This little town is an unexpected ATV paradiseSeptember 16, 2016
Epic mountain riding lures adventurers to one of the world’s largest off-roading systems, but welcoming communities like Bramwell keep ‘em rolling back through.
The vast Hatfield-McCoy Trail System winds through Appalachian mountains for 500+ miles. And the network is still expanding, with more trails connecting trails in the works. Eventually, riders will be able to churn through 2,000 miles of terrain.
And after a long day of roaring through the mountains, you’re treated to the best of Southern hospitality. Off-roaders can even take their trail vehicles right up to restaurants, lodging and other stops around the ATV-friendly towns near the trailheads.
Bramwell is a welcoming rider favorite, with plenty of ATVing amenities already, and more popping up all the time.
Four Wheeler Heaven, Bramwell’s newest ATV destination, is a family affair, owned by Michael and Lori Constantino
“I can relate with guests not just as a local, but as a rider, because I have explored these trails for so long,” Michael said. “Many people who come to the Hatfield-McCoy Trails have never been to West Virginia before, so our guests really like being able to speak with someone knowledgeable about the ATV riding scene before they come out here.”
For him, the Hatfield-McCoy system has provided memories almost as long as the trails themselves.
“My oldest son has been an avid trail rider since he was 6, and we have had some of our best times exploring the trails right here in our backyard,” Michael said. “Before the area trails were incorporated into the Hatfield McCoy Trails, my son and I would ride from Coaldale to Pinnacle Creek past an old mining site locally known as the ‘Stairsteps’ on our 4-wheelers. This was my favorite trail, and today it runs across areas that have become the Pocahontas, Indian Ridge and Pinnacle Creek trail systems. My favorite memory is of my son Marcus riding his Polaris 90 up the ‘Stairsteps’ back in 2002 when he was 10 years old. We were fearless back then!”
But ATV riding didn’t become a full-time pursuit until much later. In the meantime, the Constantinos raised kids and dashed back and forth from baseball, basketball and Boy Scouts. Still, Michael perked up when, in the early 90s, people started talking about the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System.
“I knew how big a maintained, marked trail system would be for Southern West Virginia,” he said. “You would constantly see trucks with trailers full of ATVs from North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia parking alongside Route 52 to ride the trails in our area, even before the Hatfield McCoy Trails came to be.”
“One of our guests could easily wake up at 7 a.m., get a good 40-mile ride in on the Pocahontas trail system, grab lunch at one of Bramwell’s downtown diners, and then drive to Winterplace and be on the ski slopes in under an hour.”
Even though the trails have been established for a while, the Constantinos waited. But the timing seemed perfect this past summer, so they crossed their fingers and launched Four Wheeler Heaven— and It has already attracted plenty of business.
“We’ve hosted groups and families from all over the East Coast— Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee— and we’re looking forward to hosting many more guests going into the fall and winter months,” Michael said.
To him, the surrounding terrain is a perfect match for off-road recreation. Rugged wilderness, plus “some of the most beautiful, scenic mountains anywhere in Appalachia.”
“Before the Hatfield McCoy Trails existed, it would have been easy for a novice rider to get lost or unknowingly ride onto dangerous terrain,” Michael said. “But today, the trails are mapped, marked by difficulty level, and patrolled by officers, so it’s safe for riders of any skill level to get out and explore knowing that there’s a trail map— and plenty of other avid riders — to help guide their way around the trails.”
Guests at Four Wheeler Heaven have on-site access to one of the best Hatfield-McCoy trailheads, too: the Pocahontas Trailhead. It’s one of the largest systems along the East Coast. That’s because it links into Indian Ridge and Pinnacle Creek trail systems, too.
Beginners have plenty of choices, and so do veterans and adrenaline junkies.
“It’s not just the ATV trails that we have to offer, though,” Michael said. “Southern West Virginia is truly an outdoorsman’s paradise. One of our guests could easily wake up at 7 a.m., get a good 40-mile ride in on the Pocahontas trail system, grab lunch at one of Bramwell’s downtown diners, and then drive to Winterplace and be on the ski slopes in under an hour.”
