The Greenbrier River Trail is a 78-mile former railroad that has a rich and storied past. Now used for hiking, biking and horseback riding, the pathway traces its history back to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, which constructed the railroad grade during the late 1890s to carry timber and serve tanneries and other local businesses then booming in the region.
Remnants of this fascinating heritage are often visible along the trail if you know where to look. To help draw connections between users and the past, the West Virginia State Parks partnered with the USDA Forest Service and Greenbrier River Trail Association to develop and install interpretive signs along the trail. The first signs have been installed near points of interest near the Town of Marlinton.
“Because this trail is such a popular destination, there was a great opportunity to share the stories of the past,” said State Park Superintendent Jody Spencer.
In addition to its history, the Greenbrier River Trail also provides breathtaking views as it passes through small towns, crosses 35 bridges, and cuts through some of West Virginia’s most remote areas. Beautiful glimpses of the river, forests, and wildlife can be viewed during trips along the trail.
“Being able to bring attention to the natural history found along the Greenbrier River Trail was an important aspect of this project,” said District Ranger Cynthia Sandeno. “From trout to hellbenders to candy darters, the river is home to a variety of unique and ecologically important animals.”
The first 10 interpretive signs have been installed, and more are planned for the future. The Greenbrier River Trail Association received Secure Rural Schools Title II Funding to complete additional signage about the history, culture and geography of the trail in order to enhance the experience of trail users.
“We are certain that all trail users will enjoy learning fun facts about nature and the interesting history of our beautiful region,” said Maggie Hutchinson, President of the Greenbrier River Trail Association. “We hope this will lead to a greater appreciation of our public lands.”
The Greenbrier River Trail offers an opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of Pocahontas County, the diverse flora and fauna, and now provides a more interactive experience for users by sharing some of the rich history of the area. The project would not have been possible without the help of the Pocahontas County Historical Society, which provided historic photos. These images have been placed on signs, often at the site where the original photographer stood, and create an immediate and powerful connection for visitors.
“Making connections to the surrounding communities and encouraging trail users to visit these communities is another important aspect of the signage project,” Spencer said. “In the coming months, wayfinding signs created by the State Parks sign shop will be installed along the trail to help direct visitors to the amenities that can be found in Cass, Marlinton and Seebert.”
The trail provides healthy recreational and educational opportunities for residents, many of whom use the trail daily. It also serves as an important tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country. These visitors often stop in the local communities to purchase food, souvenirs and supplies. Hopefully, these new signs will encourage visitors to spend even more time on the trail and in the communities.