bikes along the Jackson River Scenic Trail

Equal numbers of outdoor enthusiasts flock to the Alleghany Highlands to ride the biking trails and to paddle the rivers and lakes.

Sure, there are enough miles of both to satisfy even the most energetic souls. More and more visitors are discovering a “Uniquely Alleghany” way to enjoy some great pedaling and paddling both in the same day. The adventure involves biking on the Jackson River Scenic Trail and paddling (or tubing, because you’ve earned a relaxing float after biking the trail) on the Jackson River.

The day begins just a few minutes drive north of Covington, VA, on Route 220 at the Intervale Trailhead. There is ample parking and public access to both the trail and the river. This will be the starting and ending point of the ride and float. If you’re bringing your own canoe, kayak or tubes, you will have to shuttle north to an up-river access point and float back to Intervale. No gear? No problem. There is an experienced outfitter located at this trailhead that rent bikes, tubes, kayaks and provides shuttle service.

Alleghany Outdoors exterior

You can choose which activity to complete first, but most people begin the day with biking and save the float for the warmer temperatures of the afternoon. The Jackson River Scenic Trail is one of Virginia’s newest rail trails. It’s built on the old Hot Springs Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. At roughly 16 miles in length, it’s not as long as some other rail trails, but mile-for-mile, it is as scenic as any ride in Virginia. The trail offers nearly constant views of the Jackson River, including some stunning cliffs and rock formations along the shoreline. The terrain is mostly wooded, but occasional breaks in the trees offer expansive westward views of rolling farmland and mountain ranges.

loaded nachos at The Brewhouse at Cliff ViewFrom the Intervale Trailhead to the newly completed northern terminus in neighboring Bath County is a 32-mile round trip ride if you go the full distance. The crushed gravel surface makes it a pleasant ride that can be completed in approximately three or four hours of leisurely pedaling, depending on how often you stop to enjoy the scenery and take photos. Another benefit to riding first is the ability to cruise off the trail for a five-minute ride along a quiet back road to The Brewhouse at Cliff View to enjoy a fantastic lunch. Scenery. Outdoor Fun. Great Food. Does it get any better? Actually, yeah, because next, we’re going in the water.

Alleghany Outdoors logoLocal outfitter, Alleghany Outdoors, is conveniently located at the Intervale Trailhead. They are a top-notch team that can help you have a safe and fun experience on the trail and on the water. If you did not bring your own bikes, they got you covered. They even offer a ride and paddle combo package deal. You can also customize a trip and use your own bikes and rent just tubes or kayaks. You choose.

kids tubing Jackson RiverA popular tubing option to follow a morning bike ride is a short 2.5-mile float that takes about two hours depending on the flow of the river. It’s scenic, refreshing and perfect for families with kids (recommended for kids above age 8).

The popularity of the Jackson River Scenic Trail is growing rapidly among devoted fans of rail trails. The readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine recently selected it a as a runner up for Best Hiking Trail in the annual Best of the Blue Ridge competition.

fishing Dunlap Creek courtesy of Escatawba FarmsThe Jackson River is famously known as one of the top trout fishing locations in the south. This pedal-and-paddle adventure is an ideal way to experience both of these natural treasures at the same time.

Trip Planning Insider Tips:


• For overnight accommodations close to this adventure, check out hotels, motels and inns in the Covington area. Clifton Forge also offers some lodging options, and is a brief 20-30 minute drive from the Intervale Trailhead. Find information here >

Camping and glamping options can be found nearby, including Douthat State Park, Lake Moomaw and Beaverdam Falls.

• The Alleghany Highlands offers a lot more outdoor fun for an adventure-filled long weekend or week long vacation. Try a challenging hike or mountain bike trail, off roading, or a guided fly fishing trip. Explore some options >

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