One of the great privileges of being a journalist in the ATV/UTV industry is the opportunity to ride in so many outstanding locations around our great United States. Of all the amazing trail systems available there is none better than the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia. I know, that is a bold statement to make, but it is true. Between the 1000+ miles of managed and maintained trails, the incredible scenery and terrain in the Appalachian Mountains, the ability to ride into the surrounding towns directly from the trails for food and lodging, and the history of the area, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System brings together an adventure worthy of everyones’ bucket list. I have had several opportunities to ride the Hatfield-McCoy trails, and each time I come away having had an incredible time, and coming away from the experience blown away at the scope of the work involved in creating such a vast and well run ATV and UTV riding utopia. No matter where you live in the U.S. or even outside the U.S., this is a trip I encourage you to make. You will not be disappointed.
West Virginia is as stunningly beautiful as it is coal country plain and simple. Fortunes were made and, in recent years, lost in the mountains of West Virginia, all over the black rock called coal. Mountains have been literally moved in order the get to the stuff, and communities have lived and died by the state of the coal industry. Even though coal is very much still mined in the area, the demand for coal has continued to decline as renewable energy has come of age, and that has left many West Virginians looking for a new career, with whole communities looking for ways to create jobs. One of the ways new jobs have been created, and, in fact, a new industry has been created, is through ATV and UTVs. By creating the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System not only has unused land been given a new purpose, but new businesses have popped up in order to serve the tourism generated, such as restaurants, lodging facilities, goods stores, dealerships, and rental businesses. Seeing communities rally around and provide much needed services to ATV and UTV tourists is really neat to see. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is a win-win for everyone!
The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is truly a work of art in every respect from how it is laid out, constructed, maintained, marked, and managed. Other trails system around the Country use the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System as a guide to how a trail system should be created and managed. The entire trail system winds its way through the mountains, with plenty of elevation changes, hill climbs and declines, twists, turns, scenic overlooks, rocks, and streams, with much of it being under the trees making you feel like you are a part of another world. The trails are mostly hard pack dirt with rocks, but there are low lying areas where there are mud holes. My experience has been you can go around any mud that may get you stuck, so no need to worry about that. Don’t forget about all the wildlife to see and enjoy.
The trails currently consist of ten trailheads containing 1000+ plus miles with a total of 2000 miles planned. Some trailheads connect to each other, while others currently do not, and each of the trailheads contain a percentage of trails with difficulty levels including easiest, more difficult, most difficult, extremely difficult, and single track. No matter what your riding/driving skill level, there are trails to scratch your riding itch. Every trail is labeled with markers noting the trail number on them, and combined with the trail map keep you from getting lost. Many of the trail systems off the trailheads have direct access to a nearby ATV/UTV friendly town, where you can come in off the trails and grab something to eat, shop, get supplies, and stay for the night. There is nothing like going through the drive through of McDonalds in your ATV or side-by-side, or roll through downtown and into a parking spot in front of a restaurant for lunch. That is something that brings a smile to my face every time. The trails are open 365 days a year during daylight hours, and they are patrolled by police officers who make sure you are safe. Nothing life seeing a policeman riding on an ATV to let you know everyone is dedicated to providing the best experience possible on the trails. All you need in order to ride is to purchase a current permit for $50 (non-resident) for each person on the trail. The permit is valid during the current year, and can be purchased on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System website, the seven of the trailheads, the Welcome Center, or over 100 retail locations around the area. For a complete list of places to buy a permit you can visit https://trailsheaven.com/get-a-permit/ .
Ride Into The Towns! - All of the towns around the trail system are historic, but some more than others. Bramwell is one historic town that looks as though it was plucked from a story book, and is worth the visit. Be sure to take the time to cruise around the towns, take in the local sites, and eat in the local restaurants.
Get A Trail Map - There are trail maps where you buy permits and at the trailheads. Don’t strike out without one or you will be in trouble. All the trails are labeled really well, but there is no way for you to remember where you came from once you set out considering all the trails that are available. You can download trail maps here https://trailsheaven.com/trail-maps/ .
Think Fall - The scenery is amazing no matter when you take a trip to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System. When I think about it, I think about mountains and forests that come together beautifully. This is taken to a whole new level of beauty during the Fall when the leaves change colors. If it is possible to make the trip during the fall color change, that is what I would recommend. That is my favorite time of the year as to when to go ride there. Some snow on the ground isn’t a bad thing either!
Get A Permit - In order to ride you need to purchase a permit. Each person riding on the trail needs a permit. Out-of-state permits run $50 and are good through the end of the calendar year. For a complete list of places to buy a permit you can visit https://trailsheaven.com/get-a-permit/ .
Check The Rules - Be sure to take some time to run through the rules to riding the trail system. You can find the current rules in this article, but check the Hatfield-McCoy website for the most current rules before you head out.
Cell Service - Generally speaking, I have found there is cell service on the trails most of the time. Be sure to put it the number for help
Weather - The weather can be range from hot during the summer months to pretty cold and snowing during the winter. I have ridden in both, and you will want to dress accordingly.
Where To Stay - There are so many places to stay I am not sure where to begin. I would stay either off the trail system in one of the towns you can ride in and out of, or on the actual trail in a lodge, cabin, or house. There are also plenty of campground and RV parks if that is more of your flavor. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail System website has a list of places to stay so you can find the prefect home away from home.
ATV & Side-By Side Rentals - If you don’t want to trailer your own ATVs or side-by-sides or you want to fly, you can always rent something to ride. There are plenty of places to rent machines nearby the trailheads or in the adjacent towns. You might consider staying in a community that you can rent and ride into and out of for the duration of your trip.
What If I Want To Fly? - Flying into Charleston, WV to Yeagar Airport in order to ride the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System is the way to go. Delta, American, and United all run flights to Charleston. Depending on where you are flying from, you will most likely need to change planes in Charlotte, NC or Washington DC, but I have found that not to be a big deal. You can rent a car at the airport and then head out to one of the communities/towns around a trailhead and rent a vehicle. The closest trailhead from Charleston is Bearwallow, and the drive is about forty-five minutes to an hour, which is not bad at all. The drive is incredibly scenic to boot.
UTV Specific Rules
For more information about the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System in West Virginia including everything you need to know to make the trip and experience the trails, checkout https://trailsheaven.com.
Here is a GREAT video from our friends at Dirt Trax Television giving all sorts of good information about the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.