Bramwell is also home to a lot of history, from its rail depot to a street lined with elegant mansions. If you think ATVs and Victorian mansions seem like an odd pairing, you’re right. Bramwell—once known for having America’s highest population of millionaires—is quaint, genteel and charming. Those are words you don’t associate with off-road riding.
Still, Michael thinks the historic community and ATV guests form a symbiotic relationship.
“With the opening of the Pocahontas trail system, Bramwell became an ATV-friendly town and it has transformed the downtown in such a positive way,” he said. “The shops and restaurants are always full of riders who come 100s of miles just to experience the incredible trails we have here, and many other ATV lodging outfits and other businesses that cater to these new tourists are popping up.”
That’s where Four Wheeler Heaven comes into the picture: Their first completed cabin is spacious enough for 10 guests, with 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, a sunroom and living room. They lure in vacationers with amenities like a full kitchen, HD television, Internet access, washer and dryer— pretty much everything. There’s even a heated outdoor swimming pool!
“Four Wheeler Heaven is geared toward visitors who want the same amenities they’d expect at their beach house or their own house,” Michael said. But unlike your home, Four Wheeler Heaven has the Hatfield-McCoy as its backyard.
And the Constantinos are already thinking ahead after their successful summer debut. They envision 3 more rental units in the main house. Michael and his family want to build cabins, too. But you’ll still feel hidden away in the wilderness.
“We don’t want it to be too crowded—we want our guests to feel like they are staying in their own home away from home,” he said. “We don’t have 10 or 20 cabins stacked beside each other; we have a house that’s been remodeled, modernized and decorated to make you feel at home.”
“There is nothing quite like the thrill of riding freely down narrow winding trails through dense forests, churning through mud pits and then popping up over the mountaintops to find fantastic views of our mountains that go on for miles and miles.”
But if you did happen to prefer a smaller space, the nearby Pocahontas ATV Resort’s collection of rustic, no-frills cabins might suit you. Or, they’ve got deluxe cabins, RV sites and other options, too. Even the more rustic picks have their share of amenities— plus, Resort Manager Melinda Boothe is known for her homemade waffles.
“We have a very personal, very friendly relationship with our ATV guests,” she said. “All of us have 1st-hand experience on the trails, so people appreciate that.”
Even though she’s managed Pocahontas ATV Resort for several years, Melinda’s awe of the Hatfield-McCoy trails has never faded. And guests pick up on that.
“My favorite memory is of the first time I took guests to Rebel Rock,” she said. “We got to the top of the crest, and you can see mountain after mountain, all the way to the Kentucky state line. It’s just beautiful.”
Like any ATV fan, Melinda appreciates the Hatfield-McCoy’s diverse terrain, and said “it changes every day.” But she also studies the trails like a naturalist. She meets fellow “explorers” and shares her encounters on Facebook. One day, you’ll be riding and there will be a stout black bear. The next, you might spot a pokey turtle scrambling over rocks.
“My favorite trail would have to be Pinnacle Creek— it’s the most beautiful,” Melinda said. There are plenty of clear creeks, so transparent you can see the bottoms. The best time to ride is in autumn, when the leaves change color.
“But as for the Hatfield-McCoy trails in general, there’s something for everyone,” Melinda said. “There are dedicated trails, and anyone from a beginner to a really advanced rider can explore them.”
In fact, a fair percentage of the Pocahontas Trail System is ideal for new and intermediate drivers. Almost a quarter of the paths are “green,” or easy. 47% are “Blue” (“more difficult.”)
But it’s fair to say that you’ll probably want to hang around the resort, too. Pocahontas ATV Resort’s Medium Rustic Cabin— an adorable cobalt house with white trim— is perfect for an ATV family. Kids can claim the bunk bed, and there’s a little fridge, microwave and private bathroom. You’ll also get a picnic table and fire pit. But you also get creature comforts like cable TV, heating and air conditioning.
No matter where you stay, when you’re ready to play, gear up for 200 miles of trails and 3 area trail systems.
Go ahead and get dirty— you’re on vacation!
“Many of our guests have asked which trails have the most mud, and the Pocahontas trail system has plenty of mud for everyone!” Michael said. “There is nothing quite like the thrill of riding freely down narrow winding trails through dense forests, churning through mud pits and then popping up over the mountaintops to find fantastic views of our mountains that go on for miles and miles.”