By: Tim Donaldson
Ride: Hatfield McCoy – Dingess Rum Trail System
Beautiful scenery is all round on the
Hatfield McCoy's Dingess Rum Trail.
Have you ever seen the movie, “Rambo: First
Blood”? In the movie, police and Army reservists
comb through frosty mountain terrain looking for
the ever elusive, John Rambo, who was hiding out
in an old abandoned mining cavern. The crisp,
overcast morning of our arrival at Hatfield
McCoy’s Dingess Rum Trail System - in the heart
of coal-mining, West Virginia - was very
reminiscent of the fog- smitten mountain-top
scenes in the movie. As a Huey helicopter
circled the area, I thought for sure that we
would have bumped into Rambo at some point, had
the Colonel not convinced him to give up.
Our troubles were very different than those
of Rambo. Twenty minutes from our home
departure, we were plagued with flat tires. The
first one came as we were driving down the
interstate. A trailer tire had worn against the
undercarriage, due to weight overloading. After
a few minor positional adjustments and
replacement of the spare tire, we were back on
Logan Motor Lodge
That road led us to Logan, West Virginia
where we stayed at the Logan Motor Lodge.
Everyone in the community greeted us with warmth
and friendliness. Even as we were stopped at
traffic lights, passersby would wave or say
Our ATV excursion began at the Bearwallow
trailhead/ranger station. Be advised that
Dingess Rum and Bearwallow are the same place.
Dingess Rum is the name of the trail system, and
Bearwallow is the name of the trailhead/ranger
station. If you are not aware of this
distinction, you may think they are actually two
The trailhead/ranger station is a great place
to find information about trail conditions or
closings. Many times the trails are closed due
to maintenance or impassable terrain from fallen
trees or soil erosion. At other periods, trails
may be closed due to active mining operations.
Some trails share traffic with mining or logging
vehicles, so trail availability varies with
current activities. Those affected are marked
outside the ranger office.
One of several flats we encountered.
Once on the trails, we quickly followed the
switchbacks to the top of a mountain ridge. On
the way, there were many protruding rocks which
led to the eventual flat tires on two more
occasions. Fortunately, we were prepared with an
air compressor and a tire patch kit. If you are
planning a trip, don’t leave home without either
one! Compressed “tire gunk” will not be
sufficient. The can that we brought along
exploded from vibration in our carry-on bag.
Another feature of the trail system is the
infamous “coal pile." Ascent and descent about
the mound is achieved a variety of ways with
assorted levels of difficulty. Quite a bit of
time can be spent just exploring these routes.
Remember, coal is a loose foundation and yields
different base stability than typical soil. So
be prepared before attempting maneuvers that you
are, otherwise, normally comfortable performing.
Discarded rock from blasting are fun to
As mentioned earlier, there are active mining
operations ongoing within the vicinity of the
Dingess Rum Trail System. Perched atop a
mountain ridge, you may be fortunate enough to
see the distant plume of a mining blast on an
adjacent hillside. Even if you don’t see the
blast, you will certainly hear the thundering
rumble and feel the ground tremble.
Trails at Dingess Rum are clearly marked and
are identified according to their difficulty
rating. With the aid of the available trail map,
there should be no concerns of permanently
vanishing from civilization. Be aware that the
“most difficult” trails are, in fact, very
challenging. The trails are typically steep and
characterized by rocky and uneven terrain.
First-timers will definitely want to pass on
these; and in many cases, spotters strategically
placed alongside will add to the safety of
riding the tougher sections.
The “easiest” level trails are relatively
trouble-free and will certainly accommodate
two-way traffic. At one-point, we were required
to yield to a Park Ranger driving a Jeep. Yes,
the lights were flashing and everything! It was
the last thing I expected to see darting around
the corner of a densely-wooded forest. Maybe,
they really were looking for Rambo?!
Mudbogs that can swallow a quad.
Dingess Rum is just one of the five trail
systems located within the Hatfield-McCoy Trail
System and boasts approximately 105 miles of the
total 500+ miles available. Vehicle width
permitted is limited to 50 inches, excluding the
recently approved addition of some side-by-side
models for green trails use only. Trails are
open year-round from sunrise to sunset. A user
permit is required to ride any and all of the
trails, and the current rates for user permits
are as follows:
• 1 Day : $19.00
• 3 - 7 Day: $37.00
• WV In-State Annual: $26.50
• Out-of-State Annual: $79.50
While you’re at it, go ahead and get the
annual permit so that you can try all of the
trails at Hatfield-McCoy. This may be the best
trail system east of the Mississippi River. So
get out there and decide for yourself! If you
happen to run across Rambo while there, leave
him alone. He’s a Green Beret!
Additional information about the trails can
be obtained at