The Ultimate West Virginia Travel Guide

The Ultimate West Virginia Travel Guide

The Ultimate West Virginia Travel Guide

West Virginia: The mountain state of the nation offers a unique blend of rich history and unparalleled natural scenery, including breathtaking mountain vistas, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and several hundred underground caves. Here is my West Virginia travel guide outlining the major attractions in West Virginia!

To make it easy for you to navigate the content, I have organized my West Virginia travel guide into two sections. (1) A brief introduction to West Virginia, a little history, some geography, commute, and weather. (2) Major West Virginia attractions, if you wish, you can skip the introduction and move on to the next section West Virginia Attractions.

History: West Virginia was admitted to the union as the 35th state on June 20, 1863. Until 1863 West Virginia was part of Virginia. Virginia was named to honor Queen Elizabeth of England, often referred to as the “Virgin Queen.” The state got its nickname, the Mountain State, the rugged terrain of the scenic Allegheny Mountains that cross the state. West Virginia is a primary coal-producing state, supplying 15 percent of the nation’s coal.

Geography: West Virginia is bordered by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland on the north and by Virginia on the south. On the east, West Virginia is bordered by Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia; and on the west, it’s bordered by Ohio and Kentucky. The majority of West Virginia is heavily forested, dominated by the Appalachian Mountain System.

Getting There

Flight: Yeager Airport (CRW), Tri-State Airport (HTS) and North Central West Virginia Airport (CKB) are the main airports in West Virginia.

Drive: If you live in any of the neighboring or southeastern states, you could easily drive to West Virginia.

Train: Amtrak offers two rail services in West Virginia (1) Capitol Limited connecting Washington-Martinsburg-Pittsburgh-Chicago and (2) Cardinal connecting – New York-Washington-Charleston-Cincinnati-Chicago.

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Climate: Summers are hot, with average high temperatures in the range of 82°F – 87°F. Winters are cold, with night temperatures below freezing. Spring is warm and wet, while autumn is temperate and pleasant.  

Time zone: Eastern Daylight Time UTC-4

Getting around: I highly recommend renting a car while in West Virginia, Greyhound busses, and Amtrak rail services being the other two options to get around West Virginia.

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Things To Do in West Virginia

West Virginia Attractions Map

West Virginia Attractions Map

West Virginia, located in the Appalachian region of the US, is known for its stunning mountain ranges, several unchartered cave systems, spectacular waterfalls, and historical sites preserving the state’s rich history. While West Virginia is relatively small compared to other states in the US, the attractions in West Virginia are scattered throughout the state and hence require quite a bit of driving. Most of the popular and must-see attractions in West Virginia are located in the state’s northern, eastern, and southeastern parts. 

Here’re the must-see places in West Virginia, starting at the top in the north and then traversing down to the south in a clockwise direction! 

Coopers Rock State Forest

Coopers Rock State Forest | West Virginia Travel Guide

Coopers Rock State Forest

Offering breathtaking panoramic valley and lake vistas, several miles of hiking & biking trails, and multiple camping & picnic sites, Coopers Rock State Forest in northern West Virginia is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The Coopers Rock Overlook, a short easy hike from the parking lot, is a must-see on your trip to West Virginia!

Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls State Park

Located in Allegheny Mountains in north West Virginia, the Blackwater Falls State Park, named after its gorgeous 57 feet tall Blackwater Falls, also features a plethora of other attractions, including Elakala Falls, Pendleton Falls & Overlook, mountain vistas at Lindy Point, several miles of hiking trails, log cabins, and camping sites.

Blackwater Falls State Park | West Virginia

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park | West Virginia

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Harpers Ferry, in northeast West Virginia at the junction of the Potomac & Shenandoah Rivers, is a historical site of several unprecedented events of the Nation, including John Brown’s revolt against slavery, Storer College – the first integrated school for formerly enslaved people, the surrender of Federal troops during the Civil War, and much more. 

Smoke Hole Caverns

Smoke Hole Caverns

Besides the stunning cave formations, the history behind Smoke Hole Caverns is equally fascinating! In its early days, the cavern is said to be used by the Native Americans to smoke meat and then followed by the prohibition-era moonshiners, who made illegal liquor in the cave, causing smoke to escape from the cave’s opening, thus the name!

Smoke Hole Caverns | West Virginia

Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks | West Virginia

Seneca Rocks

One of the most famous landmarks in West Virginia, the iconic Seneca Rocks, rising about 900 feet from Seneca Creek, has long been popular with professional rock climbers and hikers. However, even if you’re not a rock climber, the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center offers expansive views of Seneca Rocks, and it’s a must-see in West Virginia!

