- Rock formations along the Jackson River Scenic Trail
- Jackson River Trail Mile Markers
The Jackson River Scenic Trail
The Jackson River Scenic Trail is a bit of a surprise. Not that it exists — but because so few people seem to know about it.
It’s kind of like a treasure hiding in plain view.
And what a view it is.
The trail runs 14.4 miles along the gorgeous Jackson River, with the trailhead not far from Covington, Va. The scenery was amazing on Labor Day weekend, and one can only imagine how it must be in the fall when the leaves are putting on a show.
The trail surface is hard-packed stone dust. Maybe a bit too soft for a road bike, but perfect for the mountain bikes and hybrids we rode. It would be an excellent ride for someone on a gravel or ‘cross bike.
Everything seems new
Four of us rode the trail on Labor Day weekend in 2018. Gary Butcher and I were on mountain bikes, While my wife Mary and Barbara Butcher were on hybrids designed for rail trails and greenways. The Jackson River Scenic Trail was perfect for either. Kids bikes would be fine too.
The thing that struck me immediately was how new everything seemed.
The bridges. The split rail fencing. The picnic facilities. Everything had a crispness like it had just come out of the box. Even the trail surface was immaculate. In our 23-miles of riding, I don’t recall a single divot. It was nice to see fences that weren’t falling down from floods or snow, as is often the case on rides we have done.
The mile markers are unique and interesting. Made of stainless steel, they give you the mileage — but they also sport information for those who run the annual running events. Interspersed with the markers that tell you how far you’ve gone, you’ll see those that say things like, “half marathon turn around.” It’s a nice touch.
It just felt like a brand new playground.
- At times the Jackson River Scenic Trail appears to be a green tunnel.
We started at the parking lot at Natural Well and rode south to the end of the trail at Intervale and back for a 23-mile round trip. To the eye, the trail is completely flat, but my Garmin showed that it tipped up to about 2-percent at one point. Strava confirmed my belief that it was slightly downhill on the way south and uphill on the way back. But it’s really not worth talking about. It’s a flat trail. Period.
- Strava shows the elevation change in our ride. It looks bumpier than it felt.
Click on the link for more detailed info on our ride or to follow me on Strava. https://www.strava.com/activities/1815094077
Surprisingly, we saw only a few other cyclists. We yielded to a pair of horseback riders, who thanked us and said that one of the horses had only seen one other bike. An important reminder to give horses the right of way.
Otherwise, the trail seemed lightly used compared to some we’ve ridden. There were a few runners and dog walkers and quite a few people out for a Sunday stroll.
We rode along at speeds between 11 and 15 mph. It was hot – and sweat was pouring off of me. Flat can be good and it can be bad.
Remember, there are no downhills that allow you to coast, so you’re pedaling the whole time!
That’s bad. 🙂
Jackson River Scenic Trail Amenities.
There are picnic tables scattered along the trail, which make for easy places to pull over for lunch or a snack. The parking area at Natural Well offered a porta-potty, but no running water. A kiosk told us where we were, which was helpful. There was parking for about 10 vehicles.
There are numerous road crossings. Stop signs tell cyclists to yield. Everything is well marked.
- There is a store at Petticoat Junction
The crossing that was the most eyebrow-raising was Petticoat Junction. Yes, there really is such a place. If you are old enough, you remember the short-lived TV show by the same name. We didn’t see any beautiful young ladies trotting around a la the show.
But there is a store.
Therefore, if you are looking for a snack or a bottle of Gatorade, just turn right (when headed south) when you get to Route 687 and the store is about 100-yards up the road. It’s hard to miss the Petticoat Junction sign.
- The water bottle spigot at Intervale
If you only want water, you might as well hang on for two more miles and you’ll arrive at Intervale, the southern end of the trail. There is a large parking lot there, along with clean restrooms and shaded picnic areas. There is a drinking fountain that includes a water bottle filler!
Intervale appears to be more or less “trail headquarters.” and there are construction company signs along with a new, but unoccupied building for an outfitter. Looks like more to come in the near future.
In order to say we did the entire southern portion of the trail, we rode past Intervale for about half a mile, where the route simply dead-ends. It’s not really worth it unless you are looking to add on a bit of mileage.
The Hidden Valley B & B
- The historic Warwickton Mansion is now the Hidden Valley B & B
We stayed in Bath County at the Hidden Valley Bed and Breakfast. It’s about a 20-minute scenic drive from the B & B to the parking area at Natural Spring.
You couldn’t ask for better accommodations. The Jackson River flows through the front yard, and the fishing is excellent. Gary and I caught several smallmouth bass and red-eye before breakfast on the day we rode the trail.
Breakfast was remarkable with everything from the eggs to the veggies coming from the property. The Warwickton Mansion is a story in itself. You may have seen it as the backdrop for the movie Sommersby starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.
Our hosts Pam and Ron were fantastic. We had been planning to ride the Greenbrier Trail in Marlinton, WVa. until they told us about the Jackson River Scenic Trail. It was closer and provided new scenery for us. (Nothing against the Greenbrier River Trail — love it too!) Pam and Ron are the owners. They have painstakingly restored the mansion, which had fallen into serious disrepair when they bought it.
The rural setting of Warwickton is the perfect compliment to a ride on the Jackson River Scenic Trail.
- The abandoned rail bed shows where crews blasted away the rock to make way for the original railroad.
- A bench donated by the Izaak Walton League at Intervale.
- The Jackson River Scenic Trail is flat and easy!
- Looks Like there is more in store at Intervale.