Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (2023)


Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (1)

Just one thing

September 2021 weilke

Great trail, as described with more words by others.

Just one thing: When you head down from Thomas and you get to the sewage plant, make sure you hook a right at the end of the fence that surrounds the plant. It's easy to miss the actual entry into the trail. If you miss the entrance, you ride through some river-bottom neighborhoods and get peoples dogs excited.

It's definitely mountainbike territory once you get past the forest service gate. Pretty coarse gravel and the occasional branches across the path. Also, a few small washouts that are well marked.

And while it's a 'rail trail', the grade is a bit steeper than you will find on many other rail trails. During the coal hauling days, they would add 6 locomotives to the train just to get the empty hopper cars up the hill. Nothing wrong with it, just something you need to anticipate for the way back up.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (2)

Upper trail through Thomas

August 2021 vdeal

We started our ride at the Douglass road crossing where there is a sizeable parking area and headed north. The first section is in fairly decent shape with a crushed gravel base. There is a washout fairly soon after starting but easily rideable with mountain bikes. Several historic markers along the way. Soon you reach a nicely decked bridge over the North Fork of the Blackwater River and pass a sewage treatment plant. From here on the trail is a shared use gravel road. It is in decent shape into Thomas. If you continue north the gravel becomes coarser and many large puddles appear. Fortunately the puddles have solid bottoms so you can ride right through if so inclined. The trail ends at Rt 219 where you can backtrack. There are a few access points into Thomas where you can find food and drink. We stopped at the TipTop and were not disappointed.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (3)

Best trail ever ridden

April 2021 tomghaas1991

Rode from Parsons to Thomas and then back. Took me about four hours, over three to reach Thomas and less than one to ride back. It is sustained uphill coming from Parsons, but never steep. I didn't rush and stopped constantly to take pictures. I bought a low-end mountain bike and drove 100-some miles just to do this trail and both were well worth it. I've ridden many much-lavished trails and none beats this one for its views. Deep valley to peer into, a loud rushing river, a dozen or more waterfalls with two spectacular ones. I feel that I needed the dual-suspension bike because the surface was so rough and bumpy. Not hard at all with my mountain bike but I wouldn't want to do it with a street bike.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (4)

Beautiful Trail

September 2020 teamgzfs

We parked by the river on Douglas Road and rode to Hendricks. The ride is beautiful with many cool features to see. Douglas Falls was a bit chilly on 9/12 but we could not resist taking a brief swim.

Ride back up from Hendricks is a bit of an uphill push, but still a nice ride. If you have younger riders you might want to consider being dropped off in Thomas and picked up in Hendricks. Or perhaps starting in Hendricks and knocking off the uphill ride to Thomas and then saving the sweet downhill ride for the way back.

Great Trail!

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (5)

(Video) Blackwater Canyon Trail day 1

A diamond in the rough....don’t miss this gem!!!

September 2020 bikin-mike

One word describes this ride - WOW!!!

Beautiful scenery, and rode about 6 miles without turning a pedal.

First, I have to start with a disclaimer. website clearly states “this section is quite steep and is not maintained for recreational use”.

I rode this on a hybrid with 700x38 tires and had no problems. Sure, wider tires would have been nicer, but maybe the suspension fork and seatpost saved me?

Trail is singletrack hard packed cinders with pea sized gravel. It will shake everything on your bike and give your arms a great massage. Trail never felt soft or mushy. Had one small washout about a foot wide and maybe 6” deep. Easy to walk across, and they had it marked with reflector posts so we knew something was there.

Started our ride behind the post office in Thomas. Don’t let the puddles scare you away. It’s not all like this. Trail starts as a 10 ft wide gravel driveway with potholes that goes to the sewage treatment plant. We missed the right turn across the bridge after the plant, so we ended up on Douglas Rd. Rode the paved road down the hill and across the river. Slight left turn onto the gravel road with the Douglas Falls sign. More potholes and have to watch for cars coming at you on the one lane road. Be careful crossing the bridge. I walked it. Went through a small parking area at the falls and finally got to the yellow gate. That’s where the fun starts. Beautiful Douglas Falls on the left. Partially obscured by trees. Next 6 miles was all down hill with some gorgeous views. Passed 3 waterfalls coming down the canyonside and under or over the trail and into the river. Great view of the canyon from the spot with the railing. I don’t think I turned a pedal until we got to the yellow gate north of Hendricks. What a ride!!! Had about 2 miles on a gravel road to the beautiful trailhead in Hendricks. Our driver had picked up sandwiches in Parsons, so we sat in the pavilion and enjoyed lunch.

