🔒 Ride along with JC on the Jackson River Trail

ALLEGHANY COUNTY, Va. – Today we’re going to go for a ride and for lunch on the Jackson River Trail. Let’s go outdoors.

The plan is to take a nice easy ride on this flat trail. We are going to go about 15 miles round-trip starting at Alleghany Outdoors on the southern end of the trail, the Covington end and then we are going to stop for lunch and ride back, taking in all the scenery along the way.

The Jackson River Trail follows the Jackson River from Covington 14 miles north toward the Bath County line.

By November, it will extend another mile and a half. Crews are already working on the parking area and the trail itself.

“The outdoors is one of our most special assets. You can’t find places like this, where you have clean flowing rivers, mountains to enjoy, this big broad beautiful landscape, the forest river valleys. It’s really special here,” said Robin Bruns with the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission.

The trail follows what was once a railway taking passengers from Covington to the Homestead Resort.

Now, it’s a gorgeous way to go on an adventure.

I’m going to have ridden 17 miles today. I try to do that every day,” said Nancy Moga, a fellow trail user.

For Nancy Moga, the trail is a daily destination.

Moga is a self-appointed trail ambassador. She talks to people on her daily rides and picks up trash left behind by less thoughtful trail users.

She also maintains a log of everything and everyone she sees.

“Every day when I get home I post the weather, the temperature. Sunny, windy today I’ll say it was sunny…. I’ll post the number of bikers I saw. The number of walkers I saw, and the number of dogs I saw,” Moga told us.

Her posts can be found on her Facebook page.

We rode the trail for 7 and a half miles from outfitter Alleghany Outdoors. Then we took a left turn just after some soaring cliffs. . It’s important to know that turn if you want to have a great lunch or dinner, or maybe a cold beverage. Signs will also point the way beginning this month.

We rode a well-maintained dirt road and over an abandoned steel bridge before riding another short distance to the restaurant.

Our lunch destination was the Brewhouse at Cliffview, which is looking to attract trail and river users to its regular base of golfers and local people.

I ordered an Irish pub burger, which, in addition to the burger and bacon, was absolutely oozing cheese and sauce on top of a pretzel bun.

“We realized we really have an opportunity here with our location nestled here along the river and the trail to really promote what the Allegheny Highlands has to offer. And the outdoor activities,” said Jen Mann, chef and GM of Brewhouse at Cliff View.

After about 12 years of planning and building the Jackson River Trail is beginning to have its intended effect. The restaurant is just the latest example.

Matt Fischer of Alleghany Outdoors, an outfitter based on the Covington end of the trail, has been watching the trail’s reputation grow as a destination. He’s happy to see amenities like the restaurant and Airbnb’s beginning to cater to tourists

“One of the things I’ve seen just the past few years is the restaurant Airbnb’s have been built up around it. So it brings in expendable money from people just looking for a different vacation,” said Matt Fischer with Alleghany Outdoors. “Instead of your typical Disney World or anything like that, you can come here and spend a day on the trail spend a day hiking - can spend a day on the river.”

One of the coolest things you can do here see on this ride is actually just off the trail and you need to know to look for it. You just need to look for the markers right beside the trail.

Trail markers for swinging bridge off of Jackson River Trail (WSLS)

Follow the footpath a short distance and you see this.... and you see this.

Swinging bridge off of Jackson River Trail (WSLS)

“One of the cool features of this ride is this swinging bridge over the Jackson River. It’s actually a couple of hundred feet off the trail, but it’s worth just walking over and getting here. But when you get here, you kind of got a learn to trust.

More and more people are discovering the Jackson River Trail. It’s flat and well-maintained, making it accessible to just about anyone. And whether it’s the wildflowers, the river or the cliffs — there’s plenty to see. And soon there will be even more of it.

“People are deciding where to go, it all comes together. It’s the mileage you offer. It’s the amenities you can enjoy, it’s the friendly people that you made along the trip,” said Bruns.

About the Author:

John Carlin co-anchors the 5, 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts on WSLS 10.