The mountains were calling, and I answered. With the push to explore the outdoors and travel safely, I knew this fall was the time to finally explore the mountain state, rugged and wild terrain of natural beauty that is often whizzed by or flown over. There are so many things to do in West Virginia, especially for those wishing to escape into the outdoors, explore historical sights, and travel safely.
Driving through West Virginia catching the tail end of fall really showcased the beauty of the state. As soon as you hit Harper’s Ferry, I was hit by a bright golden sunset on the historical town and train bridge at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. I knew I made the right choice in taking a huge detour on my road trip back south from Massachusetts to Florida. But it was 100 % worth the energy and time it took. After my 5-day road trip through West Virginia, I knew I wanted to come back because this is an outdoor enthusiast’s heaven on earth. “Almost Heaven” is definitely a fitting slogan by West Virginia’s tourism board.
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Who is this itinerary suited for?
I will include activities for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts, and different types of travelers from adventure to history travelers. While I was traveling solo, camping in my van, and doing some intense hikes/rock climbing there are many things to do in West Virginia. From learning about the history of mining along the Coal Heritage trail to exploring the history impeccably kept Revolutionary-era town of Harpers Ferry this itinerary also offers fun for solo travelers,
Best Time To Go To West Virginia
West Virginia to my surprise is a four-season playground, which is why I can already say I will be back! Mountains, beautiful lakes, and raging rivers make it a perfect place for mountaineers as well as whitewater fanatics. The winter offers cold temperatures and snow. This is when West Virginia ski resorts shine.
The high season is May through October and is when most tourist attractions are open. White water rafting goes on until the end of October. Also, I found the main sightseeing attractions along the Coal Heritage Trails about the mining history of West Virginia closed for the low season after October 31.
I recommend coming in the fall when the leaves are changing, you still can go whitewater rafting, climbing, and explore the historical sites across the state since some close in the low season.
Getting to West Virginia
While I drove to West Virginia, and it is a reasonable distance from cities, such as Wilmington, Delaware, Washington D.C, Philadelphia, PA, and other Mid-Atlantic states. I recommend a road trip because it is the best way to see a state. Most destinations are remote or spread across the state.
If flying your choice of carriers are Delta, Spirit, American Airlines, and United. Charleston, West Virginia has a small airport with non-stop flights between Chicago, D.C., Atlanta, and Orlando. Flying from the West will include a stopover, but if you want you could fly into DC and drive into the state as well. If you do fly in, definitely explore Charleston, West Virginia, I was not able to visit this trip, but I will surely explore this capital city next time I am in the Mountain State.
West Virginia Road Trip – A Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1 Harpers Ferry
My first stop in West Virginia was a highly anticipated one, Harpers Ferry. As I drove into West Virginia from Philly, I was prepared with Maps.Me downloaded it since I was warned there was little to no signal in parts of West Virginia. I wanted a map downloaded just to be safe.
“The passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous in nature. This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” Fact according to Thomas Jefferson when he visited Harpers Ferry in 1783.
Harpers Ferry is as beautiful as he said it was today and even looks like you have stepped back in time. It looks exactly as it did when it was used as the US Arsenal by President George Washington. Now it’s a national historic park where visitors can roam shops and the streets of Harpers Ferry that have changed little since its establishment.
Want to stay overnight? There are even inns and bed and breakfasts in this National Historic Park! If you are looking for a bite with a view check out the outdoor dining at The Rabbit Hole on High St. From history to amazing hiking opportunities like getting the best view of the town from Maryland Heights, Harpers Ferry is definitely a must-see when visiting West Virginia! Get here by car or Amtrak.
Day 1 Berkeley Springs
Harpers Ferry is a short hour drive from Berkeley Springs, “America’s First Spa Town”. Voted as one of the “Best Small Historic Towns in America” by USA Today Travel it is definitely worth a stop if you have time to visit the Berkeley Springs State Park. Throughout the course of history, people have come here for its magical waters of the springs. This town is full of historic buildings, great dining, and of course spas to indulge in.
Day 2 Dolly Sods Wilderness and Blackwater Falls State Park
After driving south, mountains will greet you and a landscape that looks like you some how drove to Canada. Welcome to the Dolly Sods. On the way if you need to break up the drive, Wardensville is a cute artsy and hipster town. Wardensville is perfect for a stop to check out The Lost River Trading Post for a coffee pick me up. Check out the antique shops and restaurants dotting the streets. Dolly Sods is around 2 hours away from Harpers Ferry so it is a great place to stretch your legs.
The Dolly Sod Wilderness is jaw dropping. This section of the Mononngahela National Forest offers 10,000 acres of perfect hiking terrain and opportunities for photographers. One of top scenic drives of West Virginia stretches 20 miles on Route 32, from Harmen, WV to Thomas, WV. The winding road heads through Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, and the Canaan National Wildlife Refuge. If you come here for some of the best photos you must go to Bear Rocks Preserve. See undulating mountains across an expanse that seems to go on forever.
Blackwater Falls State Park offers unique amber-colored falls, aka “Blackwater” dropping 5 stories to a winding gorge. There is even an option to stay overnight at the park at the Blackwater Falls Lodge.
I suggest heading to Blackwater Falls State Park and head down route 32 on the way to Bear Rock Preserves. Before finally heading to Seneca Rocks.
Day 3 Seneca Rocks and NRock Adventures
After checking out a beautiful sunset or sunrise at Bear Rocks Preserve, your only 45 minutes from Seneca Rocks. While I arrived at night, I would recommend driving into this stunning vista for the first time during daylight. Because it is just WOW. I had never seen anything like the rock formations and mountains surrounding Seneca Rocks.