Seneca Caverns

Seneca Caverns

Located about eight miles south of Seneca Rocks in Germany Valley, Seneca Caverns is a 4.5 million years old complex cave system, accessible through guided cave tours. The seasonal one-hour guided cave tour features several cave rooms, wondrous geological formations, and rich history and legends tied to Seneca Caverns. 

West Virginia Seneca Caverns | West Virginia Travel Guide

Spruce Knob

Spruce Knob West Virginia Travel Guide

Spruce Knob

Offering unparalleled valley vistas, Spruce Knob is not only the highest point in West Virginia but also the highest peak in the entire Allegheny Mountain range spanning four US states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, & Virginia. Spruce Knob, accessible via a short easy hike from the parking lot, offers an overlook and observation tower.

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park

Located in Cass, southeast West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad is a state park and a heritage railroad offering a glimpse into the town’s rich history tied to the lumber industry and a couple of scenic train excursions, including a 4.5 hours round-trip ride to Bald Knob, and a two hours round-trip train ride to Whittaker Station. 

Cass Scenic Railroad State Park | West Virginia

Snowshoe

Snowshoe | West Virginia

Snowshoe

Snowshoe is a happening neighborhood built around the Snowshoe Mountain ski resort, a top-rated ski destination in the US. Unquestionably, Snowshoe gets pretty busy during the winter months, but Snowshoe also offers various other activities year-round, including scenic chair lifts, mountain biking, horseback riding, golfing, & hiking.

Lost World Caverns

Lost World Caverns

Lost World Caverns, located in the southeastern part of the state, is yet another fascinating cave in West Virginia featuring a world of magnificent rock formations. Lost World Caverns offers a 45-minute self-guided tour and a 4-hour guided wild cave tour providing access to the remote and undeveloped part of the cavern. 

Lost World Caverns | West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge, a man-made spectacle & an engineering feat, claims two titles – the longest steel span in the Western hemisphere & third-highest bridge in the US. The Canyon Rim Visitor Center offers incredible views, & on every third Saturday of October, “Bridge Day” is celebrated when pedestrians are allowed on the bridge.

Cathedral Falls

Cathedral Falls

Cathedral Falls, located right off of US Route 60 near the town of Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, is a gorgeous 60-foot waterfall of the Cane Creek plunging down a narrow canyon and making its final way to the New River. Cathedral Falls can be viewed from the adjacent roadside park featuring a small parking lot and a few picnic tables.

Cathedral Falls | West Virginia

Kanawha Falls

Kanawha Falls West Virginia

Kanawha Falls

Just a short distance from Cathedral Falls is the Kanawha Falls, a small but gorgeous cascade at the Kanawha River, easily accessible from US Route 60. While Kanawha Falls is not very high, it’s pretty wide and worth a stop when visiting Cathedral Falls. Kanawha Falls is a popular spot for kayaking and offers a parking lot and a boat launch.

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Planning Your Trip To West Virginia

Planning Your Trip To West Virginia

Visiting outside the winter & early spring months, driving north-south or vice versa, and staying close to the attractions is the best way to explore West Virginia!

Best Time To Visit West Virginia: While West Virginia is a year-round destination, it receives moderate to high snowfall during winter, turning it into a popular winter sports destination. If you are primarily visiting for sightseeing and outdoor activities, you should visit West Virginia in the summer and fall months.

Time Required In West Virginia: With several remarkable experiences and attractions in West Virginia, and considering the long drives between these attractions, I recommend spending a minimum of 4 days to see all the major highlights of West Virginia.

Hotels In West Virginia: The major attractions in West Virginia are in the state’s northern, eastern, and southeastern parts and are quite distant from each other. So I recommend breaking up your stay and choosing accommodations close to the attractions. Here’re my top picks for hotels and restaurants near the major attractions in West Virginia –

Restaurants In Northern West Virginia: While there are plenty of food choices and various restaurants in West Virginia, here are a few restaurants and Appalachian food items you must try on a trip to West Virginia – Pepperoni Rolls, available in almost all bakeries in West Virginia, Golden Apples & Apple Butter, Buckwheat Pancakes in Tamarack Marketplace close to New River Gorge Bridge, skillet Cornbread offered in nearly all breakfast joints, fine dining at Bavarian Inn, Shepherdstown, close to Harpers Ferry, and some of the best Biscuits and Gravy in Tudor’s Biscuit World. 

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New River Gorge Bridge | West Virginia

I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate West Virginia Travel Guide, and I hope this will help you plan your trip to West Virginia. You can find other US attractions and destinations in my USA Travel Guide.

Happy feeding your soul!
Shreyashi

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