It’s no secret that the mountains surrounding Snowshoe are home to some of the best mountain bike riding in the country. The Snowshoe Highlands Ride Center has been designated Silver status by the International Mountain Biking Association because of the quality and diversity of trails plus amenities in the area. Before you head out and hit the trails, make sure you do some research on the trail system. Pocahontas County is remote and sparsely populated with much of it designated as public land including National and State Forests so we recommend always riding with a buddy. To help get you started, we put together a list of our top 5 favorite backcountry rides in the area.
To start the list, we’ll begin with the Snowshoe Mountain backcountry. We may be biased, but Snowshoe is the best place to set up your home base as you work your way through this list.
1. Fingers to Silver Creek Figure 8 – Snowshoe Mountain
Ride Highlights: This ride will take you through just about every kind of terrain you can find at Snowshoe. The Fingers offers a beautiful inside look at a dense Spruce ecosystem, with lush mossy floors and rooty terrain. The Airport is a classic Snowshoe view, offering amazing Western mountain landscapes. The Figure 8 portion includes Beaver Dam, Enchanted Forest, and Headset Adjustment where you are challenged to find the flow among the technical terrain.
Directions: Start the ride by parking at the designated lot for access to the Fingers trail system. You’ll ride north about a mile until you get to the “High Point” of the Fingers where you can choose one of three descents, all of which will take you to the intersection of Snowshoe Drive and Silver Creek Drive. From there you will cross the road and climb on the gravel covered Airport Rd. After a mile or so you will see a road that goes left, take that until you see a picnic table and an informational sign about Snowshoe’s new Pollinator Garden. There will be a trail entrance on the treeline right beside the picnic table. Follow this trail for a mile until you pop out at the lower end of the field. Make that right onto Upper Beaver Dam. This mile long descent will quickly bring you to Black Run Road, which you will cross and the trail becomes Lower Beaver Dam. This part of the trail is a mix of pedaling and descending which eventually leads to the bottom of the Silver Creek ski slopes, near the Black Run Sugar Shack. From there you will make a left turn onto Black Run Road and climb about two miles until you reach Enchanted Forest on your right. You will then flow though the magical Spruce forests and eventually come across a trail on the right named “Headset Adjustment”. Follow this trail as it descends to the same place that Lower Beaver Dam ended. From here you’ll make a left onto Black Run Road, followed by another left on Silver Creek Drive. You will climb on this road for a few miles until you end up back at the intersection with Snowshoe Drive. Make a left onto the Powderpuff and climb it back to the top of the Fingers.
2. Cheat Mountain Ridge Trail to the Fire Tower, Bailout, Shavers Lake Trail – Snowshoe Mountain
Ride Highlights: This ride will check off a number of iconic Snowshoe landmarks from your bucketlist! The Fire Tower is a must visit in the summertime and will be the highlight of your ride. Along the way you will also pass the Backcountry Hut, which you can experience in full by booking a Hut Dinner with our Outdoor Adventure program. Last but not least, you will take a lap around Shavers Lake. These are Snowshoe adventure landmarks that will make you feel like a local!
Directions: This ride begins at the Top of the World at Snowshoe. You will ride up to Snowcrest and right after you pass the maintenance building in the parking lot, look for a trail in the woods to the left. Follow that trail into the storage yard until you see a blue bike maintenance station. This is where you will enter onto Bear Scat Trail. Follow this flat and flowy trail through the Spruce forest and look to stay right at intersections when they appear. You will pop onto the Cheat Mountain Ridge Trail road from time to time. While on the road, watch out for motorized vehicle traffic. You will eventually end up at Snowshoe’s Backcountry Hut. Behind the hut is a little shed and the singletrack trail continues just to left of the shed. Once you come out onto the road again, make a right and it will be another mile or so until you reach the Firetower. Take a break and climb the tower, where you will see some of the best views of the county. Bailout is back the way you came a few hundred feet on your right. This is a super rocky and rooty technical descent down to the lake. For a less technical alternative, ride back the Ridge trail another mile or so until you see 6,000 steps on your right. Once you are at the bottom of Bail Out or 6,000 steps, you will meet up with Shavers Lake Trail. Make a left and ride the trail around the lake until you reach Ballhooter lift. During operating hours, with a valid lift ticket, you can then ride up the lift and skip the climb. Otherwise, you will climb up the road until you reach the Snowshoe Drive/Silver Creek Drive intersection and take a left onto Powerderpuff to get you back to the village.
