West Virginia Off-Roading Adventures | Men’s Journal
This article was produced in partnership with West Virginia Department of Tourism.
The wild and rugged landscapes of West Virginia have long served as a playground for ultimate thrill-seekers of every variety. From its rolling hills and rushing rapids to its pristine lakes and rambling forests, it’s no wonder this place is known as “Almost Heaven.” There’s no denying the Mountain State is a dream destination for anyone pursuing a full-throttle getaway—but one of its most epic adventures is also one of its best-kept secrets.
Not many travelers realize it, but West Virginia is an incredible ATV and off-roading destination. The mountainous terrain creates ideal conditions for endless backcountry escapades and one-of-a-kind excursions. But the real jewel is the legendary Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, one of the largest off-highway vehicle systems in the world.
1,000+ miles to explore
The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System consists of 10 distinct trailheads that encompass more than 1,000 miles worth of world-class trails. Some even interlock, creating hundreds of miles of uninterrupted routes. The trails zigzag through stunning mountain landscapes, loaded with thrilling elevation changes, dramatic twists and turns, and jaw-dropping overlooks at every turn. It’s all undeniably impressive, but not just because of the network’s remarkable size. The way the trails are marked, managed, and maintained make them a true work of natural art. Today, they’re revered as the blueprint and benchmark for other trail systems. And it’s also one of the best ways to explore West Virginia’s raw beauty and historic heritage.
Wondering where the name comes from? The moniker was derived from the famous feuding between the Hatfield and McCoy families, which unfolded across West Virginia following the Civil War. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System officially launched in October 2000, with 300 miles of trails, and has expanded multiple times since its inception.
So, if you’re looking for an autumnal escape with some horsepower, look no further than West Virginia. This off-road paradise is packed with spellbinding sites and heart-racing routes for riders of every skill level.
10 Trails in Hatfield-McCoy Trail System You Need to Know
Opened in 2000, Bearwallow holds the honor of being one of the original three systems of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails. And it’s still as popular as ever, thanks to its abundance of single-track trails. Bearwallow accommodates adventurers of all experience levels and offers a mix of easy riding and more difficult trails. It’s also the only trail open to ORVs in addition to ATVs, UTVs, and off-road motorbikes, so it routinely attracts a diverse set.
2. Buffalo Mountain
The most historic of the bunch is Buffalo Mountain, with its trails crossing through multiple sites where the world-famous Hatfield and McCoy feuds took place. It also boasts a bevy of single-track trails, luring dirt biking daredevils all year long. The system conveniently connects to three ATV-friendly towns in West Virginia: Matewan, Williamson, and Delbarton. From Buffalo Mountain, riders can also explore interconnected trails like Devil Anse and Rockhouse—so the possibilities are endless.
3. Devil Anse
Devil Anse links up with Rockhouse and Buffalo Mountain, making it easy to discover more than 300 miles of riding potential. The majority of these trails skew on the more difficult side, but it’s well worth the challenge. With direct access to gas, food, and overnight accommodations, Devil Anse is a solid starting point for any long-haul off-road adventure.
Another one of the three original Hatfield-McCoy trails, Rockhouse actually provides the largest single trail system, with more than 100 miles in total. Rockhouse isn’t the best for newbies and tends to draw the most extreme riders in search of a heart-pounding experience. Plus, it offers direct access into the towns of Man and Gilbert, both known for their warm sense of Southern hospitality.
5. Indian Ridge
In the market for a multi-day expedition? Then consider looking into Indian Ridge. It happens to be one of the largest continuous areas of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System network, connecting with the Pocahontas, Pinnacle Creek, and Warrior trails. Located in McDowell County near the town of Ashland, this system offers a variety of trail types and is ideal for all difficulty levels.
6. Pinnacle Creek
Known for its jaw-dropping scenery and scenic outlooks, Pinnacle Creek is picture-perfect in the fall. It’s connected with three other systems (Indian Ridge, Pocahontas, and Warrior), so it’s ideal for extended off-road escapes. Pinnacle Creek is also within an hour’s drive from other world-class West Virginia adventures like hiking, whitewater rafting, and skiing during the winter months.
Pocahontas is another perennial favorite. The trailhead can be tracked down in Coaldale, and architecture geeks flock to nearby Bramwell to witness the charming town’s collection of grand Victorian mansions dating back to the 20th century. This option tends to offer tougher trails, but there’s also a fair share of easier riding opportunities.
The aptly named Warrior trail system originates in the city of War—the southernmost city in West Virginia. Combined with the three previous trails, it (along with Indian Ridge, Pinnacle Creek, and Pocahontas) creates the most extensive continuous trail system east of the Mississippi. Jam-packed with scenic views, Warrior also accesses the ATV-focused city of Gary.
