Greenbrier River Trail – West Virginia

Only a 15-minute drive from the famed Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs lies the southern trailhead of the Greenbrier River Trail, a 77-mile rails-to-trails that cuts through the center of West Virginia.  We’ve been the frequent guests of wonderful friends who have a home in the mountains overlooking the resort, so we’re very familiar with this almost heavenly area and have ridden the trail and kayaked on the river in the past.  (We won’t lie, though, Jim comes for the golf!)

While green mountains abound, they are hidden from view on the flat, tree-lined trail which hugs the Greenbrier River as it threads the valleys of the Appalachian Mountain Region.  In fact, rarely was the river out of sight as we pedaled along this “Zen trail.” Occasionally, what looked like rustic vacation homes and an abandoned Girl Scout camp came between the trail and the river, but they were sparsely situated and we passed only a few intersecting driveways during our ride.

Wildlife is abundant here and being in black bear country, we were sure to keep up our conversation in the hope of dissuading any from lumbering onto the trail. (No, this wasn’t an imaginary concern – like the sound of dueling banjos — bear scat had been pointed out to us on a previous ride and we’d seen bears in the mountains on several occasions. But, like alligators on golf courses in the South, they’re only scary if you think about them.)

 The trail was cool, shady and well-maintained and we passed only a handful of others on the trail. There was no nearby civilization, so we were glad to have brought plenty of water.  We hope to ride the northern end one day, but we knew there was both a brewery and our friends’ distillery very near the southern trailhead, so obviously, that’s what influenced this journey!

We hit the distillery first: Smooth Ambler, home of Old Scout bourbon and Contradiction Rye.  We watched as this distillery grew from a white whiskey and vodka producing start-up to an award-winning bourbon maker that was purchased by global spirits conglomerate, Renaud Picard, a few years ago.  Kellie’s the bourbon drinker, so, while familiar with (and an enthusiastic fan of) both Old Scout and Contradiction, she figured she should still do a tasting just for quality control.

Smooth Ambler is located next to the small regional airport outside the cute town of Lewisburg (once named “Coolest Little Town” in America by whomever designates titles like this).  Right across the street from the distillery is Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company, where we spent an hour or so tasting beer and chatting with a pair of fellow imbibers who had come to town for the State Fair. Kellie’s favorite among their disturbingly designed cans was a witbeir called Zona’s Revenge, while Jim liked the 35 Parks Pale Ale and the Great Claw, which was an Imperial Stout aged in Contradiction Rye barrels.


If you’ve got more to add about the Greenbrier River Trail, please do so in the Comments below.

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