Matewan, West Virginia, is a quaint Appalachian town nestled beside the Tug Fork, a river that forms part of the border with Kentucky. You may never have heard of the town, but the names Hatfield and McCoy may ring a bell. Today, those names also have to do with off-road motorcycle riding.
The infamous feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families lasted from 1863 until 1891. Today, in Matewan, you can meet Don and Kathy McCoy. Don is a direct descendant of the McCoy clan and has spent a lifetime in this area, mapping what he calls “The Real McCoy Trails,” a mix of paved and unpaved roads that take you through the untamed heart of coal mining country. Kathy, formerly a Hatfield, runs the Hatfield McCoy Inn and Wingo’s Grill. The town’s history runs deep in their veins, and they work hard to share their little slice of heaven with visiting riders.
Several years ago, Don and Kathy began hosting The Stolen Pig Rally, a gathering of dual-sport and off-road riders eager to explore this motorcycling mecca. The name was derived from a Hatfield-McCoy dispute over the ownership of a pig, which led to one of the many incidents of violence. At The Stolen Pig Rally, riders enjoy the huge swaths of great riding territory and then gather around an open fire in the evenings to cook bacon. Did someone say “motorcycle riding followed by bacon over a campfire?” This sounds like my kind of gathering!
These trails are the real McCoy
The Matewan area is a motorcycling gold mine... er, coal mine, rather. Many of the off-road trails run through reclaimed mining land, offering unique terrain to explore. Following the Real McCoy Trails will ensure you get an adventurous mix of broken blacktop and two-track trails on routes like The Chicken Dumplin’ Run, Feud Site Loop, and Ridge Line, but that’s only the beginning. From Matewan, there is a connector trail that leads into the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, which spans nine counties and boasts an impressive 700-plus miles of OHV trails. Seriously, you could spend weeks riding here and still not see everything.
Thursday afternoon we arrived in Matewan and made our way to camp just before nightfall. The rally is now held at the McCoy’s Pig Farm just across the river in Kentucky. The site is perched on the side of a hill with a few areas large enough for tents to squeeze together. RV and car camping are available over in Matewan for those who don’t want to primitive camp, but we didn’t want to be away from all the nightly festivities or risk riding back to camp with a buzz. We found a somewhat-level high spot to pitch our tent since rain was in the forecast, and after catching up with several friends we turned in.
We woke to the gentle pitter-patter of rain on the tent. It had poured most of the night and was peaceful as we lay in our sleeping bags contemplating when to get up for breakfast. The drizzle was steady and most of the camp must have been thinking the same thing, because there wasn’t the usual rumble of engines you hear in the morning hours at an ADV rally. When the rain began to ease off, we emerged with our riding gear on, ready to hit the muddy trails.
With strong storms in the forecast, our group decided to ride fairly close to camp in case we had to hightail it back. Just a half mile away from the pig farm is the entrance to the McCoy Playground, formerly known as Point Rock Mine, which is no longer used for mining but open to off-road vehicles. Riding through the old mining area, you would think you are in the western United States. The land had been stripped of most vegetation and two-track trails split off in every direction. There are lots of difficult hill climbs, but always a go-around for those who don’t want to risk a long, rocky tumble. The views are incredible, and if you get to the top of one of the long hill climbs, you can see several ridge lines ahead.
After several hours, we spot a wall of heavy rain heading our way. This is the last place you want to be caught in a thunderstorm, as there’s no protection at all. We begin navigating our way back to camp, but before we could get to the blacktop the rain hit hard. The rocks became incredibly slick, and it was difficult to see the trail through all the rain and the fog on our face shields. Totally drenched, we pulled into camp and huddled around the pavilion fire to dry off and — you guessed it — cook some bacon!
As we rose on Saturday morning, the last of the storms had passed. Our group geared up early and found the Hatfield-McCoy trailhead. Included in the Stolen Pig registration packet is a wristband that allows you to access the trail system all weekend (usually a $50 pass). The main trail leading from Matewan is a wide OHV trail that ascends the mountain on the north side of town. The rain made this section very slick, and folks were struggling to make it up the hill. Our group made it to the top with nearly no incidents and continued on the main trail for a while in a rubber band of two-stroke smoke and grins.
We noticed lots of little single-track trails splitting left and right. So much to explore! Luckily, the trails here are very well marked, so it is easy to find your way around. Our plan was to ride as far as we could on the main trail before having to turn around and come back. What started out as roughly 25 riders dwindled to about 10 as the day went on and folks split back to camp.
It was mid-afternoon when we stopped to take a water break. We had ridden just over 50 miles of trails snaking up and down the mountains and traversing ridgelines. While stopped, one of the riders in our group found a loose bolt holding his gear shift lever on his KDX. “Snap!” In an attempt to snug it up, he twisted the bolt into two pieces. What started as a quick water break turned into a repair stop, and after trying everything to remedy the problem he decided to ease back to camp via the paved road which, luckily, was only a half mile down the trail.
The sun was getting low and, knowing we were still several hours from camp via the trail system, we turned around and started winding our way back.
The trails here are an absolute blast. Some sections are fast and flowing while others are tighter with switchbacks and blind corners. You have to keep your wits about you and remember that these trails are two-way. Keeping this in the back of my mind, I significantly dialed back my speed when navigating sections where I couldn’t see far ahead. You never know when you may meet another motorcycle, ATV, or side-by-side coming the opposite direction. We made pretty good time and arrived back to camp just as dinner was being served.
The last night of a motorcycle rally is always bittersweet. Following dinner and raffles, we shared bourbon and stories from the weekend with dear friends we likely won’t see for at least several months, or until the next rally brings us all together again. Before long, we heard someone picking a banjo and the bacon came out for one last roasting. The man on the banjo sure could play, and we enjoyed listening to bluegrass tunes while we cooked our late-night treats. Let me tell you, if you’ve never made a s’more with bacon replacing the graham crackers, you don’t know what you’re missing.
With hundreds of miles of trails and lots of twisty single-lane blacktop and gravel roads, the area around Matewan offers some of the best riding you can find. The town may be small in size but it’s overflowing with hospitality, as people like Don and Kathy welcome trail riders to town. I recommend putting a visit to Matewan on your riding destination list.