FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – The Tri-State has a fertile history dating back hundreds of years and there’s one beautiful area where you can learn about some of it while experiencing a great workout and taking in gorgeous scenery.
44 miles – that’s nearly the commute distance between Huntington and Charleston on I-64.
But in eastern Kanawha, Fayette and Raleigh counties, the Paint Creek Scenic Trail is a little-known designated scenic trail for outdoor adventure waiting for you to enjoy!
“Hiking, biking, of course we have Plum Orchard Lake down here so you have your hunting and fishing there. Everything extends from Tamarack all the way to Pratt. So any of those places you can stop off, you can get a little history lesson,” says William Hughes, the Mayor of Pax in Fayette County.
The Paint Creek Scenic Trail is a paved trail designated for biking but also is available for serene hikes, fishing, swimming and more. The options are nearly unlimited for outdoor adventuring. The best part – it is completely free!
While on the trail, there are numerous historical markers. These markers allow you to learn about the region’s rich history.
The scenic trail begins at Tamarack in Raleigh County and ends where Paint Creek intersects Route 61 near Pratt.
You can also access the trail from five exits off the West Virginia Turnpike: Exits 45, 54, 60, 66 and 74, making accessibility even easier.
Although traffic on a majority of the trail is very minimal, if you prefer gravel instead of pavement, there are a BUNCH of gravel branches that split off of the paved trail. My photographer, Mike Magee, and I hit a couple of these gravel roads on our bikes and really enjoyed them, too!
This region was once booming with coal mining back in the early twentieth century. Several significant historical moments and events occurred in this area, including the West Virginia Mine Wars with Paint Creek and Cabin Creek strikes over 100 years ago.
Mayor Hughes’ roots are embedded deep into this region. His father was one of many people who sought to keep the history alive here and grow interest in this region.
Mayor Hughes provided the photo below, which shows two very important people in the development of the scenic trail that visitors see today. Jim Reed is shown left, with the Lower Paint Creek Watershed Association and his Mayor Hughes father, on the right, who represented the Upper Paint Creek Water Shed Association.
These were two of several men that were instrumental in the development of the Paint Creek Scenic Trail. According to Mayor Hughes, another very important figure, Jim Reed, says of this photo: “This photo represents a major project to have the Parkways Authority to make a rule change approved by the Secretary of State’s Office. The new rule allowed the Paint Creek Scenic Trail Association to install Coal Heritage Interpretive signs at Tamarack and various sites at major exits along the WV Turnpike.”
Once on the trail, you’ll see intriguing structures from days gone by, beautiful Paint Creek, including waterfalls and much more.
The trail offers different levels of difficulty for hikers and bikers. And the ease of accessibility also allows people to complete short segments at a time.
For an in-depth look at the bike ride, including an elevation profile and features to watch for while riding, check out this fantastic link from Cycling Scenic WV.
One note for those who bike: In general, if you travel north on the trail, it’s a primarily downhill ride. If you travel south, it’s mostly uphill. In total, there is about a 2,500 ft. elevation change throughout the duration of the trail.
“From Tamarack to Pratt, it’s definitely a downhill ride. Coming back is going to be quite a challenge because there are quite a few steep grades that you’ll have to climb – some of them are pretty long. For the enthusiasts that like to bike, this is a good challenge for them,” remarks Mayor Hughes.
If you wear yourself out from all the hiking, the biking opportunities – maybe you’re going swimming or going fishing – you can head over to Westerly in western Fayette County along the scenic trail to check out a picnic spot at Westerly Falls. Also known as Paint Creek Falls, it is a beautiful and serene spot that will be sure to allow you to relax.
If you’d like to learn more about Westerly Fall, you can check detailed information and several pictures of the waterfall here.
The mayor hopes to bring this region’s past to life, with a historical museum he plans to finish where the Pax town commission meetings are currently held.
“I think, you know, recognizing our past is extremely important. And especially the coal heritage that we have in this area,” says Mayor Hughes.
If you plan on biking, please remember to stay alert for drivers! Although traffic is pretty minimal for a majority of the trail, an occasional car is still possible. Don’t forget to wear your helmet!
In addition, there is a neat audio tour called “The Driving Tour” that you can listen to while biking! It is located online at the Paint Creek Scenic Trail website! In addition, you view photos of the scenery there, as well as take a look closer at some of the people that have a wealth of knowledge on the area to learn more about this region’s rich history.