to put rugged off-road vehicles to the test. Whether you’re a first-timer or an off-roading die-hard, you’ll find plenty of options on the diverse trail system that’s been created over the last decade. Known as Southwest Virginia’s Spearhead Trail System, the group of five individual trail groupings have created a network of more than 300 miles of trail to explore by ATV. You’ll also find a lodging catering to ATV users, rental equipment, guide services, and support for your vehicle. Trails are rated, much like ski runs, to ensure you know what you’re getting yourself into. One permit allows you to access all the trails—and experience the mountains in a whole new way.
Each of the five groupings that make up the trail system have something different to offer visitors, and each within relatively close proximity, which allow you to explore multiple trails on a visit. Here’s a rundown on your options:
Coal Canyon : Located near Poplar Gap Park in Buchanan County, Virginia, Coal Canyon offers 61 miles trails that are perfect for ATVs and Side-by-Sides. Plans are in the works to ultimately create a 100-mile system stretching from the towns of Grundy to Haysi. You’ll find lots of family-friendly riding here on the site of reclaimed mining land, which offers lots of ridge-top views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Riders of all skill levels will find something to love here.
Mountain View : You’ll find more than 100 miles of tree-lined trails here, including 10 miles of singletrack for dirt bikes. While you’ll find a mix of trails for every level, the biggest number are rated as difficult, so you can put your vehicle (and driving) to the test here. The trailhead is in the ATV-friendly town of St. Paul, where you’re welcome to ride your vehicle around town as well as the trails.
__ Original Pocahontas__: Located near the historic town of Pocahontas, Virginia, in Tazewell County, this trail system is known for its “deep woods” experience along with impressive vistas. The OP, as locals call it, features 65 miles of twists and turns accessible from trailheads in Pocahontas (another ATV-friendly town) and Boissevain Park. If you want to explore more about the region’s mining history, the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine and Museum is an excellent way to see for yourself what’s involved in removing coal from the ground.
Ridgeview Trail : Just opened in 2017, the Ridgeview Trail System** **features 60 miles of trails—50 miles of multi-use trails with 10 miles of singletrack connected to the ATV-friendly town of Haysi, Virginia. Plans are underway to create additional trails for mountain bikers and equestrians to connect to the nearby Breaks Interstate Park. The majority of ATV tails are easy or moderate, making this a good spot for beginners, although those who like a challenge will certainly find their share of those as well.
Stone Mountain : The last trail grouping is the smallest, offering 30 miles of trails in Pennington Gap, Va., but they are primarily rated as intermediate and advanced, making this a big draw for aggressive riders. The area is also known for its nine overlook vistas that provide excellent views of the surrounding Stone and Black Mountains. You’ll find rest areas and picnic tables at many of the overlooks, making it a perfect spot for a picnic. The trailhead is in Leeman Park, which is filled with amenities for vacationing families, including an RV camping area, swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a picnic area.
Planning Your Trip**
While you’ll find plenty of campgrounds, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and cabins throughout the region, you also have several ATV-focused lodging options that are easily accessible from the trail.
Located at the Coal Canyon Trailhead,Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures features both camping (tent and RV) and cabins to rent. Standard cabins sleep 7-10 people, and are a great option to allow yourself the most time on the trails. Side-by-Side ATVs are also available to rent through Southern Gap Outdoor Adventures. You can also hire a guide to help you get to know the trails. In 2010, elk were reintroduced to Buchanan County—after an almost 100 year absence—and bus tours are available that offer a chance to see the creatures in the wild.
The family-ownedReal McCoy Cabins in Pocahontas features six rustic luxury cabins that are just off the OP trail system. Each sleeps four to six comfortably with heat and A/C and a kitchenette to prepare your own meals. Or take advantage of the breakfast, lunch, and dinner available onsite. You can drive your ATV to Pocahontas to grab a bite to eat or gas up the vehicle.
TheTrailhead ATV Resort in Boissevain also offers easy access to the OP trail system, with cabins, cottages, and RV/tent sites available. You’ll find modern facilities, including deluxe cabins that sleep six to seven, with kitchens, full bathrooms, TVs, and air conditioning. A camp store has just about anything you’d need for the trail.
For those without vehicles,Spearhead Trails Rentals and Tours in Coeburn, Virginia can outfit you with a Side-by-Side and everything else you’ll need for a trip. Want someone else to do the driving?St. Paul ATV Excursions offers guided tours of the trails.
Keep in mind that a trail permit is required for riding on the Spearhead System, which can be purchased atlocal retailers oronline. Once you’re out on the trails, you’ll quickly discover how in a very short time, this system of trails in Southwest Virginia has quickly become one of the top ATV destinations in the eastern U.S. Be prepared to get muddy and have fun.
Originally written by RootsRated for Southwest Virginia.
Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks