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Slatyfork
By Robin Brown Broughton

Located just a few miles south of Snowshoe on US 219, the best rides in the Monongahela National Forest can be accessed through Elk River Touring Center. (Since Snowshoe and Slatyfork are practically next door neighbors, a great vacation to West Virginia would include several days of riding at each place.) In Slatyfork, you can grab a map of nearby rides or sign up for a tour or rent bikes at the center's bike shop.

"The Monongahela National Forest has millions of acres--300,000 of them in this county," says Gil Willis, owner of Elk River Touring Center. "This is the riding that has put West Virginia on the map. The scenery's some of the nicest in the East. And the wildlife is incredible--bear, bobcats, wild turkey, and an occasional mountain lion."

To get the most of the trails you have to climb about four miles up Gauley Mountain Road. You can drive your vehicle to the top and park there--but it's a pretty gratifying climb on a mountain bike. It's probably one of the longest climbs in the Mid-Atlantic. The gravel/dirt road wind up the mountain gradually at first but becomes steeper as you near the top. And there's nothing more rewarding than seeing truckloads of people being carried up the hill while you make it on your own human power. Trust me, just when you think you can't pedal another stroke, you reach the summit.

About four miles farther (the hill continues if you want some more), most people take Gauley Mountain Trail, a rocky piece of old railroad bed that's mostly flat for miles of fast riding. From here, you can access a lot of other singletrack trails, which you can find on the map. One trail, Red Run, is marked "experts only" on the map. "Experts only is an understatement--if you're looking for a real challenge, this is for you! Other intermediate to advanced trails to try include Bannock Shoals, Tea Creek Mountain and Marlin Mountain.

One of my all-time favorite trails, Props Run, is basically a fast, slippery-when-wet stream that runs off the mountain and back to the inn. Before riding this trail, you should check on it condition.

Beginners might want to try any of the ridge loops off of the nearby Scenic Highway or some of the trails near the lodge.

Check out Slatyfork's Fat Tire Festival in August. For more information call Elk River Touring Center at 304-572-3771.

Snowshoe || Slatyfork (top) || Cheat Mountain || Canaan Valley ||
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New River Gorge || Kanawha State Forest || Charles Fork Lake || Morgantown

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