Friday, August 28, 2015

Biking Virginia's New River Trail

New River Trail State Park is Virginia's longest linear state park, traversing 57 miles through four counties and three towns following the right-of-way of the Norfolk Southern Railroad which donated the land. The trail has numerous trailheads with parking, washrooms, picnic tables, and maps, and the multi-use trail is available for bikes, hikers, and equestrians. It runs from Pulaski on the north to Galax on the south, with 39 miles paralleling the New River, 12 miles along Chestnut Creek out of Galax, 1.5 miles on Claytor Lake (a wide point of the New River), and the remainder through rolling pasture land. Trailheads are well marked with directional signs to assist in finding them.

The namesake New River is actually considered by geologists to be the second oldest river in the world (the Nile is the oldest) and flows north from North Carolina, through Virginia, and into West Virginia. It was originally called Wood's River but was renamed in the early 1700s by local settlers. The trail crosses the river three times on long trestles, with this shot taken at the Ivanhoe Bridge at milepost 30.3


Two old tunnels remain on the route, 135 feet long and 193 feet in length. The trail surface is sometimes hard-packed dirt and sometimes crushed limestone and is generally in excellent condition, although a few areas were a bit chewed up by horses. Watch also for occasional rock outcroppings, fallen rocks, and downed tree limbs. I came upon a state crew spreading new gravel and their work was noticeable with many miles of perfect conditions. The section south of Draper for 15+ miles is especially scenic as it travels on a ledge with the New River below on one side and towering bluffs on the other, both sides lush with greenery, and with infrequent signs of civilization evident. 



The northern-most crossing of the New River (Claytor Lake at this point) is on the lengthy, iron-framed Delton Bridge and offers good views of the water. A smaller iron bridge is also used to cross the New River at its confluence with Chestnut Creek at Fries Junction, twelve scenic miles up from the Galax Trailhead on the south. Thirty smaller bridges are also on the trail.


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