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Kanawha Trace trail celebrates 55th anniversary


The Herald-Dispatch

BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — There’s more than one way to get from Barboursville to the Kanawha River.

And this weekend, close to 200 folks will celebrate doing it the old-fashioned way — over the river and through the woods.

The 31.7-mile Kanawha Trace snakes through farm fields and past rock cliffs, forests and rural roads from On a to the Kanawha River.
(Herald-Dispatch file photo)

Boy Scouts and hikers from all over the Tri-State and from as far away as Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois, will take to the Kanawha Trace as the 31.7-mile backpack trail celebrates its 55th anniversary.

While the deadline has passed to get the meals that will be served to campers at Blackjack Schoolhouse on Saturday night, area hikers who want to come out and hike sections or the entire trail are invited to join in the fun on the trail, which has 11 miles of the trail run on roads – some graveled, some paved and 21 miles through the woods on private land.

Visit the Kanawha Trace Facebook page ( ) or the Kanawha Trace website ( ) to get a link to the registration site for the event. Registration cost is still the same as it was in 1960 – 50 cents.

The trail was started back in the late 1950s when BSA Troop 42, sponsored by Baptist Temple in Huntington, was both traveling long distances to find hiking trails and also hiking back roads to stay in shape. While out hiking, a woman who owned a farm where the boys were camping suggested they create their own trail so they wouldn’t have to hike so much on the roads, according to Robert Wilson, one of the trail’s scouting volunteers.

Wilson said that, with the help of their scoutmaster, the 17 boys looked at maps, picked a route, solicited property owners’ permission and then built and marked the trail. The route included parts of three historic roads. It began near the confluence of the Mud River into the Guyandotte River and terminated at the Kanawha River. Since it traveled to the latter, the troop chose the name “Kanawha Trace.”

By 1960, scouts could use an early iteration of the trail. By 1962, the trail as it exists today (with modest changes) was in place. The Boy Scouts had their first official event on the trail in 1963. In 1971, scouts conducted a “walk-a-thon” on the 10th anniversary of the trail. Then, in 1982, scouts offered a 20th anniversary hike on the trail. Since then, the Boy Scouts hold an anniversary hike every five years.

Charlie Dundas, one of those boys there in the beginning, is still with the trail, and he, in fact, became a trail builder. His business, Tri-State Company, Inc., has also built dozens of trails all over the Eastern United States, including locally – the Huntington High cross-country trail, the Overlook and Lost Trail at Beech Fork State Park, and the National Heritage Forest Trail at President James Madison’s Home in Montpelier, Virginia.

Dundas has helped organize every anniversary hike and is head of the Kanawha Trace Administration and Maintenance group (KTAM). KTAM volunteers mow the trail, cut the trees that fall across it, paint the blazes that mark it, and – in general – try to keep the trail going while the forces of nature conspire to cover it over.

Chris Kyle, one of the dozen or so Kanawha Trace volunteers who helps Dundas keep the trail clear, said this year the trail is in great shape.

“Having the KT50K back in August really helps because we were clearing for that. So since then we’ve been cleaning up the trail and mainly hitting the areas that grow fast and are exposed to the sun,” Kyle said. “Charlie was just down in Jenkins Branch painting, and he said it was the best it has looked in 50 years.”

Kyle said that while the route was almost exclusively used as a scout trail in the beginning, it has been great to see the community embracing the trail, which just hosted its seventh annual West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners event this August – the KT50K, which also has a 15K and a 5K on the trail.

Coming up at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, is the sixth annual KT Darkness Falls Haunted 5K and 10K Night Trail Race that takes place at Camp Arrowhead, located about five miles from the start of the KT. You can sign up at

“The runners and the people who are out there using the trail are volunteering to help clear it, so it’s nice to see that it is not just a scout effort any more but it is becoming a community effort to maintain the Trace,” Kyle said.

This weekend, there will be dozens of KT volunteers doing everything from fixing meals to shuttling both gear and hikers to the overnight spots and back to Camp Arrowhead.

Kyle said all area hiking enthusiasts are invited to come out and hike all or some of the trail this weekend and to learn first-hand about the closest long-distance backpack trail near Huntington.

“A trail this long provides a great opportunity for backpacking or a single-day run like the KT50K, and we;ve got another unique event and unique patch and medal for those who finish it,” Kyle said. “We’re maxed out for meal plans, but if someone wants to just hike and enjoy the fellowship of like-minded hikers they are more than welcome.”

Get on the Trace

WHAT: The 55th anniversary hike of the Kanawha Trace, a 31.7-mile multi-purpose trail for hiking and mountain biking.

WHERE: Cuts through eastern Cabell, Mason and Putnam counties from the confluence of the Mud and Guyandotte rivers to Fraziers Bottom on the Kanawha River.

HOW MUCH: Registration is 50 cents.

CONNECTING: For more information, visit the Kanawha Trace Facebook page ( ) or the Kanawha Trace website ( ). Each provides a link to the registration site.

GET THE MEDAL: Those who complete the hike can purchase a special anniversary medal ($12.50) and a patch ($8.50) to commemorate the accomplishment. T-shirts will be available for purchase at $20.

SAFETY ON THE TRAIL: Saturday’s forecast is for sun and 85 degrees. Consult weather sites before the hike, dress for the forecast, and prepare for changes in the weather. Most importantly, carry water. There will be water at primary road crossings, but participants should carry water on them— and drink frequently — to avoid dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion (depending on the weather conditions).

THE NEXT EVENT: Haunted Glow Run: The Kanawha Trace hiking trail, located at Camp Arrowhead, 4200 Boy Scout Rd., Ona, will host the sixth annual KT Darkness Falls Haunted 5K and 10K Night Trail Race at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21. A light source is required to participate in Darkness Falls. The course will be marked with more than 500 glow sticks. There is a two-hour cutoff on the 10K night race. There are two new courses this year. After the race, there will be s’mores, water and sports drinks. If you feel like you will be hungry after the race, feel free to bring a hot dog and a roasting stick to roast your hot dog over the bonfire. Sign up at

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