West Virginia ATV Tour Review 1
If only there were a place where dirt bikes and quads could emerge from lush forest trails and ride straight through the city streets to get food or gas. Finding a place to enjoy our sport without being hassled or causing problems for someone else is becoming increasingly rare. Fortunately, in one part of the US at least, entire towns, counties and the state as a whole have taken a very unique approach to off-road motorcycles and ATVs by welcoming them with open arms.
Can it be true? Does this dirt Neverland really exist? We desperately want to believe, so MotoUSA arranged a fleet of Can-Am ATVs and headed to the Mountain State to see for ourselves.
Stephen Anderson, owner of West Virginia ATV Tours and host of On The Trail TV, offered to be our liaison as we ventured eastward for several days of riding through the Appalachian Mountains. Taking advantage of his guide service and local knowledge was the best thing we could have done. Our first day was spent touring Burning Rock Off-Road Park and getting familiar with the general surroundings. The Appalachians aren’t known for their staggering height in these parts, but they are steep and covered in a thick layer of deciduous trees. These hardwoods make for verdant mountains which change with the seasons. Underneath the canopy we found virtually every type of trail ranging from easy to difficult.
“The riding in WV is similar to our home state of Oregon,” says MotoUSA Editorial Director, Ken Hutchison. “Steep climbs, rutted, gnarly descents and just enough water to keep you muddy but not enough to drown out the fun.”
After that it was off to the wildly popular Hatfield-McCoy trail system. The family feud which lends its name is long dead, but the HMT is the best-known riding area around thanks to six different systems, each containing roughly 100 miles of trail. Hatfield-McCoy has basically been creating a new system every year, and the goal is to create a continuous 1000-mile trail system by the year 2011, and possibly even more in the future. What’s truly unique is how the neighboring towns have opened their hearts (and storefronts) to the huge tourist opportunity created by off-highway vehicle users. ATVs are allowed to ride on public highways and streets. Obviously this concept wasn’t meant for them to provide daily transportation, but it is allowed in order to make OHV use more enjoyable and attractive to potential riders. However, there are rules regarding vehicle and rider equipment, local government authority, etc., and it’s important that you know them, so be sure to visit the Hatfield-McCoy website before riding.
Our ride started in the Pinnacle Creek Trail System and led us into downtown Pineville where we had a run-in with the local ranger. Collecting ourselves after a fuel stop, he and two of his deputies approached our group with the slow, deliberate swagger you’d expect from Hollywood. The ensuing gunfight was waylaid by a friendly smile and dusty wave. All three took the time to introduce themselves and check out our spankin’ new Can-Am machinery. Don’t be fooled, however, law enforcement keeps a watchful eye on the ATV users and their behavior. Everyone has to play by the rules. We saw several riders outside of our group and they all seemed to buzz in, get what they needed and head back out to the trails, no funny business – just like it’s intended to work. Horsing around on city streets is dangerous and stupid, but mostly we were just thrilled to be allowed such freedom and had no desire to abuse the privilege.
What started as bad blood, murder and economic pillaging, historical accounts of the Hatfield-McCoy region will someday reflect this new symbiotic relationship between private enterprise, state government and West Virginia’s impressive resources – and ATVs! Take one quick look at the state’s Division of Tourism website and it’s apparent just how important the motorized sporting component is. The first two items on the list are ATVs and motorcycles. If only other states or counties could have the open-mindedness and prudence to cast aside misconceptions. Justified or not, hooliganism and ecological destruction are often associated with OHV use, but the scenario in Southern West Virginia is active proof that supportive management can offer solutions for everyone. That’s the kind of place we want to visit.
“It surprises me that the economic success of states like Utah and West Virginia don’t entice others to jump on the OHV phenomenon as a source of tourist income,” muses Hutchison. “Access to the towns isn’t hurt by an overzealous police force, the locals aren’t being run into the ground by rowdy ATVs, and in the end, the relaxed attitude is really appealing to off-road enthusiasts.”
We’ve all seen and heard tales of riding in other countries where anything goes. It’s not quite as lawless as that, but a true dirt-friendly utopia actually exists right here in America, and it’s in a place we never expected. The riding opportunities are top-notch, but feeling like you belong makes West Virginia even better. These mountaineers know they’ve got something special, and they’re entirely willing to share.
