Pedaling Paint Creek from Pratt to Pax
The 44-mile Paint Creek Scenic Trail has become a favorite of area cyclists, who enjoy its bucolic views that include waterfalls and wildflowers.
For the third consecutive year, the Paint Creek Scenic Trail will be the site of the Pratt Fall Festival Paint Creek Bike Ride on Saturday, Oct. 14. The ride starts at 10 a.m. There is a $30 registration fee that includes a commemorative T-shirt.
The ride, starting in Pratt, includes two options: A 30-mile ride to Mahan and back or a 60-mile ride to Pax and back. Registration forms are available on Facebook or at local bike shops and fitness centers. Cyclists can also register online at imathlete.com (Pratt Fall Festival Paint Creek Ride).
Bike ride organizer Dyann Simile Ivey said the Paint Creek Scenic Trail is a paved highway that lends itself well to cycling. The road goes from the Town of Pratt to Tamarack near Beckley.
“Cyclists have been riding Paint Creek Road for decades, but until the road was repaved in the summer of 2015, many had written it off as a viable ride due to all the potholes and rough pavement,” Ivey said.
Part of what makes the Paint Creek Bike Ride so much fun is that cyclists lead the parade that kicks off the Pratt Fall Festival.
“The riders lead the Fall Festival Parade through town, so it’s really cool for them to be cheered on as they start the ride. The first year, we had 49 registered riders. It was a sight to behold,” she said.
The event drew cyclists from Charleston, Pratt, Huntington, Morgantown, Beckley and Fayetteville.
The cyclists are well supported throughout the ride.
“We have support stops at Mahan and Pax with drinks and snacks and a sweeper vehicle that follows the riders for support if needed,” Ivey said. “Riders who continue on for the 60-mile ride are told they can stop in Mossey at the ‘Elvis Exxon’ for a break if they need it. If they turn around there, they will get a 45-mile ride.”
The 30-mile turnaround point in Pax is the Corner Gas ‘n Grille.
“The owner, James Williams, is a big supporter. My friends and I ride to Pax just for the food. They are famous for their Sunday buffet and ‘award-winning’ bread pudding.”
Ivey said the Paint Creek Scenic Trail has some motorized traffic.
“The first seven miles has some traffic and even a few big trucks. But after you pass the Turnpike entrance, it’s very few cars.”
Ivey said the Paint Creek Bike Ride event is more suited to experienced riders. And for cyclists under 15, organizers require an adult to accompany them.
“I would say this is not for a first-time rider, for sure. There are some challenging hills after the first seven miles. The elevation climbs all the way to Pax, but it’s always easier coming home,” she said.
As for the type of bicycle riders should use, Ivey, who started riding in 2013, said the choice is theirs.
“I started riding this ride with a hybrid bike. My husband rode a mountain bike. We both have road bikes now. So anything goes, really, but I think it’s best suited for road bikes -- especially the 15 miles from Mahan to Pax.”
As a testament to the Paint Creek Scenic Trail’s popularity with cyclists, the Mountain State Wheelers bicycle club has been riding on it regularly. And the Paint Creek Bike Creek Bike Ride event is on the group’s calendar.
“The Mountain State Wheelers have us on their Saturday ride calendar for the third year in a row. Weather permitting, I anticipate 30 riders from their group alone. They are huge supporters of our ride and actually ride Paint Creek other times in the year,” Ivey said.
Mountain State Wheelers President Chris Nagorka said Paint Creek Road, for years, was a favorite riding venue for Wheelers members.
“But the road fell into such disrepair that we stopped going there altogether. Now that it’s been completely repaved, it’s one of our favorite routes, period. It has a lot of things going for it: good pavement, not too much traffic, great scenery, including riding over the Turnpike itself, which I think is fun, and a store at the end where you can buy some snacks or drinks if you need them before heading back. If you ride during the fall, there simply isn’t a better place to see the colors turning,” Nagorka said.
Ivey said cyclists always comment on the beauty of the scenery and the great road conditions of the Paint Creek Scenic Trail. The smooth pavement takes cyclists through forest and country terrain.
According to paintcreekwv.com, “the Paint Creek Scenic Trail is a scenic byway designed to encourage the understanding and enjoyment of Paint Creek’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage. The Trail begins at the Tamarack cultural center and extends 44 miles north to Pratt. It is a beautiful, relaxing alternative to travel along the West Virginia Turnpike (I-77/64) and can be accessed via the following exits: 44, 45, 54, 60, 66, 74.”
The Paint Creek Audio Driving Tour brings the history of Paint Creek to life through audio stories told by the people who live along its banks. Visitors can download a the app for iPhone or Android device, or request a CD to experience the Audio Driving Tour firsthand. Once downloaded, the app does not require cell reception.
The Lower Paint Creek Watershed Association, the Paint Creek Scenic Trails Association and other grassroots organizations have worked together to maintain the trail.
For more information, send email to DyannSimile@gmail.com or call 304-419-1891.