New River Trail

July 28, 2021
Woman riding bike on NRV trail

The New River Trail is a beautiful gem of Southwest Virginia. Awaiting you is a picturesque 57 mile rail trail following the second oldest river in the world. The trail winds along the scenic New River and in our opinion, is best explored on bicycle. A smoothly packed crushed stone surface makes for a gentle and relaxing trip appropriate for all skill levels. The ride offers diverse scenery and takes you over 30 bridges and through 2 tunnels. If you’re in the mood for some more adventure, try the Hoover Mountain Biking area.

We first discovered this trail in the summer of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, as we sought out ways to enjoy the outdoors. The New River Trail is a perfect escape to nature and the Draper access point is only an hour from our home in Roanoke.

I remember the first time we arrived at the Pulaski trailhead, I was still new to biking and 57 miles definitely seemed endless. Little did we know, we would explore every mile of the trail by the end of the summer.

The trail is best taken slow, allow plenty of time to take in the sights. We love the breathtaking views off the old railroad trestles where you get to peer into the treetops of a small mountain hollow or the clear water of a mountain stream. Sometimes after biking for miles without seeing a single other person on the trail we will stop and take in the absolute silence or eavesdrop on a woodpecker off in the distance. Often, we ride up on deer standing directly in the trail or bunnies that scatter as you approach. One day we stopped to relax at the Ivanhoe access and listened to the chorus of seemingly millions of cicadas coming out of their 17-year slumber to treat us to this symphony of nature.

After doing multiple day trips and completing 39 miles, we decided to finish the trail with a camping trip at the Cliffview campground. Our campsite was steps off the trail with a lovely river view. I brought along my teenage sister who was stressing out about the cell phone reception at the campsite. My boyfriend distracted her by showing her how to setup the tent while I kicked back in the hammock. That night we laid in the hammock and stared up at the dark night sky, hoping for a shooting star.

biking on the NRV trail

Early the next morning, we packed a lunch and plenty of water and hit the final leg of the trail to Fries (unfortunately we did not find any french fries). Along the way we saw people fishing, families walking, and other campers in innertubes cooling off in the river. On a hot summer day, we kept cool with the breeze from pedaling on our bikes and the shade of the trees. Headed back towards the campsite, we stopped at Double Shoals to admire the New River and considered our next bike-in camping adventure. After the lengthy ride, we relaxed by dipping our feet in the gurgling Chestnut Creek. That night, as we celebrated our completion of the trail with smores and banana boats, we couldn’t help but feel proud of completing the entirety of this well-kept secret. --Genya and Stan, creators of Best of Roanoke