Julian, West Virginia—base camp for a mountain paradise

Julian, West Virginia—base camp for a mountain paradise
ATV riders navigate a muddy trail in the mountains of southern West Virginia. (Photo courtesy Elievan Junior)

Once in a while, something good economically happens in the valley of the Coal River in West Virginia, and many years back, and counties got their share of the network, and two sites opened representing the most northern of the trail system's many trails.


Two trailheads operating in , were up and running! The Little Coal River and the Ivy Branch trails were wildly popular. The future looked bright for this new economic windfall, and things were booming. In 2015, however, the two trails closed, and several start-up businesses closed their doors.

Though it appears that the Little Coal River Trail, which operated on the eastern side of is closed for good, the Ivy Branch Trail, like a phoenix, has risen and is poised to reopen.

Ivy Branch TrailIvy was once a boomtown and provided a place to work and live for many residents when coal was the economic driver for a large part of southern West Virginia. Nature has reclaimed the foundations of the town of Ivy, though some can still be seen by riders who will be able to traverse some of the most diverse terrain available for outdoor adventure enthusiasts in West Virginia.


Driving on Corridor G, or , one can see a locally famous sandstone outcropping; the local residents call it Pinnacle Rock. (This is not to be confused with Pinnacle Rock State Park in Mercer County, which shares the same name.) The rock is stunningly beautiful.

It is at this point that the Little Coal River takes a horseshoe bend and wraps around a section of land and comes right back to the big rock. This makes a perfect place for paddlers who prefer not to have two vehicles on hand. You can literally float the loop right back to your car. Hiking and walking are other popular activities for visitors here.

Around this scenic stretch of the river, you can find world-class fishing and a waterpark called Waterways that offers multiple waterslides, miniature golf, walking trails, and a new amphitheater. Several campgrounds are located in the area: and the Little Coal River Campground provide camping right on the river.

Pinnacle Rock is very scenic. It has a train tunnel that goes right through it, and the river around this particular stretch makes for some good swimming and excellent fishing. Paddleboards and flatwater kayaking are very popular in the Little Coal River, but the soon-to-open Ivy Branch of the Hatfield-McCoy trail is the anchor business about which all others hope to flourish.


Many lodging owners have been working hard and are now booking. These are not rustic cabins, and, for those who want creature comforts while surrounded by Nature's serenity, this might just be your place. The Ivy Branch will have multiple trails available upon reopening and is unique. It was planned, designed, and constructed for dirt bikes, jeeps, full-size trucks, rock-crawlers, side-by-sides, four-wheelers, and hikers.

Outdoor-adventure specialists are open for business, such as in Madison, which can provide you rentals or sales for all your fishing needs. or Coal River Outpost can assist you with your kayak rentals. Three generations of the Gillespie-Bias family in particular have turned lodging and hospitality into a business and passion.

and are great examples of local hospitality, providing lodging and other recreational opportunities, assisting visitors to experience the rugged beauty here that is the Ivy Branch and the Coal River trails.

These lodging opportunities are just minutes from and and only 10 minutes from the and its varied hiking opportunities. Julian is just 20 minutes away from Southridge Shopping and all it has to offer. Just a few more miles farther, you can enjoy hiking and mountain biking in the wonderful Kanawha State Forest.


Julian, West Virginia—it's the ultimate base camp from which to explore a West Virginia outdoor-adventure paradise.

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