3. Hawks Ridge, Sparrow, Warbler, Junco – Mower Tract
Ride Highlights: Now we’ll head to the Mower Tract, a new trail system north of Snowshoe towards Elkins. These trails were machine built in the last few years and have a nice flow to them. They are great for beginner riders and are much smoother than most trails you’ll find in the county. The views from the open fields are one of a kind. Word on the mountain is that you can see all of the 8 river basins of Pocahontas County from up there!
Directions: From the parking area, head towards the visible high point where you will find the entrance to Hawks Ridge Loop. It will start with a short climb followed by a nice loop around the top of the mountain with some nicely exposed views heading into some thick Spruce forests. This loop brings you back to where you started, and you’ll cross the parking lot to access Sparrow Trail. There are many variations on how you can ride this next part, with some new additions like Thrasher if you’re feeling adventurous. Generally, you will make another loop starting right Sparrow on your right and keeping right at the intersections until you reach Junco. This will take you out to an opening and bring you back to the gravel via a long, mellow climb. Enjoy the dispersed camping available in the area and the great mountain views!
4. Powerline and Roaring Run – Gauley Base Trails
Ride Highlights: The Gauley Base Trails are a convenient way to get a quick ride in at any time of day. The trailhead is right off of Rt. 219, about 15 min south of Snowshoe Mountain. Both loops are accessed with a short gravel climb up from the parking lot and you can do any combination of them to get in as many miles as you’re feeling! These trails have mellow grades with gradual ups and downs where you can find a nice flow. The added ability to shuttle with a second truck or car is a great way to enjoy some classic singletrack without too much effort.
Directions: The parking for the Gauley Base Trails is at the Base of Mine Rd. Off of Rt 219. From there you will take the gravel road up for a mile or so until you reach Powerline Trail on the right. This is 1.5 miles of flowing up and down trail that leads to a short descent called Black Cherry on your right. This will lead you back to the parking lot where you will climb the road one more time until you see Roaring Run on your left. This will be a slightly shorter climb than the first one. Roaring Run is a little over a mile of chunky but surprisingly flowy, mellow downhill.
5. Tea Creek Mountain Trail from Mine Road – Tea Creek Backcountry Area
Ride Highlights: Tea Creek Backcountry hosts some of the most rugged and remote single track anywhere in the county. Riding deep in the woods and enjoying this untamed wilderness is what makes mountain biking in this area so special. Amazing views, the Tea Creek and the Williams Rivers, and the lush Spruce forests are just some of the natural beauties you will encounter. Tea Creek Mountain Trail is also able to be shuttled from the Tea Creek Campground if you’re just trying to get the goods without too much of the journey.
Directions from MTB Project: “Begin with a bit of technical up and down on Tea Creek Trail #454, taking the Gauley Mtn. – Tea Creek Connector #413 over to Gauley Mountain Trail. From there, you can take Right Fork Connector Trail #411, or head out to the road for a beautiful scenic overlook and optional bathroom break. From there, take Tea Creek Mountain Trail #452 which heads uphill, then through a rock field and short climb up to begin the 1,700-foot descent, which is a blast. From there, climb out on Bannock Shoals Trail #446 and FR 135 to Mine Road 219/1 and back to the parking lot.”
We recommend downloading an app like Trailforks or MTB Project to your phone and saving the maps for offline use. Some of the trails we’ve recommended are far from where you might have parked and have potential for confusion at some intersections. Connectivity is sparse or unavailable in most areas. Remember to always be prepared for minor bike problems, carry first aid, and ride with a buddy.