Part of me wishes it was fixed up so more folks could enjoy it, but part of me says leave it wild and wonderful. Be sure to check out this gem if you are in the area....Bikin-Mike - 09/01/20

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (6)

All to myself downhill from Thomas to Hendricks

November 2019 tenofthese

On 27Nov2019 - weather unseasonably warm high 50s with heavy overcast damp & light mist, rain forecast. I was hesitant - 62 & riding solo - I brought the wrong bike (with All Condition tires 700x28mm - not a mountain bike). I was diligent about keeping my eyes on the trail and both hands on the bars. A wider tire would have been much better but the ride was still wonderful. I strongly recommend dismounting & walking the railroad bridge N of Douglas Falls. AT&T cell fair.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (7)

Safety measures for the railroad trestle bridge

May 2019 dmegert58

My son and I attempted to ride the trail from Thomas to Hendricks on Dec. 2,2018. While trying to avoid the deep water filled pot holes in the road I approached the railroad bridge located above Douglas Falls, out of position to travel on the narrow planks covering the ties. I proceeded down the center of the bridge across the railroad ties until my front tire met with a damaged tie about two thirds of the way across. The bike stopped, I flew over the handlebars down through the side of the bridge and hit head first into the steel beam above the stone bridge abutment. I suffered a broken neck, hand and torn rotator cuff, finally landing in the creek below.
My point in writing this is not to ruin anyone's experience on this trail. I have ridden it up and down before and found it to be a wonderful experience, which is why I wanted my son to experience it with me on this trip. The Park Service needs to completely cover the crossties with planking and add guard rails to prevent anyone from falling through.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (8)

Labor Day

November 2016 george.dasher

We rode this trail just before Labor Day. Parked at Hedricks and rode up, had a beer or two (and excellent crossaints (however you spell them)) at the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, and drifted all the way back down to our cars. It was great ride, and the trail was well maintained--unlike our previous experience on this trail. We will most likely do this again--and again.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (9)

Great vistas

October 2016 biagio_wallace

This is one of the great trails for breathtaking scenery. Started in Parsons WV and rode to Thomas WV. The ride from Parsons to Hendricks is paved once in Hendricks the trail ascends to Thomas. About two miles past Hendrick the trail get's a little rough and is not maintained but the struggle is worth the views. Once you get to Douglas Falls the ride into Thomas is fairly easy. Thomas is a great mountain town with all amenities. This trail would be outstanding if maintained but it is definitely one of the best trails in the country.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (10)

Not your standard Rail Trail....

August 2016 beachbum25

Rode this Trail one way downhill from Thomas to Hendricks using a Shuttle First week of August. You can park right on the Street in Thomas & there is a lot in Hendricks at the Town Park where the Blackwater Canyon Trail meets the Allegheny Highlands Trail. This trail looked nice as well, first part is paved but I didn't ride it a a thunderstorm was moving in.

First few miles of The Blackwater Canton were very much like a Standard Rail Trail, than the single track started. Not really too challenging, trail is wide at first, but then gets pretty narrow in spots. Trail isn't too rough but it is single track mountain biking, but you just can't call it anything else. I wouldn't take anything but a Mountain Bike down this trail based on it's current conditions.

There are some great views, but they would be better in the fall & even after the leaves drop. Very lightly traveled, I only saw 5-6 others on the trail & no other bikes so it is pretty secluded....was a great ride!

Be advised the middle 5.5 miles of this trail are not maintained by the NPS & it shows. Actually saw one guy w/a Gas Weed Eater doing his own trail maintenance in the National Forest! There is a section in the middle of this trail which isn't much wider than your bike tire w/A LOT of Stinging Nettles growing very close to the will hit them so they would be an issue in the Spring/Early Summer! Fortunately they were about 3 weeks past the stinging stage when I was there. Folks at Blackwater Bikes in Davis can help you w/anything you need in this area including local info, maps, repairs, etc....great local bike shop!

