Gravel cycling enthusiasts, gather round – The Appalachian Mountaineer in New Castle, VA is calling your name, and it promises to be better than ever in 2023. Brought to you by Journey Productions, this event stands out in the world of gravel riding with its unique combination of challenging terrain, breathtaking views, and unbeatable post-ride hospitality. The narrow forest roads, old rail beds, and the famous ridgeline exposure of Bald Knob offer a riding experience like no other. As a participant, you can choose from multiple distance options, and upon finishing, you’re welcomed back with campfire hospitality, a delicious meal, and a refreshing cold beverage. The team at Strambecco rates it to be one of the Best Gravel Events in the Mid-Atlantic for 2023.
Hosted by the fantastic team at Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing, you’re guaranteed a weekend of great riding and camaraderie at The Appalachian Mountaineer. This event isn’t just a ride; it’s a celebration of gravel cycling, showcasing the best of #Gravelachia. With impeccable aid stations manned by Cardinal Bicycle, Star City Cycling, and the Journey Productions team, you are in safe and enthusiastic hands.
Event & Course Info
Now, let’s dive into what makes The Appalachian Mountaineer a must-ride event: the routes. With four different distances to choose from (85, 65, 40, and 22 miles), there’s something for every level of gravel cyclist.
Mountaineer 85: This is the ultimate challenge, taking you through the heart of the Appalachians and testing your grit and endurance with over 7,800 ft. of climbing.
Mid 65: A challenging yet rewarding option, this route offers a balanced mix of terrain with over 6,700 ft. of elevation gain.
Runaround 40: Perfect for those looking for a solid ride without the extreme distance, and boasts 4,400 ft. of elevation gain.
Shortcake 22: Short but sweet, this route with nearly 2,700 ft of climbing promises stunning views and a taste of the Appalachian terrain
Each of these routes features unique terrain and challenges, with the longer distances offering a rare and special type of dirt road unique to Virginia. The event provides three on-course aid stations to keep you fueled and rolling, with mechanical and sag support to ensure you’re never left stranded.
The debate between choosing a gravel bike or a mountain bike for The Appalachian Mountaineer is a real one. The efficiency of a gravel bike may serve you well, but the long descents and climbs could be more comfortably navigated on a hardtail mountain bike. The recommendation? For those looking to go fast and equipped with 38c or bigger tires, a gravel bike is your best friend. For those wanting a more cushioned ride, a hardtail mountain bike is the way to go. Remember, November weather on Bald Knob can be chilly, especially above 4,000 feet, so pack your layers!
Post-ride, join the gravel community around the campfire for stories, laughter, and a celebration of a day well spent on the bike. While the event is timed and there are amazing prizes up for grabs, The Appalachian Mountaineer is not about racing against others. It’s about challenging yourself, enjoying the ride, and leaving with a sense of accomplishment and a smile that won’t quit.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
Craig County has so much to offer to outdoor athletes and it’s highly recommended to enjoy a long weekend here for with fellow The Appalachian Mountaineer participants, friends and family. The host venue Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing is the suggested lodging option as you can enjoy a family-friendly weekend filled with a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, canoeing, fishing, zip-lining, and relaxing by Craigs Creek. Accommodation options include camping and indoor lodging, with live music on Saturday night, food available for purchase throughout the weekend, and alcoholic beverages for sale. Registered riders receive complimentary chili and a beverage, and there are five fire pits to keep everyone warm. Additional activities include canoe rentals with a shuttle service and zip line rides on their 900’ zip line, plus plenty of opportunities for hiking and relaxation.
If a hotel is more your jam, the Hampton Inn or the Fairfield Inn are two options nearby. For those that prefer a more home-like experience, there are some very cool vacation rentals in the area to suit a variety of needs from cozy cottages to guesthouses. If you prefer camping, there are some one-of-a-kind camping locations in the area to check out as well.
The culinary scene in New Castle, VA, is characterized by its charming small-town atmosphere, offering a variety of homestyle cooking and comfort food options. Local eateries and family-owned restaurants dominate the scene, providing visitors with a taste of Southern hospitality and traditional American cuisine. Local favorites include Pine Top Restaurant, Lasterday Market, and the Emporium General Store.
In addition to the plethora of activities available on site at Wilderness Adventure, New Castle’s extensive trail network is a hiker’s paradise, offering routes that range from easy, scenic walks to challenging, rugged terrains. Athletes can choose a trail that matches their fitness level and set out to explore the town’s lush forests, rolling hills, and picturesque views.
For a more serene yet equally challenging activity, canoeing along Craigs Creek offers a peaceful escape into nature. Outdoor enthusiasts can rent a canoe and enjoy a leisurely paddle, or for those looking for a workout, take on the creek’s gentle currents and navigate through its twists and turns. The shuttle service ensures a hassle-free experience, allowing athletes to immerse themselves in the stunning scenery and perhaps even catch a glimpse of local wildlife.
Journey Productions also produces a cousin to The Appalachian Mountaineer, called the The Appalachian Journey also taking place in Virginia, but in the Spring. Another top shelf gravel event in state is the Dirty Kitten from Dirty Kitten Productions.
For the multi-sport athletes out there, the Shenandoah Mountain 100 from Shenandoah Mountain Touring is an epic mountain biking event to add to your calendar and is part of the National Ultra Endurance Race Series (NUE) and considered to be one of the Best Mountain Bike Events in the Mid Atlantic.
Also, some of the Best Road Cycling Events in the Mid Atlantic take place in Virginia, including the Storming of Thunder Ridge, and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Gran Fondo a GFNS Partner Event produced by Muddy Squirrel. The trail runners of the group will appreciate the Old Dominion 100 which is part of the Grand Slam of Ultra Running and one of the Best Trail Running Events in the Mid Atlantic.