For a short and quick way to see Charleston, bike along the Kanawha River. You can start at the State Capitol Complex on the east side of town and bike west. Even though you are in the center of the city, you’re right alongside the river and the views are lush and green. Once you reach Haddad Riverfront Park, you’re right at the heart of downtown. A couple blocks north of the river are the downtown historic district and shopping areas. Keep going until you reach Magic Island Park for a 2.6-mile (4.2 km) trip.
Starting in Coonskin Park on the north-eastern side of Charleston, you can bike along the Elk River Trail. With only a slight incline, a gravel surface, and only a 3-mile (4.8km) round-trip, this ride is perfect for a leisurely ride through the forest with views of the Elk River.
Just seven miles south of Charleston, the Kanawha State Forest is mountain biker’s paradise. The park was once the site of mining and logging, and now offers 9,300 acres (36.5 km2) of forests and streams and over 25 miles (40 km) of bike trails. The mixed-use trails are perfect for easy or challenging mountain biking, while gravel roads in the park can be used for a slower roll through the landscape.
If you’re ready to road bike, take a ride along the Paint Creek Scenic Trail starting at the Pratt Historic District, 24 miles (36.8 km) south of Charleston. This byway along the Paint Creek has beautiful views of southern West Virginia, from the waterfalls along the creek to spring and summer wildflowers. The 44 mile (71 km) route can also be done by car and has a companion audio tour where you can listen to the history of Native Americans, coal mining, and recent history of the creek.
If you are ready to go a little farther afield, check out the New River Gorge National River. The three-mile (4.8 km) Keeney’s Creek Rail Trail is an easy ride along a former railroad with views of gorgeous mountain streams. The Arrowhead Trails were built by over 1,000 Boy Scouts in 2011, and range from easy to intermediate, and from 1 to 6 miles (1.6 to 9.6 km). On the Nuttallburg Trails, you’ll be able to take in some local history while checking out abandoned coal operations. The Long Point Trail might be the most rewarding. About three miles out-and-back and an easy ride, the trail has one of the most spectacular views of the New River Gorge bridge.
For more miles of flat, scenic trail than you could want, get on the North Bend Rail Trail in Parkersburg, about an hour north of Charleston. You can take a short ride or go all-in by riding the 72-mile (116 km) trail for days, camping or staying in motels along the route. The trail follows an old railroad line and U.S. Route 50, but natural areas showcase the West Virginia wilderness while small towns offer places to eat, drink, and experience local history.