Hatfield-McCoy Trail system still growing after 18 years
LOGAN — There were high hopes and great enthusiasm for the Hatfield McCoy Trail (HMT) when it first opened operations in the Fall of 2000. Now, HMT is a growing economic juggernaut for the southern counties of West Virginia.
HMT has grown to the second largest off-road vehicle trail system in the world. The largest trail system is the Paiute ATV Trail located in Utah.
“If you build it they will come,” has never been a more accurate statement. HMT sold over 45,000 trail permits last year and is on track to surpassing 50,000 permits sold in 2018.
The Buffalo Mountain and Devil Anse trails in Mingo County are two of the more popular for out-of-town guests.
RockHouse in the Gilbert area offers a wide variety of trails at all difficulty levels.
It is especially popular with riders who are looking for an “Extreme” riding experience. This trail system has direct access to the ATV-friendly towns of Man and Gilbert, W. Va.
Each of these towns offer fuel, food and lodging, along with a generous helping of southern hospitality.
Chris Zeto, a West Virginia State University Extension Agent, is a marketing consultant for the Hatfield McCoy Trails. Zeto’s focus is with community and economic development.
“It really goes hand in hand,” Zeto said. “A lot of the businesses, I assist them with their marketing needs through the trails.”
Zeto also oversees partnerships with different organizations to do workshops and training to strength their business.
HMT is still expanding. A new trail opened in September 2018.
Currently, the number of trails under HMT is eight trail systems.
“We opened a new trail during Labor Day weekend in McDowell County,” Zeto said.
The Warrior Trail is 60 miles of new trail system with community connectors for the City of Gary and the City of War.
“We are working on opening back up the Ivy Branch Trail System we lost a few years back.” Zeto said
In 2015, HMT closed the Little Coal River and Ivy Branch Trails due to land ownership changes.
All the land for HMT is held by private land owners.
The trails operate through agreements with land owners to provide the experience of traveling the hills of West Virginia to residents and tourists alike.
“Ivy Branch was the first Jeep trail HMT had opened.” Zeto said. “Once we had that opened we began marketing to Jeep enthusiasts and rock crawlers”
Zeto said the marketing campaign for Jeeps did not stop after Ivy Branch closed.
“When we lost Ivy Branch,” Zeto said, “we worked with our land owner on the Bear Wallow Trail to get access for these larger vehicles.”
Bear Wallow had to be widened on some of the switch backs and portions of the trail to accommodate the larger vehicles.
Bear Wallow’s trail head is located on Route 17 in Logan County and has community connectors for the Fountain Place Mall, Town of West Logan and the City of Logan.
According to Zeto, HMT has applied for grants to purchase the Ivy Branch property. The purchase of Ivy Branch will make the first property owned by HMT.
The purchase of Ivy Branch will also make two trails that accommodate larger vehicles such as Jeeps.
For more information on the Hatfield McCoy Trails visit: www.trailsheaven.com.