The Man With The Plan
Stephen Anderson, Owner/Operator - West Virginia ATV Tours
Stephen has it all figured out. We made just about every effort to screw up the plans and he rolled with every punch and had a solution to every problem, plus his tours kick ass! Right away we put his southern hospitality to the test with botched flights, lengthy delays and inconvenient scheduling, all before we even arrived! The consummate guide, Anderson had our best interests in mind the entire time and left us with no excuses for not enjoying ourselves.
Half-day rentals (4 hrs) are $150, but the full day (8 hrs) is a better bargain for $200. Anderson tries his best to make sure those hours are packed with value and fun. We spent at least 10 hours each day and wanted more. WV ATV Tours has a fleet of Honda Rincon sport-utility ATVs available to rent in case you are coming from out of town or cannot provide your own ride. We had our own machines, but his equipment looked to be in good repair, are mindlessly easy to operate and would have been a good fit for the terrain. Lunch is provided with each tour as well as transportation and the necessary ATV permits.
Accommodations at Pine Haven were very relaxing. We could have spent more time lounging around the expansive cabins and maybe playing a round of disc golf, but we were too anxious to get out on the trail. Anderson does most of his tours at the Burning Rock Off-Road Park just minutes from his outfit or Pine Haven, and at the Hatfield-McCoy trail system where the possibilities seem endless. These places are open year-round and whether it’s summertime scenery or winter mud splashing, look up WV ATV Tours to get the local knowledge about one of America’s hottest riding areas. Not only do they know the trails inside and out, but utilizing their experience in all aspects of vacationing takes the hassle out of finding quality lodging, food, additional attractions and any necessities. It all means more time for you to relax, meet new people and enjoy yourself.
“Stephen Anderson and the crew from WV ATV Tours are some of the coolest cats I’ve met in this gig,” says Ken. “If you’re looking to have a first-class OHV experience in West Virginia, give these guys a call and get ready for a hell of a good time.”
Burning Rock Off-Road Park
Travis Jackson, Director of Field Operations
Our trip to Burning Rock was a great introduction to the relatively new facility just outside of Beckley, WV. The place offers lots of options and is under constant development to improve and expand on the available trail systems and amenities. Travis Jackson was our guide around the park’s 100 miles of trail. WV ATV Tours uses Burning Rock regularly, so Jackson was plenty familiar with our hosts. He tagged along with us for the rest of our trip, sampling the awesome trails of Hatfield-McCoy, which he’s very familiar with, and even making an appearance at Snowshoe Mountain for the GNCC race. It’s not because he’s so bored at work, managing the day-to-day activities at Burning Rock, Jackson is just a motorhead. He’s over six-and-a-half-feet tall, soft-spoken and absolutely passionate about motorcycles and ATVs. That’s exactly the vibe you get when visiting Burning Rock.
“Something that we’re always trying to do here at the park is set ourselves apart from the competition,” says Jackson, “and one way that we’re doing that is offering our own in-house racing series.”
Though motorcycle-specific single track was limited to about 10 miles when we visited, expanding that tenfold is a top priority, and building race courses is one way Jackson is implementing the plan. As he explains it, they try to cut a new course for all the races and those extra miles get wrapped into the existing system to keep it ever-expanding. It’s also a time to scout areas that are best-suited for two-wheelers.
“It was a real treat for us to come across the country and ride some of the most beautiful territory we have seen in a long time,” said MotoUSA Publisher, Tim Clark. “This facility is fantastic as far as the riding goes… Lots to see, lots to do.”
With 8000 acres currently and 16,000 more on tap for development, there’s no shortage on this semi-private motorsports playground. Multiple forms of outdoor recreation are welcome with plans to designate specific areas for Jeeps, hiking and horseback riding in addition to massive expansion of the ATV and motorcycle trails. Primitive camp sites, available hookups and small cabins make staying for multiple days easy to do. Trust us, you’ll want to.
2009 Can-Am Renegade 800R EFI
Combining massive power from the twin-cylinder motor, the CVT transmission and Visco-lok differential, willing suspension and comfortable ergonomics make the Can-Am Renegade mindlessly easy to ride. We only found the stiff brakes and increased weight to be drawbacks, but considering the benefits that the Renegade offers, this is a unique and absolutely fun option for sport riders. The Renegade has little in the way of competition being the only big-bore performance-oriented ATV with 4WD. Four-wheel-drive isn’t just for pulling workloads anymore, and the Renegade is all alone at the forefront of speed and technical performance quads. Read more about this impressive ATV in the 2009 Can-Am Renegade 800R EFI ATV Review.