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new-river-trail

New River Trail State Park

New River Trail is a 57-mile state park that stretches from the town of Pulaski down to Galax. It follows along the scenic New River for about 39 miles. We read ahead of our trip that there was some flooding and that the Hiwassee bridge was out, so that kind of centered our trip about halfway from Shot Tower.

We only covered a small portion of the trip, but that means we will have to come back when we are stronger and better able to navigate it. I can’t wait till the little one can ride long distances on her own. It will be like I’m flying with just me to pedal. Luckily, the trail’s gentle slope made it easy to pedal along.

Shot Tower

Shot Tower

We began at Shot Tower; however, if you are biking, it might not be the best location. We had to ride back down the hill to the dirt road that had a “Do Not Enter” sign on it to the left of the hill. There is the Mark Hufeisen Horse Arena nearby and another parking area near Austinville that might be easier to access. Here is a link to the different locations you can access the trail.

Shot Tower was closed to the public when we were there, but I think you can arrange for tours. It was used over 200 years ago to make ammunition. Read more about Shot tower in this brochure put out by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. You can always carry your bike down the stairs to the trail from here, but we had to ride as I was towing the little one behind me, and riding down the hill was easier than trying to take the towbar apart and put it back together back on the trail.

Flora and Fauna

Snake At New River

We saw so much wildlife on this trip, but this little guy was right at the beginning near the toilets at Shot Tower, which are pretty nice, by the way. He was a big one, and I was barely able to get this picture off before he slithered into a hole next to the stairs.

On top of this, we saw about a half dozen rabbits, some horses, and even deer. At one of the many bridges we crossed, there was a calm, quiet area where some turtles and catfish were hunting the water bugs that zipped along the top of the river. I think that was near Ivanhoe.

Lots of Bridges

Ivanhoe Bridge

There were three significant bridges: Hiwassee – 951 feet (which was closed when we went); Ivanhoe – 670 feet (where we saw the catfish and turtles enjoying the afternoon) and Fries Junction – 1,089 feet. Spread throughout the trail, you will also pass over 30 other smaller bridges and trestles.

Hike, Bike, Ride a Horse, Canoe or Kayak

Austinville tunnel

There are lots of areas along the trail that are specially made to go camping with your horse. We passed by Ivanhoe and met a few of the folks who were out on the trail riding that day. I’ve heard Foster Falls offers guided horseback trips, and you can also rent canoes or bikes there.

If you love fishing, you are sure to find your fill of areas for fishing as well. I have heard that there are huge Muskies in the river that grow that big because they don’t have any natural predators in the area. My wife is begging to go on a horseback ride, so maybe our next tale of New River Trail will be from the back of a horse. If I have my way, though, it will be from the comfort of a canoe.

Some Parting Thoughts

End of New River Trail

Whatever you are planning on, the best thing to do is to pick your starting location based on your objective for the day. From Shot Tower, you can go towards the two tunnels along the trail that are in the Austinville direction. That was my primary reason for choosing the starting point I did. We never made it down to the second tunnel, but we still had lots of fun on the way.

I am planning on hitting Foster Falls for my next trip. When I do, I’ll be sure to take you along for the ride. There are lots of campsites along the river, so if you are planning on walking the whole trail, you can make a weekend of it and walk along the trails while you stop under the stars at night. Until we hit the trails again, my friends, take care and be safe.

~ Jim

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