Motorcycle Riding in West Virginia is Almost Heaven

Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia

Motorcycle riding in West Virginia wasn’t in our plans, but when rain pelted our original destination, western North Carolina and Tennessee, we refused to chill out. We pulled up the radar app and replotted our route to anywhere that wasn’t wet. Fortunately, anywhere was West Virginia, one of our favorite motorcycle riding playgrounds.

Cheap Cruise Control for the F650GS

We started out thundering west on Rt. 64 from the western suburbs of Richmond, VA. I tested my new cruise control for the BMW F650GS. I went with the pros’ recommendation: the Caterpillar heavy equipment O-ring that slips over the end of the right handle and engages when you roll the ring to the edge of the throttle. This cheap cruise control has its limitations. It is really a throttle control – it holds the throttle steady, which does not equate to holding the speed steady when riding hills. I was thrilled with it anyway, especially for $5.

Motorcycling in the Mountains

If you are looking for a two-day ride with incredible scenery and adventure, this route is it. Rt. 64 rolls past Charlottesville, VA and then starts to climb Afton Mountain. Along the way there are several scenic overlooks that give a glimpse at the stunning views of the valley and blue ridge mountains. Wait to stop until you are heading east though. There is no access to the overlooks from the west-bound side of the highway.

When 64 splits at Rt. 81, we take Rt. 81 North for a few miles to exit 225. While our target, Rt. 250 west, runs straight through Staunton, we have learned the hard way to bypass the center of town. Traffic, lots of stoplights, and the bad memory of a tipover when stopped at a light on a steep hill (oh, the shame) lead us to take the Woodrow Wilson Parkway around town, which meets up with Rt. 250 northwest of the city. I describe our route below beginning with Rt. 250, which whooshes us to the foot of the first of many mountains we will climb in the next 36 hours.

Here’s some perspective on “many.” We covered this terrain from right to left and back:

west virginia motorcycle route terrain

The green squiggley things are mountains. Motorcycle riding in West Virginia is not for beginners. This route is deliberately twisty, so get a few thousand miles under your bottom before you take this ride.

Virginia and West Virginia Motorcycle Road Ratings

There are some good routes for motorcycle riding in West Virginia, as well as some bad ones. Here is how I rate our route west of Staunton in the order we traveled.
250 west  – A+. Twisty heaven.

92 south — B.  Relatively straight and flat. But if you enjoy off-road excursions, take one of the roads marked “Greenbriar River Trail”. We enjoyed a 5-mile ride on a gravel/dirt road to the beautiful Greenbriar river.

greenbriar river trail west virginia

The Greenbriar River from the Greenbriar River Trail off-road excursion

39 west to Marlinton — B.  Great switchbacks, but too much gravel in the corners.

219 north — A.  This would be A+ except for local traffic, and it isn’t fair to call it traffic in West Virginia – more like “presence of a car moving in the same direction as us.”

150 Mountain Scenic Highway — A+, Magna Cum Laude. This road just outside Marlinton was built for motorcycling. No trucks. No buildings. No intersections, no crossroads. Just sharp blue sky and stunning views in all directions, wind whistling over the ridges, and graceful, sweeping curves. Note: Don’t judge the temperature based on how it feels in Marlinton. The Scenic Highway passes over 4,500 feet and it will be at least 10 degrees cooler than in town.

39 west of Marlinton — A. Beautiful pine forests and hardwood canopies on a perfectly maintained road.

20 south — D. Gravel. Gravel trucks. Ambulance entrances to mines. Traffic. Broken down trailers. The only thriving business is in repainting “For Sale” signs.

60 east — C. Gravel plus traffic plus towns, but good road in between.

92 north connecting 60 and 39 — B.  Mostly flat and straight, but no traffic and beautiful farms, valleys and mountains.

39 east — A. Back in Virginia, do not miss the Dan Ingalls scenic overlook at the top of Warm Springs Mountain.

Warm Springs mountain view bath county virginia

Looking east at the mountains of Virginia from Warm Springs Mountain, Bath County, VA

42 north/254 east/262 back to 81 —  C.  Nothing special, just got us back to the highway.

Amenities on the route

Pit stops along this route — plenty

Restaurants with surly waitresses, menus with seven items (hamburger, double hamburger, cheeseburger, double cheeseburger, hotdog – you get the picture), and microwaved instant food (grits, mashed potatoes, spam) — too many

Decrepit towns — ample

Motorcycle-friendly B&B’s — Old Clark Inn in Marlinton. Clean, inexpensive lodging, motorcycle parking with tools and air, rocking chairs in front and picnic tables in back. What more could you ask for?

Stretch Your Legs town — Lewisburg exudes Americana with plenty of shops, respectable restaurants, theaters and street parking.

Good restaurant — Food and Friends Casual Dining in Lewisburg. Homemade everything, with pride. I had lobster and shrimp salad with spinach, avocado and cranberries topped with Pilot House homemade dressing. Scott had the best reuben he has ever had, just as our waitress had promised. Try the key lime brulee’ for dessert.