This newly minted Cabwaylingo trail opened to riders in March 2021 and marks the first in Hatfield-McCoy Trail System to be located within a state forest. Cabwaylingo State Forest sprawls over about 8,300 acres in southern West Virginia. The name is a combination of the four closest surrounding counties: Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, and Mingo. Here, riders can explore nearly 100 miles of pristine trails.
10. Ivy Branch
Located just 20 minutes from West Virginia’s capitol city of Charleston, Ivy Branch is another newcomer to the trail system. Its solid combination of challenging trails offers a real sense of adventure for riders of full-sized, off-road vehicles like Jeeps and land cruisers along with ATVs, UTVs, and dirt bikes.
What to Know Before You Go
It all sounds pretty epic, right? Well, before you pack up your bags and head off on your off-road quest, there are a few more things to keep in mind. You can find the full list of rules and regulations online, but here are some starter tips and tricks that’ll help make your trip a whole lot more enjoyable.
Pack Your Protective Gear
When it comes to any daring pursuit, safety always comes first. Those hoping to hit the trails must wear a DOT- or Snell-approved helmet, along with proper eye protection. It also helps to bring along waterproof clothing, over-the-ankle footwear, gloves, and plenty of water, sunscreen, and insect repellant.
Any operator or passenger younger than 16 must be under the direct supervision (and within eyesight) of their parent or guardian at all times while on the trails. No children younger than six years old are allowed on the trails.
Follow the Rules
Sure, it can be fun to challenge the rules sometimes, but not on the trails. Obey all signs, gates, barriers, and keep to the marked trails (they’re only open during daylight hours). You’ll also be expected to avoid littering and lighting fires, and you should leave your glass containers at home.
Always Operate Responsibly
There’s a lot of freedom on the trails, but don’t break that trust. Riders are expected to operate at reasonable speeds and remain in control of their vehicle at all times. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic, especially when it comes to blind curves and hills. No alcohol can be consumed or possessed by anyone accessing the trails. It goes without saying, but don’t drink and drive—you’ll only create a dangerous environment for yourself, your passengers, and other riders.
Grab a Trail Map
No matter how good you are with directions, we recommend picking up a trail map when you snag your permit. You can also find maps stashed at the trailheads. All the trails are well-maintained and clearly marked, but you’ll want to have a map on-hand, just in case. You can also download digital trail maps, if you prefer.
Ride into Town
While it’s tempting to stick to the trails all day long, you’d be cheating yourself if you don’t take some time to explore the surrounding towns. Essentially all the towns around the trail system are historic, so be sure to carve out some time to check out the local sites, grab some food, and shop for the perfect souvenir. You’ll be glad you did.
Plan a Fall Getaway
The trails are incredible all year long, but they take on a truly unforgettable ambiance in the fall. From the trails themselves to the surrounding towns, it all bursts to life with dazzling fall foliage and storybook charm in the autumn months. Want to time your trip perfectly? Check out the West Virginia Fall Color Map.
Additional Off Roading Destinations
Yes, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System gets a lot of (much-deserved) hype, but the off-road adventures don’t stop there. If you’re searching for another way to put the pedal to the metal, then you’re in luck, because West Virginia offers plenty of other options to get off the beaten path and explore. We’ve rounded up a few recommendations below that are worth adding to your list.
Burning Rock Off-Road Park
Located just a few miles from the town of Sophia, Burning Rock Off-Road Park encompasses 10,000 acres with over 100 miles of trails suited for every type of rider. Difficulty spans the spectrum from family-friendly runs like Tams Loop to the “enter-at-your-own-risk” option, The Amazon. Bring your bike, ATV, UTV, or Jeep to see it all for yourself. Or you can opt to travel light and take advantage of their on-site rentals. After, spend the night at one of their rustic rental cabins, just a stone’s throw from all the action. They also offer glamping accommodations, platform tents, RV sites, and more.
New River ATV
Sure, the New River Gorge region is famous for its whitewater rafting, but this slice of Almost Heaven is also a kick-ass destination for off-road enthusiasts. New River ATV is an experienced outfitter with top-of-the-line gear that’ll help any rider explore the area’s best hidden gems. From beginner to expert, there’s something for everyone to discover.
The Greenbrier Off-Road Adventures
The Greenbrier (known affectionately as “America’s Resort”) has a sparkling reputation, boasting a guestlist brimming with presidents, royals, and celebrities alike. But despite its sophisticated legacy, they also know how to get down and dirty. White Sulphur Springs is a hub for outdoor adventure, and their private 11,000-acre resort offers the perfect playground for off-road enthusiasts. Rent tricked-out Jeep Wranglers or Polaris RZRs to cruise across creeks and whip around towering hills with Greenbrier Off-Road Adventures.
