Small but mighty in its beauty and history, West Virginia deserves not to be overlooked when planning where to go around the USA. Home to quaint towns, lovely state parks and plenty of civil war history, West Virginia is the perfect destination for those who love the outdoors, learning about the country’s history and enjoying the peace that comes with its rural charm. If you’re looking for things to do when you visit West Virginia, you’ve come to the right place.
New River Gorge Bridge
You’ve more than likely seen a snapshot of the picturesque bridge that spans the New River Gorge. It is one of the most photographed places in West Virginia! When it opened in 1977 it was a truly remarkable solution to dangerous, narrow mountain drives. It reduced travel time from one side of the gorge to the other from 40 minutes down to one. It’s located on US Route 19 north of Fayetteville, West Virginia, and is open to pedestrians for one day a year on “Bridge Day.” Celebrated on the third Saturday in October, Bridge Day features activities and food vendors along the bridge, as well as spectating for a BASE jumping event. Outside of Bridge Day, you can visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center or snap your own iconic photo from the view at the bottom on Fayette Station Road.
The Appalachian Trail, or the A.T., is a hiking trail that spans 2,200 miles along the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine. A small portion of the massive trail runs along the edge of southwestern West Virginia through historic Harpers Ferry and provides an easy hike if you want to mark a full state off the A.T. just to say you did it. Interestingly enough, although West Virginia only boasts 4 miles of the A.T., it’s home to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s headquarters. While you’re in Harpers Ferry for the A.T., check out the historical sites associated with the Civil War as well.
For context, a little history lesson. The Hatfields and McCoys were two rural families that famously feuded in the 1800s. The Hatfields lived in West Virginia, and the McCoys in Kentucky, and the two families were constantly at odds over land, romance, and even a stolen hog. The war between the two families is so famous, the History Channel released a miniseries on the conflict in 2012 starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. Fast-forward to today, and now the site of the decades-long drama is home to outdoor adventure trails. Designed for off-roading with ATVs, motorbikes and more, the system spans multiple counties in West Virginia. The Devil’s Den portion is named after William Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield and features over 1000 miles of trails once home to the famed family. If all-terrain vehicles are up your alley, then these trails will be a hit!
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
If you’re interested in history, the paranormal or even architecture… The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is a great stop to add to your list. This is a National Historic Landmark located in Weston, West Virginia. It operated as the Weston State Hospital beginning in the late 1800s until the 1990s. The gothic-style design is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America. With its history as a mental hospital comes folklore of hauntings and other eerie events. Stories of apparitions and ghostly sounds abound. The compound has even appeared on ghost-hunting TV shows. You can take haunted tours of the property, as well as historical tours. Even a true crime centered “Criminally Insane Tour” based on the Forensics Building area of the property.
Babcock State Park
There are few other state parks that provide the charm and nostalgia Babcock State Park provides. Known for its picturesque Glade Creek Grist Mill, the peaceful scenery here will transport you back in time to simpler days. The mill, completed in 1976, is an iconically photographed location atop a waterfall. It is an operating replica of nearby Cooper’s Mill, which burned down in the 1920s. It’s especially beautiful in the fall foliage! But if you want to snap a photo sans other visitors, arrive early in the morning. The mill also produces cornmeal available for purchase. This well-known location is easy to reach too. It sits close to the park’s visitors center, but there are plenty of other hiking trails available in the park. You can stay in one of the park’s cabins or camp inside the park.
Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
If there’s one thing West Virginia is historically known for, it’s coal mining. At the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, visitors can tour an old coal mine that operated from the late 1800s to the mid-19th century. Once known as the Phillips-Sprague Mine, it operates from April to early November and is always 58 degrees inside. Guests ride in a cart through the underground passageways of the old mine. Where they will learn about the coal industry from guides who are veteran miners. The attraction also features a museum and restored buildings. These showcase what living quarters and everyday life was like for miners.
Visit West Virginia
If you are looking to visit West Virginia, you will see there is no shortage of things to do and places to explore!
Don’t forget to check out some of our other favorite RV destinations as well! Make your road trip one o remember with some beautiful and exciting locations.