Jessica Lilly Published

New Trail Offers Quick Hike Just Off I-77

American chestnut tree in North America.

Southern West Virginia has new hiking trails located just minutes off of Interstate 77.

The trailhead to the Gardner Center’s hiking trails is located less than a mile off of exit 14, or the Athens exit, just behind the former U.S. Forestry Service Building.

The building currently houses the Mercer County Commission and business space. Remnants of the Forestry Service educational resources remain in the building. Some of this includes a display where visitors can try to identify a tree’s bark.

Outside, the site includes about 23 acres of woodland area, once used for forestry research.

The trails offer a little more than a mile of hiking and are said to take about 20 minutes total to cover. Employees developed a series of rock-lined trails when the building was constructed. Now those six trails are available for visitors to traverse. The Mercer County Commission has also preserved a list of trees to help visitors identify local species while on the short hike including:

  • American Chestnut
  • American Holly
  • Black Cherry
  • Black Gum
  • Black Locust
  • Black Oak
  • Chestnut Oak
  • Crabapple
  • Eastern Hemlock
  • Eastern White Pine
  • Hawthorn
  • Hophornbeam
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Northern Red Oak
  • Poison Ivy
  • Red Maple
  • Red Pine
  • Red Spruce
  • Rhododendron
  • Scarlet Oak
  • Scotch Pine
  • Shagbark Hickory
  • Sweet Birch
  • Yellow Poplar

The Gardner Center Trails include easy and moderate options. Hikers should check the Mercer County Gardner Center website to verify accessibility.