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Underexposed: Pocahontas County, WV 2

Loamy, dank, and deep - this is Appalachia at its best.

As you're driving across county lines into Pocahontas County, one thing becomes very clear: locals are hoping you're here to play in the mountains. I mean, it literally says pretty much exactly that on an actual welcome sign. There's a lot of open space here and not a lot of people, so the opportunities are damn near endless, particularly if you're here to ride trails. Throughout the county you'll find a number of epic opportunities to go up and down some of the state's most beautiful landscapes, which include the largest forest service owned wilderness east of the Mississippi, a world class bikepark, and its adjacent backcountry. This is Appalachia at its best: loamy, dank, and deep.


As one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet; time, wind, and water have whittled once massive, jagged summits into a more modest, tree covered range of peaks and valleys. It's never been about the size, however, or else the appeal here wouldn't compare to the mountains of the American west or in Europe. It's that primordial impression that, for me at least, is the primary appeal of this archaic range that spans from southeastern Canada to the southeastern United States. The climate here is more typically associated with the Pacific Northwest, with no real "dry" season, and a fairly narrow scope between average highs and lows. It rains quite a bit, hence the green glow that seems to almost permeate from the valley. It records some of the least severe weather in the United States annually, yet sits near the top of the heap when it comes to fog and clouds compared to the national average. Its forests are dense, wildlife diverse, and the recreational opportunities prolific throughout this nebulously shaped territory.

Welcome to the green room
Welcome to the green room Brice Shirbach
West Virginia Backcountry: make mtb janky again.
West Virginia Backcountry: make mtb janky again. Brice Shirbach

West Virginia, whose state motto is "Wild and Wonderful", is an easy place to get lost in, whether intended or not. In the heart of West Virginia, situated atop the nearly mile high shelf of the Allegheny Mountains, you'll find a horseshoe shaped convergence of ridges, the Cheat and Back Allegheny mountains specifically, forming a beautiful confluence that has resulted in one of the finest collections of mountain bike trails anywhere in America. Moss and ferns line the forest floors, while dark ribbons of loamy earth slash and wind their way through forests of red spruce, eastern hemlock, yellow birch, American beech, red maple and black cherry trees. It’s a part of the world with copious amounts of open space and wilderness paired with a decidedly scarce population.

Pocahontas Trails is the local non-profit organization tasked with the advocacy and stewardship of trails throughout the region. Their history dates back to the early nineties, and over the years have developed several strong partnerships with a number of area land managers, tourism bureaus, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, among others, putting themselves and the rest of the county in a position to develop the Snowshoe-Highlands Ride Center, an IMBA Silver-designated ride center, the first of its kind for the state and second ever on the east coast. Between the bike park and the backcountry throughout the rest of the county, there are upwards of 375 miles of trail available for riders. Anchored by Snowshoe Mountain Resort, the Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center features unlimited single track adventure at the Snowshoe Bike Park, the Gauley Mountain basin, Tea Creek area and Mower Tract of the Monongahela National Forest. Fall line trails, deep, luxurious pockets of damp soil, and an evergreen glow that more closely resembles what you might expect to find in the Pacific Northwest than in West-by-God-Virginia.

You have to look hard for the entrance to Ruff & Tumble, but it's well worth the effort.
You have to look hard for the entrance to Ruff & Tumble, but it's well worth the effort. Brice Shirbach



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