Mountain biking in these mountains and forests isn’t just about the adrenaline rush—though you can certainly find extended climbs, steep ascents, rocky ridges, water crossings, and other heart-pumping challenges. But pedaling Greater Parkersburg’s trails is also a chance to see local wildlife, seasonal wildflowers, and spectacular vistas. What’s more, beyond miles of trails, our community offers bike rentals and sporting gear plus attractions and accommodations that make it easy to stay as long as you can.
Any time of year is a great time to mountain bike in and around Greater Parkersburg. People from all over the world come to explore our trails over and over again.
For a local insider’s perspective on the sport, we talked to Chris Swarr, president of the Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission, who has been mountain biking the area for over 30 years.
What tops your list of the best trails in Greater Parkersburg?
It’s difficult to name one because there are six different areas with excellent mountain biking in the Greater Parkersburg area, and they have a wide variety of trail types, so there are a lot of really good places to ride. I’m a little biased because the Wood County Parks and Recreation Commission manages Mountwood Park, but I’ve personally been biking the trails at Mountwood Park for 20 years and I like them a lot. But that doesn’t take away from the others!
What are the six mountain biking areas?
All told there are over 225 miles of singletrack mountain biking trails and signed routes in Greater Parkersburg:
- Johnston T. Janes Park, a city park, offers seven miles of trails that are mostly flat with some climbs.
- Mountwood Park has 33 miles of trails throughout its 2,000 acres and is consistently rated as one of the top trail systems in West Virginia.
- North Bend State Park is home to 22+ miles of challenging singletrack.
- The North Bend Rail Trail boasts a significant 72 miles of trails of former railways.
- The Marietta City Trail Network, which is across the Ohio River from Parkersburg, connects more than 30 miles of trail with the historic downtown.
- Wayne National Forest offers 80 miles of trail on 64,000 acres with options for single and multi-day rides.
There are trails that are rated easy, intermediate and difficult, so there’s something for everyone.
What’s the best area for beginners? For experienced riders?
There’s such a diversity of trails here that cater to all skill levels. Mountwood Park recently put in two miles of very beginner-friendly trails. North Bend put in three miles of beginner-friendly trails. All are built to IMBA standards—the International Mountain Biking Association has standards for building trails that apply to all skill levels, and those standards have been used from
the beginning in this area. The RVMBA (River Valley Mountain Bike Association) mostly laid out the trails, except for the Rail Trail, and has maintenance agreements with the local, state, federal, and private land managers for going on 30 years.
Mountain biking sounds well-established in Greater Parkersburg.
I fully believe we’re one of the great places to mountain bike in the Eastern United States.
What makes it great?
Obviously, the trails. There are standard-built trails that cater to variety, some hand-built trails, some machine-built trails. The riding community is strong, very well established, and under the umbrella of the RVMBA. The area hosts sanctioned races and mountain biking events including the “Rivers Trails & Ales Festival” held annually in Marietta, Ohio. There’s a great community outfitter, Marietta Adventure Company. Our trails are really, really fun. People love them. Once they’ve ridden them they tend to come back again and again. Further trail development and planning is underway, so things are always improving.
Furthermore, in the Middle Ohio Valley there are fun things to do for the entire family, even if everyone isn’t involved in mountain biking: There are historic sites, museums, other outdoor adventures, bird watching, shopping, and so much more. You’ll find all types of lodging from primitive and hook-up camping to luxury historic hotels. There are also some great microbreweries in the area: North End Tavern & Brewery, Marietta Brewing Co., and Parkersburg Brewing Co.
Where would you send someone looking for a big thrill that can be completed in a short amount of time?
Mountwood Park’s machine-built flow trail. It has rolling features, berms, and is what is known as ‘bike optimized.’ There are trails suitable for riders from beginning to advanced, including signed singletrack rails and mountain bike routes. There are also camping sites, cabins, and a great big lake with fishing and kayaking.
What else distinguishes Greater Parkersburg’s trails?
All the trails in the mid-Ohio Valley are free and open to the public—every single trail for mountain biking is open to hikers as well. The climate in our area is well-suited to year-round riding and the trail heads tend to full up throughout the year. There’s tons of natural beauty, scenery, and history on the trails with interpretive signing.