Fernow Loop
Virtual Ride

The Mileage and Ride Time (RT) figures were taken from my bike computer. Ride Time is just the time actually moving. Your total trip time will be higher. There are two photos with the each "Mile and RT" listing. Usually the first photo is the view up the trail and the second is the view looking back. Two views for the price of one.

Click on photo to enlarge

Mile: 0    RT 0:0 
Loop Start
Begin the loop in Mill Race Park in
Parsons. This is a small well maintained
city park off Route 219 and next to the
Black Fork River. From the parking lot
get on the paved bike path and go left
Mile: 0.1
Intersection with McFadden St.
Turn right off the bike path onto
McFadden Street. At the stop sign turn
right onto Pennsylvania Ave/Route 219
Mile: 0.4
Black Fork River Bridge
Off to the right you can see the old
bridge piers of the Western Maryland
Mile: 0.5
Allegheny Highlands Trail ahead.
After crossing the bridge look for
the sign for the Allegheny Highlands
Trail. Get on the AHT. It's right next
to the road.
Further out this road is the
USDA Forest Service,
Northern Research Station,
Timber and Watershed Lab
The Fernow Experimental Forest is
managed from this station.
Mile: 1    RT 0:6 
Allegheny Highlands Trail
The Allegheny Highlands Trail sits on
the old railbed of the West Virginia
Central and Pittsburg Railway. The rails
were first laid through here in the
late 1880s.The WVC&PR was later bought
up by the Western Maryland Railroad.
Mile: 1.4 
Black Fork River
Mile: 1.6 

Then & Now: How it looked here in 1957.
Mile: 2   RT 0:11 
Allegheny Highlands Trail
The trail passes through the small town
of Hambleton.
Mile: 2.9

Then & Now: How it looked here in 1906.
Mile: 3   RT 0:16 
Allegheny Highlands Trail
Just ahead you can see part of
Hendricks, WV.
Hendricks, WV
At one time Hendricks was an important
railroad town. Extra locomotives were
stationed here to help get trains up the
steep Blackwater Canyon grade.
Here are now and then photos of the First
National Bank of Hendricks. Notice how
the front of the bank faces the railroad
and not the main street since this was
where the action was.
The bank closed during the depression of
the 1930's.
Mile: 3.1
Allegheny Highlands Trail trailhead
We turn off the trail just ahead at the
stop sign.

In the distance you can see
the end of the trail and the beginning
of the Blackwater Canyon.
Second Street
After turning right at the stop sign go
down Second Street till it ends.

The street ends at a cement berm that
was built to protect the town after the
Flood of 1985.

Time for a short history break.

The Flood Of 1985
Saint George Bridge over the Cheat River.

Photo courtesy of John Warner.
"The floods of 1985 devastated much of West Virginia. Authorities called the record-breaking floods that began November 4 the worst this century. More than 3,500 homes and 180 businesses were wiped out. 123 bridges were destroyed or damaged and hundreds of thousands of farm animals were killed. 47 West Virginians lost their lives, 28 of whom resided in Pendleton and Grant counties. 33 of West Virginia's 55 counties were declared disaster areas. Damage was estimated at $570 million."
West Virginia Division of Culture and History

Mile: 3.3
Black Fork River Suspension Bridge
The first footbridge was built in 1901
to access the town of Brooklyn Heights.
This town was built after Hendricks
voted itself "dry". Brooklyn Heights
was "wet" with the Cream Of Kentucky

There is a reason for the
warning sign.
Black Fork River Suspension Bridge
In the photo you can see there is
a broken board causing a gap in the deck
of the bridge. It has been fixed since
I took this picture but as you cross the
bridge walk to the side and not the
middle. Just in case.
Black Fork River
Look left (east) from the middle of the
bridge. Three different rivers are
visible. The river coming from the right
is the Dry Fork. Coming from the left is
the Blackwater River. The two combine to
create the Black Fork River which you
are standing over.
After crossing the bridge turn right
(west) onto Brooklyn Heights Road. It is
a gravel road.

The second photo is looking back toward
the bridge we just crossed. In the
distance is Backbone Mountain on the
left. Blackwater Canyon in the middle
and Canaan Mountain on the right.
Mile: 4   RT 0:24 
Brooklyn Heights Road
Ride surface has become pavement.
Mile: 4.3 
On the other side of this rock
outcropping is the lower end of Elk Lick
Run. The original logging railroad used
this run as the route up the mountain.
From this point on it is almost
all uphill for the next 5 miles.

Mile: 4.5
Intersection with Forest Road 701
Turn left off of Brooklyn Heights Road
onto Forest Road 701. The Forest Road is
Welcome to the Fernow Experimental Forest
The Forest sits on land that was orginally
granted to Francis and William Deakon in
1783. The Elk Lick Lumber Company
bought the timber rights in 1901.
The company built a logging
railroad and cut timber between 1903
and 1911. This land then became part of the
original 7200 acres purchased in 1915 to
create the Monongahela National Forest.
In 1934 the Fernow Experimental Forest
was established.
Since the forest is also used as a
teaching tool there are a number of
wooden signs that explain the forest
and some of the experiments underway.
The date of 2061 on the second sign
shows that some of these are to be
long term experiments.
If you'd like to see more of these
signs click HERE.
Since this is a managed forest there is
the possibility of active logging. Be on
the lookout for logging trucks. Give
them a wide berth.

