North Bend Rail Trail

North Bend Rail Trail near Cornwallis, WV, Ritchie County, Heartland Region
North Bend Rail Trail near Cornwallis, WV

The North Bend Rail Trail is a 72-mile recreational trail that travels across western and north-central West Virginia, following the former line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from near Parkersburg, in the west, to near Clarksburg, in the east.

Hiking, biking, and horseback riding are permitted on the trail, though motorized vehicle traffic is not.

Because the trail uses a former railroad bed, its route is nearly level, and its grade is no greater than 1.5 percent, thus it can accommodate users of many skill levels and abilities.

The trail takes its name from a hair-pin bend in the North Fork of the Hughes River, one of several scenic streams along which it runs and for which adjacent North Bend State Park is also named.

Bank of Cairo, Cairo, WV, Ritchie County, Heartland Region
Bank of Cairo at Cairo, WV

Along the way it crosses 35 trestles, passes through 10 tunnels, and visits several small towns, including Cairo, Salem, Pennsboro, West Union, and Ellenboro, many of which offer products and services to accommodate trail users. It also wanders through ghost towns and farmsteads in Wood, Ritchie, Doddridge, and Harrison counties, communities often associated with the railroad and the northern West Virginia oil boom of the late 1800s.

Chartered in 1851 as the Northwestern Virginia Railroad, the route coursed 103 miles east-to-west from the B&O mainline at Grafton to the Ohio River at Parkersburg and was sold to the B&O upon completion in 1857, after which it became known as the B&O Parkersburg Branch.

In its prime, the branch hosted the Metropolitan, Cincinnatian, and National Limited lines, premiere B&O passenger trains between New York City and Saint Louis, though ridership declined after the advent of the automobile, and the line closed in 1988.

Much of the trail also parallels the U.S. Route 50 expressway, which provides convenient trail access at many points.

The trail is managed by the state park system and is part of the American Discovery Trail. Visit the North Bend Rail Trail website.