When I drove into Seneca Rocks at night it was pitch black. I could vaguely see the outlines of mountains but was in for a surprise the next day. I came to Seneca Rocks for their rich geological formations and outdoor activities. Whether you want to traverse the steep fins of Seneca Rocks, or head deep into Seneca Caverns adventure is here!
Seneca Rocks State Park offers some amazing hikes and it is located in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Nearby find Spruce Knob where you can drive (or hike) to the top of the tallest mountain in West Virginia. Seneca Rocks State Park offers some amazing hikes and it is located in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Nearby find Spruce Knob where you can drive (or hike) to the top of the tallest mountain in West Virginia.
NRock Adventure- Via Feratta and My First Time Getting Close to Rock Climbing
However, the highlight of my trip to Seneca Rocks area was visiting NRock adventures about 20 minutes from Seneca Rocks. Brock Adventure offers zipline adventures and one of the few Via Ferratas in the USA. I was told it was quite challenging, compared with the Kentucky Via Ferrata the couple on my tour did.
What is Via Ferrata?
A “Via Ferrata” is an Italian term that means “Iron Path”. It offers a protected climbing trail with a steel cable and iron rungs. Supposedly you don’t need the experience to complete one, but I would say as long as you have no fear of heights or falling you are good to go.
NRock’s Via Ferrata
Once I heard about West Virginia’s Via Feratta, I knew I had to try it. I have been to a rock climbing gym a few times, but I wanted to hang from the side of a mountain (normal things) and see what it was like in a safe way.
The Via Ferrata can be done in 3.5 hours to 5 hours, but our group took about 5 hours. I would like to say it was because we enjoyed the views, but it was probably me trying to calm my nerves down as I climbed the highest I have ever been. I don’t think I have a fear of heights anymore after completing this. It was an amazing, challenging experience, and I don’t know literally anywhere in the USA with views like this and a way to experience like we did with NRock Adventures.
Where to stay?
Nrock Adventures have spots to camp as well as guest rooms you can rent. They also have some nice cabins with views of Spruce Knob. After hiking and doing the Via Feratta you probably will not want to go far. Other than checking out the Gateway Restaurant down the road to get a ton of amazing comfort food.
Day 4 Summersville Lake, Summersville West Virginia
About three hours away from Nrocks is Summersville Lake, West Virginia. Summersville Lake offers dramatic views of a beautiful lake surrounded by cliff edges. The cliffs rise up to a point at Long Point Trail, where I did a sunrise hike. I knew I wanted to fly my drone here, but then sadly crashed it. It was not the pilot era. But I did get a shot or two.
It was a peaceful hike on the Long Point Trail and the fall colors were a bit past their peak, but the trees and ground still had fall foliage. The hike round trip takes around 2 hours, but that is probably more so because I took my time for the myriad of photos I took.
This lake is definitely a spot to hang in the summer with over 2,700 acres of water it is the largest lake in West Virginia.
Day 5 The Midland Trail aka Route 60
One of the most quaint and scenic drives in West Virginia stretches from Gauley Bridge to Babcock State Park. Along the road, you will see Appalachian culture at its’ finest. Also, there are beautiful waterfalls like Cathedral Falls and state parks along this route that are worth the pitstop. If you want a place to relax and take a moment to soak in the Appalachian culture head to Chimney Corner Cafe and get some refreshments.
The two-state parks you can see on this route are Hawks Nest and Babcock State Park. I decided to check out both. Hawks nest offers a funicular that takes you to the bottom of the gorge and offers great views. However, Babcock has been known to be one of the most photogenic spots in the state. I missed the fall foliage but had seen some epic shots of the old grist mill located in the park. It was still worth it though! In between Hawks Nest and Babcock I got coffee and a chicken biscuit from Tudor’s Biscuit World in Ansted, West Virginia.
Finally, after making my way to the crown jewel of this section New River Gorge was designated as a National River but has recently been given the designation as a National Park. It will be designated the 63rd National Park in the United States and rightfully so. Not only is the gorge immense, but it is also one of the best places for some wild whitewater rafting. Another spectacular sight to see is the New River Gorge Bridge, which towers 3,000 feet over the New River. Bridge Day is a celebration that happens yearly and in 2019 over 100,000 spectators watched adventure thrill seekers base jump and rappel from the world’s 2nd longest arch bridge.
While I ended my trip in West Virginia after visiting Fayetteville to head to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. If you want to continue there is more that I wish I could have seen, but it was closed since the season ended October 31st. I would recommend the below for days 6 and 7.
Day 6 and 7 Fayetteville, West Virginia and Coal Heritage Trail
Fayetteville was a cute town. They had some restaurants and a historic town center that was not too far from the New River Bridge. My favorite cafe in West Virginia was here called Cathedral Cafe and Bookstore. As it says in the name it was located in an old church! Come here to stay in a charming town and connect with the outdoor outfitters to go whitewater rafting down the New River or Gauley River.
The rafting season ends October 31st and begins in the spring in April. This also goes for the National Coal Heritage trail a 187 miles of history on a road winding through the mining towns of West Virginia’s past. A highlight of the trail and if you are running short on time is to visit the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. After all the exploring wrap your trip up with a stop at White Sulphur Springs to soak in their hot springs.
Where to stay in Fayetteville and New River Gorge area?
The most options will be found in Fayetteville and it serves as the perfect base for outdoor adventures in the New River region. Check out the places to stay in Fayetteville, WV on Booking.com.
Why you need to go to West Virginia in 2021!
There are so many things to do in West Virginia and it makes a perfect road trip vacation. West Virginia is “almost heaven” and the mountain state offers more mountains than any other state east of the Mississippi. I already know I will be back whether it is for skiing at Snowshoe Mountain or go flying down Class V rapids on the Gauley River/New River Gorge. It is a state that is often overlooked but is definitely a hidden gem in the United States that is great for all types of travelers.