Mile: 5   RT 0:33 
Forest Road 701
Mile: 5.4
The runoff from John B. Hollow flows
under the road. Look to the right of the
right of the road and you'll see a old
pipe. You can see it's purpose farther

Elk Lick Run flows just to the left side
of Forest Road 701. The Forest Road
follows the path of the original logging
railroad that was built here in the
early 1900's.
Otter Creek Boom and Lumber Company - 1902.
This is a picture of a Shay Locomotive.
A Shay Locomotive is a type of geared steam
engine that was needed to transverse the
steep rail grades used in mountain logging
operations. This particular engine was
built in 1897. It and other Shay Locomotives
were used by the Otter Creek Boom and Lumber
Company to log the land around Otter Creek
from 1897 to 1914. The Otter Creek Wilderness
lies next to the Fernow Experimental Forest.

Mile: 6   RT 0:42 
Forest Road 701
Mile: 6.4
Forest Service Maintenance Buildings
There are a few other things in the area
around the maintenance buildings.

Forest Road 704 heads across Elk Lick
Run towards Hickman Slide Hollow.
Fernow map
Wilson Hollow Weir
Mile: 6.8
Forest Road 701 crosses over Elk Lick

The stream will now be on the right
hand side.
Mile: 7   RT 0:52 
Forest Road 701
Mile: 7.1
Parsons Reservoir
Through the trees you can just make out
the dam for the Parsons Reservoir.
Constructed in 1934-36 by the Civilian
Conservation Corps
this was the main
water supply for Parsons until 1996.
The exposed old pipe at loop mile 5.4
was part of that water system.
Mile: 7.2 
Forest Road 701 splits. Both roads are
actually FR 701 since the road will go
up McGowan Mountain then loop back to
this point. Take the left (uphill) fork.
Mile: 7.8 
Zero Grade Trail
Big Spring Gap Trailhead

There is a parking area for both trails.
The Zero Grade Trail is a short flat
walk that shows different forest
harvesting methods.

Big Spring Gap trail is part of the
Otter Creek Wilderness.
No bike are allowed in the Wilderness
area but we are OK here in the
Experimental Forest.
Mile: 8  RT 1:08 
Forest Road 701
Mile: 8.3
Turkey Run Trailhead
Also part of the Otter Creek Wilderness.
Mile: 9   RT 1:16 
Forest Road 701
Mile: 9.2
Intersection with McGowan Mountain Road
Forest Road 324/McGowan Mountain Road
branches off to the left (south). Stay
on FR 701. This marks the highest point
on the bike loop. There will be a
downhill section before the climb up
Fork Mountain.
Mile: 10  RT 1:21 
Forest Road 701
Intersection with Forest Road 709
Leave FR 701 and get on FR709. This road
heads up Fork Mountain. FR 701 continues
downhill back to the reservoir.
Mile: 10.1
Intersection with Forest Road 828
Turn left at the intersection onto
Forest Road 828. This is also called
Stonelick Road.
Forest Road 828
This road isn't as well traveled as
the previous forest roads were. Road
surface starting to head towards dual
Mile: 10.8
There is an unmarked intersection. Go left.
Mile: 11  RT 1:31 
Forest Road 828
Mile: 12  RT 1:37 
Forest Road 828
Off to the left you can see several soil
emergence traps being used for a study of
Mile: 13  RT 1:45 
Forest Road 828
Mile: 13.2
Intersection with County Road 41
Forest Road 828 and the Fernow
Experimental Forest both end here. Go
right (north) onto County Road 41.

The view up CR 41. Gravel Road.
Mile: 13.5
Looking left across the Shavers Fork
River valley. Looking towards Laural Run
on Cheat Mountain.
Mile: 14  RT 1:52 
County Road 41
Mile: 15  RT 1:57 
County Road 41
Mile: 15.3
Shavers Fork River
Here's our first good view of the
Shavers Fork River as it flows to
Parsons. The city sits where the
Shavers Fork and Black Fork Rivers
combine to create the Cheat River. The
loop has now passed within sight of four
different rivers.
The Blackwater River, Dry Fork, Black
Fork and Shavers Fork.
Mile: 16  RT 2:04 
County Road 41
Mile: 17  RT 2:09 
County Road 41
Road has become pavement.
Mile: 17.3
The rock outcropping on the right marks
the last uphill stretch.

As you climb the hill you can just see
the top of the Tucker County Court
House clock tower in the distance.
The clock was bought in 1920 with money
collected from fines for bootlegging.
Mile: 17.7
The outskirts of Parsons
Shortly you will crest this hill and
then it's downhill almost all the way
back to the beginning. To wind your way
through this section of Parsons just
keep heading downhill.
Mile: 18  RT 2:17 
Long Street in Parsons
At the stop sign just ahead go left.
Mile: 18.7
The road flattens out as we come up to
dual intersections. You can see the bike
route signs for the Allegheny Highlands
Trail on the first road. Turn right onto
the first road. The second road is
Route 219.
At the end of this street the bike route
goes left.

If you were driving to the Fernow
Experimental Forest you would go
right here.
Mile: 18.9
You are now back in Mill Race Park. Here
is the intersection with McFadden St
where we first turned out of the park.
Mile: 19  RT 2:22 
Mill Race Park, Parsons
Right at 19 miles and within sight of
where the loop began. I'll end it here.
Once nice feature of this park is the
public restroom. You might need it after
19 miles.
Some information on this web page taken
from the most excellent book Tucker County
by Cynthia A. Phillips.
Arcadia Publishing

A great visual guide to the early
history of this part of West Virginia.

Fun Places To Bike In West Virginia
All information is presented without any assurance of accuracy. Use at your own risk.
Distance measurements are approximate.
All photos © 2008 J. Watson. All rights reserved.