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West Virginia’s diverse landscapes and vibrant cities provide a lifetime’s worth of adventures and relaxation – there is something here for everyone!
One of the East’s most dramatic geologic wonders is the New River Gorge, where visitors can enjoy breathtaking vistas and exciting whitewater rafting and kayaking. The 53-mile stretch of river is easily accessible and much of it is protected as a park. Famous for its whitewater rapids, the Gauley River is one of the top-ranked whitewater destinations in the East. There are several sections of river available for running and plenty of outfitters willing to take both beginners and experts downstream.
Beech Fork State Park in Barboursville is quieter but no less beautiful. This protected preserve is well-maintained and great for both biking and swimming on hot summer days. Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park offers shady picnic spots and great places to jump in the water, and there are also hiking trails and paddle boat rentals.
Ready to reach for the stars? The Green Bank Observatory is a world-class astronomical research facility and boasts free entry. There’s a unique café on-site and visitors can take telescope tours and see the world’s premier single-dish telescope.
The Appalachian Trail crosses a sliver of the state, and visitors can take the entire summer to hike the 2,300-mile trail or simply hop on for an afternoon stroll. One of the best spots for a relaxing day hike is near the trail’s midway point at Harpers Ferry. Make sure to spend some time at nearby Arsenal Square and in the adjacent national historical park – you’ll be in good company, as American icons such as George Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Frederick Douglass have visited this spot too. Jefferson Rock is a prominent knob described by Thomas Jefferson in 1783.
Drivers will want to hop on Fayette Station Road near Lansing, a gorgeous stretch of mountain highway which parallels the New River at times and passes several notable restaurants.
Hikers from around the East know about Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, a 10,215-acre protected piece of high country near Elkins – it’s full of bucolic trails and inspiring views. More trails, as well as notable rock climbing routes, can be found at Seneca Rocks Discovery Center – these razorback crags hold more than 375 major routes ranging up to a vertical 5.13. Nearby rock climbing schools can get you on the mountain no matter what your experience level is.
While traveling around the state you’re sure to see plenty of bird life from afar, but you can get up close with some of the most regal birds in the nation when you visit the Greenbrier Falconry in White Sulphur Springs. Tours here put you in close proximity to falcons, eagles, hawks, and more.
West Virginia is home to awesome parks which feature everything from mineral pools to petting zoos. The 1,500-acre Oglebay Park in Wheeling has a planetarium and museums as well as a year-round calendar full of family-friendly events. In Huntington, Ritter Park has tennis courts, walking paths, and an award-winning rose garden. In Moundsville, Grand Vue Park has 12 miles of multi-use trails, an aquatic center, a 2,100-foot zip line, and an eight-line canopy tour as well as playgrounds, cabins, a land navigation course, and miniature golf.
In Parkersburg, Fort Boreman Park has hiking trails, a picnic pavilion, and gorgeous views. Nearby Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park preserves a mansion and offers wagon rides, hiking trails, and explanation of an alleged plot to create an independent country in the center of North America.
Railroad buffs should hop aboard one of the trains at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Another spot popular with train fans is the Elkins Depot, a busy spot downtown which is the embarkation point for the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad. Those who like outdoor sculpture should be sure to visit Coopers Rock State Forest, which also has hiking trails and mountain vistas. Grandview State Park lives up to its name with memorable overlooks of the New River – plenty of families journey here for portraits.
Historians have done a great job interpreting the state’s cultures and heritage. The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine has a recreated mining camp and underground mine as also has a mountain homestead and a youth museum. The West Virginia State Museum in Charleston is free and covers the state from prehistoric times through the Civil War and on to the present day – it’s been called the state’s greatest spot for a history lesson.
Those after something quirkier might want to stop in the Archive of the Afterlife in Moundsville, which houses a collection of haunted artifacts and descriptions of paranormal activity. The Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant catalogues mothman eyewitness accounts and historic documents. Those with a strong constitution may want to also visit the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, a Gothic-inspired prison where visitors can tour cells and the state’s retired electric chair. The Greenbrier Government Relocation Center is a Cold War bunker in White Sulphur Springs open for tours.
Those seeking some mountain air have plenty of airy heights to choose from. Snowshoe is home to a well-regarded ski area and offers tubing as well as championship golf, mountain biking, and spa services. Canaan Valley Resort has skiing in the winter and tons of summer activities – choose from golf, hiking, biking, climbing walls, scenic chairlift rides, and geocaching. Winterplace also offers winter skiing and in summer is a top spot for weddings and banquets.