Canaan Valley, West Virginia, offers adventure, even in the heat of summer

Friday, June 25, 2010; WE14

WHY: Sky-high biking, a lift to the top and mountain music.

HOW FAR: About 30 miles from start to finish, and 180 miles from Washington.

Canaan Valley may be advertised as a year-round destination, but most people head for these West Virginia hills for one seasonal activity: downhill skiing at Timberline and Canaan Valley resorts. After the snow melts and the trees bud, though, the outdoor activities switch over to summer. In addition, for Washingtonians accustomed to heat advisories warning them to stay indoors, the valley is the perfect escape: You can go outside and actually enjoy it. Temperatures here rarely top the mid-80s, and humidity is delightfully low.

To put the cool air to good use, hike the alpine trails, fish the trout-stocked waters or hit the resorts for a round of golf or rides on bikes, horses or the retasked ski lifts. The summits offer stunning panoramic views of the mountain terrain, now turned a lush emerald by the same precipitation that blankets the valley in snowy white in winter. It should be no surprise that this corner of the Mountain State is also a mecca for mountain biking.

"On the East Coast, mountain biking pretty much started here," said Roger Lilly, owner of Blackwater Bikes in the no-stoplight hamlet of Davis.

Blessed with abundant undeveloped land, the area has been blazed with a vast network of bike trails, many maintained by a volunteer organization headed by Lilly. The CVI Trails (a.k.a. Canaan Valley Institute), for example, comprise a 15-mile system that includes two sections -- Moon Rocks and Hoo Doo Rocks -- on the state championship course.

For a test run, I strapped on my helmet and in a matter of seconds was cruising the dirt road to the looping trails. Hardly a championship cyclist, I rode easier single-track paths called Sherald's Shunt and JoJo's Curve, as well as the more difficult Rock Shox. I tore through the woods, banged over rocks and remembered how much fun it is to simply go fast.

"Sorry, I got your bike a bit muddy," I told Lilly after my ride.

"That's not muddy," he said. "You should go back."

-- Scott Elder

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