(Video) Gravel Biking | WV's Blackwater Canyon

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (11)

It's own sense of beauty.

March 2016 rwm7654

Either direction you start is a winner. The ride, yes a tad bumpy with a dash of mud but we'll worth the beauty that abounds the trail. Thomas,WV is worth the visit alone.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (12)

Really fun, dramatic

September 2015 jbcarroll

Travelled N to S (downhill) on loaded touring bike in September. For a single track the path is in pretty good shape, though there were some rocks, occasional muddy spots despite the dry weather, and several trees down requiring little detours. I accepted these as contributing to the wildness of the place. Excessive speed would be dangerous, and would also cause one to miss the occasional dramatic views. The views would be better after leaf fall, as there is abundant small to medium tree growth. I hope this trail doesn't get much more developed as that would detract from its wildness and increase the risk of serious accidents.
There is potential to extend the trail above Thomas, and I hope that can be done. There the present gravel road in the ROW is not good for biking, but wide enough that a part of it could be cordoned off and cinderized for a better surface.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (13)

Needs help in clearing trail and improving

July 2015 penick14

Been to this trail the past 3 years. It has
a great waterfall that you can not see because
of tree growth and no view clearing.

This trail could be one of the best in the country but it need tons of local work and
work from the State of WVA.

It's only gotten worse over the past 3 years.

Some work was done at the beginning but it's a 10 mile trail and only work at the top 2 miles
has happened. This needs State Money bad.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (14)

More than you expect

July 2015 mollydogg

First things first, this is not your typical rail to trail. There is a significant but steady incline or decline depending on your entry point. Second the trail is rugged yet gorgeous.
To be clear, if you are not a strong rider, you should either start in Fredrick and ride as far as you can then turn around or ride from Thomas and have a friend or a shuttle meet you in Fredrick.
There are only two points I would park. Pull into downtown Thomas (it's a really cool artsy community). We parked right on the street unloaded, dropped over the small drop to the rail bed and started riding.
As mentioned, you may choose to start in Fredrick...if so, there is a really nice park right off of Third and Main. Just follow the signs to stream access and bike path. Park in the park if you want to take this trail make a right and cross will be on a gravel road for the first mile or so then it switches to a single track and it's all up hill from there...
As mentioned, the trail is rugged and there are several spots where there is not much between you and some very dangerous drops. But understand the danger, hard work and effort will bring huge rewards. On the day we went the water was running heavy and there was an absolute gem of a waterfall not far from Thomas. The most incredible thing about that waterfall is how huge and powerful it was yet it is clearly rarely seen by anyone.
Suggestion a helmet use a solid mountain bike with a good seat and enjoy this won't regret it...well unless you start in Thomas and forget yourself and ride to the end without a shuttle. That would suck but other than that, enjoy.

(Video) Blackwater Canyon Holloween Ride 4K

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (15)

Wet ride

November 2014 amphibo

Rode the trail in early November after a great deal of rain had fallen. The trail which turns into single track after the trail heads was leaf covered and wet. Since I'd never ridden it before I spent most of the downhill trip to Hendricks covering the brakes. I was riding a hardtail with 2" knobbie tires at 50psi so I felt a lot of 'chatter'from the gravel on the downhill portion of the ride. The payoff for riding in the soggy conditions was enjoying the beauty of three small waterfalls along the ride and the constant roar of the river in the canyon as a result of all the precip. You pay for the 'free' ride down on the way back up. The grade is never too steep but there are rarely any false flats to rest or spin your legs. As the saying goes 'slow and steady win the race'. Would definitely recommend it for anyone visiting the area.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (16)

Blackwater Canyon Trail

September 2014 silverstreak

I rode this trail with two friends in late September 2014. We began at the Thomas end of the trail. 36 degrees at the start of the ride! This trail is more on the primitive end of the rail trail scale, but don't let that dissuade you! With a little work comes great reward! The views and roaring of the river far below the trail are incredible. We coasted and braked almost the entire length of the trail. The trail itself is a little rough and we definitely felt it in our hands and forearms from gripping the handlebars tightly. A few drop-offs immediately left of the trail were dangerous and probably would kill you, so keep your eyes on the trail while moving!!! I gave this trail 4 stars only because some may not like the vibration from the rougher trail. I loved it, and would definitely ride it again!!!