Chaos Off-Road Park
Craving a full-throttle adventure that you’ll blabber on about for decades to come? Then book it over to Chaos Off-Road Park, located in Capon Bridge. The park covers 400 acres of West Virginian wilderness and has all the makings for the adventure of a lifetime. Deep mud pits, scattered rock gardens, and miles upon miles of seemingly endless mountain trails make this a must-see spot.
Those in search of a more family-oriented experience should check out Mountwood Park. Nestled in the picturesque Mid-Ohio Valley region, this country park opened Mountwood ATV Adventures in 2014. This section includes roughly 20 miles of thrilling, well-marked trails that range in grade from easy to moderate (with a couple of difficult options for more seasoned riders). There’s also a spacious overlook that serves up impressive panoramas of the mountains ablaze in all their autumnal glory. After, explore the park’s 50 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails; splash around in the 50-acre lake; or spend the night at one of the 87 campsites.
Where to Stay
After an adrenaline-fueled day spent navigating the trails, you’re going to want a comfortable place to rest your head. Luckily, West Virginia has no shortage of lodging options to consider. From cozy cottages to rugged state park campgrounds, there’s something to fit whatever you’re searching for. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling, but don’t forget to explore all the other accommodation options waiting for you in Almost Heaven.
Appalachian Outpost (Lyburn)
Enjoy the fresh air and wide-open spaces of Appalachian Outpost. This retreat boasts 25 rustic cabins that are sparkling clean and equipped with all the modern comforts of home (like free high-speed internet). Here, privacy is key, and each cabin offers a furnished kitchen, three separate bedrooms, and two full bathrooms. But the real treat comes when you venture beyond the cabin walls. The compound overlooks the Guyandotte River along with breathtaking views of the majestic mountain scenery. It’s located within a quarter-mile of the Rockhouse Trail System, which connects to the Devil Anse and Buffalo Mountain trails.
Chief Logan State Park (Logan)
Located in the heart of West Virginia’s southern coalfields, Chief Logan State Park offers guests an authentic Mountain State escape. Here, it’s all about reconnecting with Mother Nature and appreciating the surrounding natural beauty. The campground includes 26 units in total, many of which have full water, sewage, and electric hookups. It’s one of the most frequented facilities in the West Virginia State Parks System, likely aided by its proximity to the Hatfield-McCoy trails. Other treasures here include a swimming pool, an outdoor amphitheater that hosts seasonal performances, a unique Museum in the Park attraction, numerous picnic sites, and more.
Buffalo Trail Cabins (Bluefield)
Tucked away in Bluefield, Buffalo Trail Cabins is the unofficial headquarters for ATV enthusiasts. Located just 3.5 miles from the Pocahontas trailhead, guests can literally start kicking up dirt in a matter of minutes. The serene setting includes 26 cabins (ranging from single-room options to six-bedroom rentals) and six full-hookup RV sites. For an even more Instagram-worthy stay, book one of their seasonal rustic treehouse campsites, or snag an ultimate treehouse (complete with all the bells and whistles). When you need to fuel up for another daring day ahead, swing by their on-site restaurant and brewery.
Twin Falls Resort State Park (Mullens)
Set along a charming wooded ridge in the craggy mountains of Wyoming County, Twin Falls Resort State Park offers a truly idyllic getaway that’s also conveniently located to the Hatfield-McCoy trailheads. Guests can choose between spending the night at the 47-room lodge, booking one of the 14 secluded vacation cabins, or setting up camp one of the 50 sites (25 of which offer electric hookups). The park also features an 18-hole championship golf course, swimming pool, and the fully functional Pioneer Farm, which gives visitors a peek at what life really looked like for early frontier settlers.
Cabwaylingo State Forest
The Cabwaylingo State Forest encompasses roughly 8,300 heavily forested acres in southern West Virginia. Here, visitors can get cozy in one of the 13 legacy cabins, constructed from stone or wood frames. For a more modern stay, there’s also a standalone vacation cabin equipped with a fireplace, television, fully equipped kitchen, outdoor firepit, and heating and air conditioning. Most cabins are available from mid-April through the end of October. ATV, UTV, 4×4, and dirt bike riders will have a blast venturing along nearly 100 miles of unspoiled trails.
So there you have it—everything you need to know before you go and embark on the off-road adventure of your dreams. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is open 365 days per year, so you can plan your trip whenever you want (but we highly recommend squeezing in a visit as soon as possible to catch the unbeatable fall foliage; use this map to check the status). For even more travel ideas and inspiration, you can get a free West Virginia vacation guide mailed straight to your door, or click through the digital version. And for an instant hit of wanderlust, check out the #AlmostHeaven hashtag on social media to see real-time user-generated content from the trails and beyond.