This 213 mile ride is a great mix of curvy roads, great scenery, and interesting things to see. Route 15, Route 20, and Route 66 are three of the best roads in West Virginia. Helvetia is a nice little Swiss village. The Green Bank Observatory, the Cass Scenic Railroad, and the summit of Snowshoe Mountain are great stops.
Ride south on U.S. 219 out of Elkins for 20 miles to Huttonsville. Turn right on U.S. Route 250 and ride east over a few fun ridges to Bartow. Turn right on WV Route 28 and ride south to the Green Bank Observatory.
Pull in to the entrance on your right and park at the Green Bank Science Center. This is the starting point for guided tours of the Green Bank Observatory telescope ($6) and contains an exhibit hall, a 150-seat auditorium, a gift shop, and a full menu Starlight Café.
Admission to the exhibit hall is free and has interactive, hands-on exhibits exploring the electromagnetic spectrum, radio science, and the site history. The telescope tour features science demonstrations and a short film about the Green Bank Telescope. The tour continues with a bus excursion through the gates into the RFI-restricted Zone for an up-close look at the telescopes. Plan about 30 minutes for the exhibits. The Starlight Cafe serves salads, wraps, burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc. There is a nice view of the telescopes and surrounding mountains.
Leave the Science Center and turn right on WV Route 28. Ride south to Green Bank and turn right on WV Route 66 and continue to the historic town of Cass. Park in the lot by the station for the Cass Scenic Railroad.
From the West Virginia State Parks website: “The town of Cass remains relatively unchanged since its founding in 1901 by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company. Cass was built as a company town for the loggers who worked in the nearby mountains. Construction of the railroad started in 1901. It was used to haul lumber to the mill at Cass. The railroad track was eventually extended to the top of Bald Knob, the third highest mountain peak in West Virginia.”
Walk across the tracks to the Old Company Store and discover more about trains at the park’s Cass Historical Museum. Visit and explore the exhibits for free. While you’re there, take a guided tour of the locomotive shop. See how engineers repair and maintain the historic Shay locomotives. There is a restaurant here called The Last Run Restaurant (review). Lastly, you can also stroll through the historic logging town of Cass.
Continue on Route 66 and then turn right into Snowshoe Drive and begin climbing to the Snowshoe Resort. There are some great curves and a good scenic overlook on the way to the summit. At the summit, ride to the edge of the parking lot furthest from the lodge for a great summit view. Good food choices are the Foxfire Grill and the Old Spruce Cafe & Tavern in the Rimfire Lodge. There is a Starbucks next door.
Ride back down to WV Route 66 and turn right. Ride a short distance and turn right again on U.S. Route 219 and ride 11 miles to Valley Head. Turn left on Route 15 and prepare for some great riding. Route 15 and Route 20 may be my favorite ride in West Virginia. They are idyllic joys with perfect curvy asphalt through a tunnel of trees. Stay on Route 15 for 20 miles until Webster Springs. Turn right onto Route 20 and ride this gem 40 miles to to French Creek.
Turn right onto Alexander Road which becomes County Road 46 and brings you to a high mountain valley and the little Swiss village of Helvetia. This small village was settled in 1869 by Swiss and German-speaking immigrants. They made the difficult trek by foot over the mountains from Clarksburg. When they reached the location for the village, they were overwhelmed by the extreme thickness of the wilderness. They began to settle in the rugged country and brought their Swiss way of life with them. The secluded location led to the preservation of traditional dance, music, food, and holidays. The town has been preserved and is fun to walk around in.
A good place for lunch is the Swiss Hutte Restaurant (Review) (Wed-Sat 12:00 – 6:00 cash only – no ATM.)
Upon leaving Helvetia, Route 46 becomes a great ride as it descends to Route 219 and the town of Mill Creek. There is one especially pretty hairpin that will have you craning your neck. Turn left on U.S. 219 and follow it north to the hotel in Elkins.