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (17)

Great Trail

June 2014 redline814

After reading online comments, I was expecting this trail to be filled with obstacles. Not the case at all.

The trail is clearly not maintained like most rail-trails. But, all sections are easily passable by foot or bike. I was on a cyclocross bike (700x32mm tires) with a BOB trailer. I had no flats or mechanical issues.

The weather was perfect yet I only passed 6 people total (out and back). It did not seem like a well traveled trail.

I started on the north end near Thomas. I somehow got lost trying to find the trailhead and ended up parking in a lot at the intersection of Douglas Road and the trail. Once I passed the fire gate, the trail narrowed a bit. I coasted most of this trail. It slopes downhill enough where you only pedal a few times per minute.

The scenery is excellent. There are many waterfalls and river views. You can stop at most of them and enjoy them upclose. Others are down a steep slope or you are looking at the river down in the canyon. This trail mostly is up high.

Once you reach Parsons, there are food options.

The reverse trip is all uphill. Save some energy because you will be pedalling the whole way.

Overall its a great trail!

Our 6 and 8 year Olds loved this trail. It was easy riding with a very consistent grade and only a couple of minor obstacles. We couldn't believe we only saw one other person - but we did get underway early.
The trailhead instructions were unclear, just as easy to park by the river in Thomas and ride the extra 1 1/2 miles from there - and your car will be safer too.
Check out Tip Top cafe we loved it before and after the ride :)

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (19)

Blackwater Canyon Trail Clear

March 2014 saveblackwater

(Video) Trail Improvement in the Blackwater Canyon

The Blackwater Canyon Trail is open. During the summer and fall of 2013, volunteers worked to clear the trail of the fallen trees.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (20)

Lost trail

May 2013 tshull1

Myself and some others tried to ride the trail and its not passable any longer... We started from Hendricks and after the gate trees where blocking the trail. We walked around them and we were met with more and more and it got the point that we were getting cut up and having a hard time working our bikes through the tangle of trees. Needless to say we turned back and abandoned, our day of the Canyon ride....... Very SAD! I loved riding it last year a few times but now I'm afraid without a huge effort we are looking at a trail that is gone.
If you love that trail and have a day to spend cutting it out then lets arrange it and make it happen.....

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (21)

Blackwater Canyon Trail

January 2010 jimwaite03

This trail has a lot of potential, but the surface is very poor and this makes the riding unpleasant. There are many better choices nearby in West Virginia, western Maryland, and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (22)

Back for more

July 2006 Anonymous

"I was camping in WV and could not leave till I rode this trail again. It is not for everyone, but if you love to ride in WV this is one trail you have to try, both ways. I did pulling my trailer and I am 52. I WILL BE BACK FOR MORE !"

Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (23)

"Great Ride, Sense of Wilderness"

July 2004 Anonymous

"I ""discovered"" this trail by accident when I came to the end of the newest section of the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail at Hendricks in May 2004 (I had no maps with me and had no idea where I was even headed until I returned to Davis that night!).

This was an easy uphill due to the rail grade. As I ascended, I felt as though I had entered a great wilderness. I wasn't sure what would appear around the next bend. And, darn, where was my fishing gear!?!

It was delightful. Mildly technical in a few spots, it's a trail advanced novices and seasoned riders alike can enjoy. By the way, I'm a 53 year old female.

This trail needs no improvements, just maintenance. I would not want to see it developed.

If you have not traveled Rt 72 between Parsons and Dry Fork, you've missed some wonderful WV scenery.


Blackwater Canyon Trail | West Virginia Trails (24)

Loved it!

June 2003 Anonymous

(Video) Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail Ramble, Pt. 1

"I rode this trail from Thomas to Parsons on June 22, 2003. I loved it -- it's very remote and wild. The trail in this direction is almost all downhill. I rode the brakes a lot. Going uphill most of the way back was not that bad. I am 49 and made it."


How long is Blackwater Canyon trail? ›

Enjoy this 19.7-mile out-and-back trail near Hambleton, West Virginia. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 7 h 23 min to complete.

