West Fork River Trail

Along West Fork River from Shinnston to Fairmont in Harrison and Marion Counties, WV

In the busy I79-US19 corridor between Fairmont and Clarksburg West Virginia, the trail along the West Fork River provides both moderate isolation and easy access. The river keeps US19 at a distance, and the interstate is over in the next valley. South of Fairmont, US19 runs through a series of small towns. You see these across the river, and occasionally pass through the fringes of the towns that spill across the river.

The surface is packed crushed stone, the trail offers great river views, and the Worthington Park provides recreation and river access. The overall gradient is as gentle as you'd expect from a rail-trail, but local dips provide gentle undulations that will keep you shifting gears. Unfortunately, the gates block the entire finished trail surface, so you must drop onto the rough surface to get through the gate openings. Also, parts of the trail surface in Harrison County near Enterprise have been damaged by horses.

Don't confuse this trail with the other West Fork trail in West Virginia, which runs the West Fork of Glady Fork and Greenbrier River from Glady to Durbin. The other one is much wilder and less developed.

West Fork River Trail

Location                                                                         Fairmont and Grant Township, Harrison County
                                                                                                        and Northern Township, Marion County

Trailheads                                                        Shinnston, Worthington, Monongah, Norway, Fairmont

Length, Surface                                     16 miles planned, 13.3 miles complete, packed crushed stone

Character                                                                                   Uncrowded, rural, sunny and shady, level

Usage restrictions                No motorized vehicles; horses stay beside the trail, off finished surface

Amenities                                                                                             Rest rooms, water, bike rental, food

Driving time from Pittsburgh                                                                            1 hours 50 minutes south

This trail leaves Shinnston in an industrial area, crosses under the US19 bridge, and soon comes out on a bench blasted into the hillside, squeezed between a sheer rock face on the east and the river on the west. After three miles the cliff ends and the trail alternates between woods and the streets of small towns: Enterprise, Hutchinson, Worthington, Everson, and Monongah. Along the way you'll see an old mill at Worthington, not far from the town park. You'll also see remnants of the railroad, most notably small octagonal buildings, and of mining operations.

The finished trail ends at the north end of the 510-ft curved trestle across West Fork River. After the end of the trestle the trail is rougher but still manageable for 0.3 miles. It dead-ends at a chain-link fence. Here you can jog left to a gravel road that soon gets steep. After 0.1 mile it emerges on Edgeway Dr. If you turn left here, you'll reach Country Club Rd in 0.3 mile.

Extensions of the ride

There is supposed to be a 3.6-mile marked road route connecting the Fairmont end of this trail with the south end of a trail that leads north to Pricketts Fort State Park. However, we can't find all the markings, and the markings we can find put us on a route with hills and traffic.

Development plans

Plans call for this to be a segment of a trail system that connects the Youghiogheny River Trail in Pennsylvania with Morgantown, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg WV. This system will incorporate the existing McTrail, Harrison County, and North Bend trails plus the Caperton Trail now under development and connections between these.

Access points

Vicinity: Directions begin headed south on I79 to Fairmont WV. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go south on I79 into West Virginia.

Shinnston trailhead: Leave I79 at Exit 125 westbound. Go about a quarter-mile and turn left on Saltwell Rd (WV131). Follow Saltwell Rd about 7 miles to US19 in Shinnston. Turn left and follow US19 about 6 blocks. Turn left just past the yellow brick Catholic church and just before US19 swings left and climbs to cross the river. The trailhead is near the river under the US19 bridge.

Worthington trailhead: Leave I79 at Exit 137 headed north on WV310. Follow WV310 for 1.8 miles.  Just after crossing the Monongahela River, turn south (left) on US250.  Follow US250 for 1 mile and turn right on Country Club Rd.  Follow Country Club Rd for 1.0 mile and turn south (left) on US19 at the Country Club Motel.  Follow US19 for about 5 miles.  Look for a turn that will take you across the river.  The trail is just across the river, and there's parking in Worthington Park.

Monongah trailhead: Leave I79 at Exit 137 headed north on WV310. Follow WV310 for 1.8 miles. Just after crossing the Monongahela River, turn south (left) on US250. Follow US250 for 1 mile and turn right on Country Club Rd. Follow Country Club Rd for 1.0 mile and turn south (left) on US19 at the Country Club Motel. Follow US19 for 3.4 miles and turn left just before Monongah Middle School. This isn't well marked, but US19 makes a sharp right just past your turn. Go down the hill for 0.1 mile and turn left at the stop sign. Cross the West Fork River 0.2 miles later. Parking is on the left of the road just past the trail.

Norway trailhead: Leave I79 at Exit 137 headed north on WV310. Follow WV310 for 1.8 miles. Just after crossing the Monongahela River, turn south (left) on US250. Follow US250 for 1.1 mile and turn right just after crossing the West Fork River, following signs to Mary Lou Retton Park. Park there, and ride down the hill on the road for 0.8 miles. Small signs for "Rail Trail Link" give you occasional hints. There's essentially no parking at the trailhead.

Fairmont (north) trailhead: Leave I79 at Exit 137 headed north on WV310. Follow WV310 for 1.8 miles. Just after crossing the Monongahela River, turn south (left) on US250. Follow US250 for 1 mile and turn right on Country Club Rd. Follow Country Club Rd for 0.9 miles to the shopping center for Shop-and-Save, Big Lots, and 84 Lumber on the left side of the road. Find inoffensive parking. Leave the shopping center on Edgeway Dr, to the right of the drive-through bank as you face the shopping center from the road. Follow Edgeway Dr for 0.3 mile, looking for a gate on the right. Go around the gate and down a steep gravel path for 0.1 mile. At the bottom of the hill, jog left to pick up the trail where it dead-ends at a chain link fence.

Amenities

Rest rooms, water: At Mary Lou Retton Park and Worthington Park, in season

Bike shop, rentals: Along trail in Monongah and in Fairmont

Restaurant, groceries: Along trail at Monongah, in Fairmont and Shinnston

Camping, simple lodging: Motels in Fairmont

Swimming, fishing: Fishing access and beach at Worthington Park

Winter sports: Cross-country skiing.

Wheelchair access: Wide gates, but trail surface does not extend through gates. Trail has dips and rises.

Trail organization

Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission
PO Box 1258
316 Monroe St
Fairmont WV 26554
(304) 363-7037
mcparc@access.mountain.net

<<What about Harrison County rail-trail group?>>

Maps, guides, other references

USGS Topographic Maps: Shinnston, Fairmont West.

Version

Text version from 2002 edition Conditions will have changed; you are responsible for your own safety.

 

Editors' notes

Ridden Oct 15, 21 1998