Awarded Top 10 region to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
Ready for rugged East Coast adventuring with a gorgeous mountain backdrop? Then set your car toward wild and wonderful West Virginia, a state often overlooked by both American and foreign travelers. It doesn't help that the state can't seem to shake its negative stereotypes. That's too bad, because West Virginia is one of the prettiest states in the Union. With its line of unbroken green mountains, raging white-water rivers and snowcapped ski resorts, this is an outdoor-lovers' paradise.
Created by secessionists, the people here still think of themselves as hardscrabble sons of miners, and that perception isn't entirely off. But the Mountain State is also gentrifying and, occasionally, that's a good thing: the arts are flourishing in the valleys, where some towns offer a welcome break from the state's constantly evolving outdoor activities. Charleston is the capital and the state's largest city – and its population is under 50,000.
West Virginia: Voted Top 10 Region as Best in Travel 2022
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout West Virginia.
Completed in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge is the third-highest bridge in the US and the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Made from 22,000 tons of structural steel, it rises 876ft above the New River and stretches 3030ft across the gorge. For the best view of the span, head to the overlooks behind the Canyon Rim Visitor Center or join a Bridgewalk tour.
Red spruce trees, windswept boulders, valley views and boggy forests set a striking scene in the northern reaches of this remote but popular wilderness atop the Allegheny Plateau. The alpine landscape evokes the mountain scenery of northern Canada, and with 47 miles of trails crisscrossing its 17,371 acres, Dolly Sods is a prime spot for a day-long or weekend adventure. You can build your own loop hike from the Beaver Dam or Bear Rocks trailheads.
Historic buildings and museums are accessible to those with passes, which can be found, along with parking and shuttles, north of town at the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park Visitor Center off Hwy 340. Parking is incredibly limited in Harpers Ferry proper so plan to park at the visitor center and catch the frequent shuttle. It's a short and scenic ride.
A striking rock formation rising 900ft above a fork of the Potomac River, Seneca Rocks is one of the most recognizable natural features in the state. Rock climbers have scaled the sandstone walls here since the mid-1930s. Today there are more than 370 mapped climbing routes. Hikers can walk 1.5 miles to an observation platform near the top of the formation.
Halloween is the busy season at this former mental hospital, when ghost tours of the massive facility will scare the living daylights out of you. The hospital, which closed in 1994, is 150 years old. Guided tours include a criminally insane tour and various ghost tours – one with an overnight stay! The main building, constructed of hand-cut sandstone, stretches nearly a quarter of a mile. The facility is 60 miles south of Morgantown via I-79 and US 19.
One of the most photogenic spots in all of West Virginia is the main overlook at Coopers Rock. Picture a stone-and-log fence wrapped around a sandstone clifftop. That clifftop is perched above a big view of the Cheat River Gorge and the forested slopes beside it. Pretty darn awesome. The drive through the forest to get there is gorgeous too, particularly in fall when the leaves are changing color. Don't miss the Rock City Trail (0.7 miles one-way), which barrels through a wonderland of boulders.
The enormous Green Bank Telescope is a radio telescope, so you won't be looking at the stars through any lenses here. But you can learn about radio astronomy and get a closer look at the telescope – the dish's surface could hold two football fields. Because the dish is so powerful and finely attuned to catch radio waves, the surrounding 13,000-sq-mile region has been designated a National Radio Quiet Zone to minimize interference. So expect trouble using cell phones!
This mine in Beckley, 22 miles south of Fayetteville, is a museum about the region's coal heritage. Visitors can ride a train 1500ft into a former coal mine, check out exhibits about mining life and explore the camp town village. Don't like enclosed places? You can see everything except the mine for $11. If you do go in the mine, bring a jacket; it's cold underground!
There are hiking trails, a nature center and an aerial tram, which runs from the lodge down to the river's edge for jet boat tours of the river and views of the New River Gorge Bridge (May to October). The layout of the lodge is a little confusing, but the comfy rooms (double $109 to $134) offer fabulous views over the gorge. Book early for the fall foliage display.