How long is the trail to Blackwater Falls? ›

Get to know this 0.4-mile loop trail near Davis, West Virginia. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes an average of 16 min to complete. This is a very popular area for camping, hiking, and walking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

Which rim of Black Canyon is best? ›

A deep and narrow chasm splits Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park into two breathtaking destinations: the North Rim and the South Rim. The South Rim is the most popular. It's the easiest to access, has the most scenic viewpoints, and is located the closest to nearby restaurants and hotels.

Are there alligators in Blackwater River State Park? ›

White-tailed deer, bobcats and turkeys are common, while river otters and alligators are occasionally seen.

What is the hardest hike in Shenandoah National Park? ›

1. Old Rag Mountain. Arguably the most beautiful and difficult hike in the entire park, this 9 mile circuit offers an elevation gain of 2500' and a difficult rock scramble for over a mile. Don't let the elevation gain or rock scramble deter you, the 360 degree views from the summit are well worth the effort.

How long is the 4 waterfalls walk? ›

The 4 Waterfalls Walk is around 4.5 mile. However, depending on which point you decide to start, the route will vary slightly in length. Here is a breakdown of the distance and the estimated time it will take you to complete the walk directly from the car park.

Is it free to go to Blackwater Falls? ›

There is no fee to play. Disc golf at Blackwater Falls has a unique layout.

What is the closest city to Black Canyon? ›

Towns & Cities Near Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Montrose, CO. 19.9 mi / 36 mins.
  • Delta, CO. 41.1 mi / 58 mins.
  • Ouray, CO. 55.2 mi / 1 hour 17 mins.
  • Gunnison, CO. 68.8 mi / 1 hour 30 mins.
  • Crawford, CO. 69.9 mi / 1 hour 33 mins.
  • Telluride, CO. 84.5 mi / 1 hour 55 mins.
  • Mt Crested Butte, CO. 99.9 mi / 2 hours 11 mins.

Which is better north or South Rim Black Canyon? ›

What is the difference between the South Rim and North Rim? The South Rim has more services, facilities and overlooks, and provides better views of the Painted Wall. The North Rim is accessed via a gravel road, has no visitor center, but does provide better views into the narrowest part of the canyon.

Do alligators bother kayakers? ›

Yes, they are perceiving your kayak as an unknown, potential hazard and they're going to a different location where they feel safer. In more remote locations, it's common for alligators to react more quickly than those in areas that are frequented by kayakers.

Are there manatees in Blackwater River? ›

The manatees spotted in Blackwater River were not far from Mitchell's home, so protecting these friendly sea cows and other wildlife has become even more important to Mitchell.

Can you swim in Blackwater Falls? ›

Nature-made swimming spots. If you prefer to get your toes wet in a free-flowing natural body of water, check out the swimming hole at Audra, or go for a swim at a lake or beaches at Blackwater Falls, Cacapon or Tygart Lake state parks.

How long is Blackwater Falls sled run? ›

At over 1,300 feet long, Blackwater Falls State Park's sled run is considered to be the longest and fastest in the country!

How long is Blackwater sled run? ›

It's over a ¼ mile long and feels like a bobsled track when freshly groomed. The magic carpet conveyor sweeps you up the hill after each ride. Laying on the sled while the conveyor pulls you through the snow-covered trees is an experience straight out of the Never Ending Story.

Is Black Star Canyon hard? ›

Try this 6.7-mile out-and-back trail near Silverado, California. Generally considered a challenging route, it takes an average of 2 h 48 min to complete. This is a very popular area for hiking and mountain biking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.

How long is Black Run Preserve trail? ›

5.0 miles or shorter, easy, flat, sandy trails.


1. Bikepacking West Virginia - West Fork Trail - Allegheny Highlands Trail - Blackwater Canyon Trail
(Bronson Lockwood)
2. Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail Ramble, Pt. 2
(History's a Blast)
3. WEST VIRGINIA WATERFALLS!!! | Exploring the Blackwater Canyon
(Friends of Blackwater)
4. Blackwater Canyon Trail day 2
(Footsteps Ahead)
5. Blackwater Rail Trail Virtual Tour
(Friends of Blackwater)
6. 3 day jeeping and camping trip in West Virginia. Canaan Valley Blackwater Canyon.
(Uncle Jack's Outdoors)
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