The Longest Biking Trail in Virginia

New River Trail State Park
© Virginia State Parks / flickr

Written by Emilio Brown

Updated: July 30, 2023

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Virginia is located in the Eastern United States and is filled with landscapes like mountains, valleys, and coastal plains. Over 2,000 hiking and biking trails can be found in Virginia, showcasing the beauty of the state. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking trail in the United States, going for over 2,000 miles. But in this article, you will discover the longest biking trail in Virginia. 

Biking is a great way to travel long distances, get some exercise, and view the surrounding scenery. There are plenty of short trails perfect for biking, but let’s take a look at the longest one in Virginia. 

The Longest Biking Trail in Virginia 

new river trail

The New River Trail is the longest biking trail in Virginia and runs for 57 miles.

©Virginia State Parks staff / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

The New River Trail is the longest biking trail in Virginia and runs for 57 miles. This trail connects the city of Pulaski in Virginia to the cities of Galax and Fries. It follows the New River for around 39 miles and goes through the counties of Wythe, Pulaski, Grayson, and Carrol. The New River Trail is classified as a rail trail, since it follows a retired industrial railroad route.

This trail goes through the mountainous and forested landscapes of Virginia. A large portion of the trail is surrounded by trees, and while biking, you will pass over bridges and travel into two tunnels. This trail is located in Southwestern Virginia and is a state park.

History of the New River Trail

The New River Trail is a rail trail, and the railroad was created by the Norfolk and Western Railway Company. The original railroad was planned to reach North Carolina but only reached the city of Galax. The railroad was opened in the 1800s and was used mainly for hauling and smelting iron. The railway was in operation for around a century and officially retired in 1985. 

The year 1985 is when the rail line was donated to the state of Virginia, and a year later, Virginia turned it into the New River Trail State Park. The first five miles of the trail were created shortly after the state’s purchase and were from Shot Tower to Austinville. As time passed, the rail trail was expanded until it became 57 miles, making it the longest rail trail in Virginia. 

Where is the New River Trail Located on a Map?

The New River Trail is located in the New River Trail State Park, which is located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands in the southern part of the state. The trail winds through the counties of Grayson, Carroll, Wythe, and Pulaski and follows the New River for the majority of its path. It is near Max Meadows and can be started either in Galax or Fries or from the Dora Junction Trailhead, which is off Main Street in Pulaski

The Amenities at the New River Trail State Park

New River Trail State Park

The New River Trail is open to the public and can be accessed year-round.

©Virginia State Parks / flickr – Original / License

From dawn to dusk, the New River Trail is open to the public and can be accessed year-round. The entire path can be biked, hiked, or traveled by horseback. The entire trail runs for 57 miles and is a linear path to follow. The trailheads have parking but cost a small fee. Being a state park, in some of the trailheads, there are other amenities like a playground, picnic areas, restrooms, and areas for horses to rest.

The main park office is located in Cliffview and has information about the trail. Camping is allowed in the park’s designated areas if you want to take multiple days to enjoy the park. It can only be for 14 days within a 30-day period, and there are 3 campgrounds to use.

The 57-mile-long trail connects the various parts of the state park. Swimming is not allowed in New River, but you can fish with a state license or use the boat ramp to enjoy the water. 

Navigating the New River Trail

Foster Falls is part of the New River Trail State Park

The New River Trail is relatively flat, making it a great path for those looking for an easy route.

©Virginia State Parks / flickr – Original / License

The New River Trail is an easy path, with only a slight grade in some sections. The bike path is relatively flat, making it a great path for those looking for an easy route. The elderly and those with a disability can use this trail, and it is handicap accessible in all of its segments. 

Biking the trail in its entirety will take a few hours, but there are multiple rest spots and places to camp. Looking at the map for the state park makes it easy to plan your bike trip and shows you the amenities at each trailhead. 

Segments of the New River Trail

The New River Trail comprises multiple segments and, in total, creates Virginia’s longest bike trail. Below you can find the trail segments broken down.

  • Galax to Cliffview-2.2 miles
  • Cliffview to Chestnut Yard-4 miles
  • Chestnut Yard to Gambetta-3.2 miles
  • Gambetta to Fries Junction-2.5 miles
  • Fries Junction to Fries-5.5 miles
  • Fries Junction to Byllesby Dam-2.5 miles 
  • Byllesby Dam to Buck Dam-2.6 miles
  • Buck Dam to Ivanhoe-3.1 miles
  • Ivanhoe to Austinville-2.8 miles
  • Austinville to Shot Tower-3.6 miles
  • Shot Tower to Foster Falls-1.2 miles
  • Foster Falls to Lone Ash-5 miles
  • Lone Ash to Allisonia-6.4 miles
  • Allisonia to Hiwassee-2.4 miles 
  • Hiwassee to Draper-4 miles 
  • Draper to Dora Junction-4.2 miles

This trail follows the New River and is surrounded by dense trees. There are two tunnels carved into rocks on this bike path. There are also bridges and old smelting towers along the trail that were once used for the railroad. The New River Trail does a great job of showcasing the various wildlife and dense woodlands of Virginia. 

Wildlife in the New River Trail State Park

baby eastern chipmunk

Mammals like squirrels, raccoons, minks, chipmunks, opossums, and foxes are some of the animals that live near the New River.

©iStock.com/mirceax

Despite its name, the New River is the oldest river in the United States. This river starts in the North Carolina Mountains and flows into the Virginias until it meets with the Gauley River. Fish, water snakes, turtles, salamanders, and frogs live in the river near this trail and the river it follows.

Mammals like squirrels, raccoons, minks, chipmunks, opossums, and foxes are some of the animals that live near the New River. There are over 65 species of mammals documented. The New River Trail State Park is also home to over 100 different bird species. With the abundant variety of birds that live near this trail, it is one of Virginia’s best places to go birding while taking a long bike ride. 


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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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