Before West Virginia was a state, it was a frontier. Explorers wrote back that you could walk across the rhododendron bushes that covered the forest floor, and Prickett’s Fort served as a shelter for settlers against Native American raids in the late 1700s. At this reconstructed fort, you can explore the colonial history of the area or hike and bike along the Mon River Trail.
The Mound that gives Moundsville, West Virginia, its name is a massive, 70ft (21m) conical structure of earth built by the Adena people some 2,000 years ago. The Delf Norona Museum is a free museum operated by the West Virginia Division of Arts and Culture, which interprets the history of the Adena and displays artefacts found in the mound and surrounding area.
Accessible (Wheelchair), Kid Friendly, Family Friendly
The Mothman may have been spotted all over the world, but this ghoul finds a home in Point Pleasant along the Ohio River. The legend started in 1967, and since a feature movie exposed the myth of the Mothman to the world in 2002, this red-eyed, winged monster has become a local celebrity. Take your photo in front of the statue or check out the small museum packed with artefacts that tell the monster’s story.
The New River Gorge might be the most photographed landscape in the entire state of West Virginia. As part of a National Recreation Area, the New River Gorge has hiking, biking, rafting and amazing views of one of the oldest rivers in North America, both from the massive bridge and from trails alongside the river.
In the late 1800s, West Virginia’s population boomed as natural resources were extracted to feed the Industrial Revolution. At Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, you can experience what life was like for the loggers who came to clear-cut the mountains, and you can take in mountain views on a steam engine train to the state’s third-highest peak. You can even book a stay in the former company town.
Get first-hand experience with West Virginia’s mining industry at the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. You can go down into the mountain, where it’s cool enough to need a jacket any time of year, and learn about the history of living in a coal mining camp through the restored general store, church, and school.
You don’t need directions to find Seneca Rocks: when you drive around the mountain and arrive from any direction, you’ll know you’re there. As part of the Monongahela National Forest, the rock formation rises 900ft (274m) above Seneca Creek and creates a beautiful backdrop of the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center. You can hike to the top, or try climbing the rocks with local guides. While you can hike and explore the area any time of year, check the National Forest’s website for the visitor center’s seasonal hours.
Also in the Monongahela National Forest is Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia. The lookout tower offers a truly spectacular view of the Allegheny Mountains, and if you have the chance, go in the fall when the forest turns into a blanket of colors draped on the mountains.
Dog Friendly, Family Friendly, Accessible (Wheelchair), Kid Friendly
Blackwater Falls State Park
As the snow melts and comes trickling down the mountains, it gains color from the tannins of the pine trees and picks up speed as it descends in elevation. In the heart of Canaan Valley, the Blackwater River falls 57ft (17m) in a uniquely colored waterfall. The state park has cabins, camping, a lodge, and lots of trails to bike, hike, and even cross-country ski on. The nearby towns of Thomas and Davis have coffee shops, art galleries, breweries, and restaurants for a perfect mountain getaway.
On the eastern panhandle of West Virginia just across the Potomac River from Maryland is the historic town of Harper’s Ferry. John Brown raided an armory in town in 1859 in an attempt to get weapons and put up an armed fight against slavery, and the town saw action during the civil war on the border between the North and the South. You can also experience West Virginia’s great outdoors with a bike ride along the C&O Canal Path, which runs from Georgetown in Washington DC to Cumberland, Maryland, or a hike to get spectacular views of the river and town.
Why would this defunct amusement park near the small town of Rock be an attraction? Consider its history: the Native American Shawnees tribe lived on the property for more than 2,000 years, and in the 1790s they massacred the Clay family, including burning one of the daughters, Ezekiel, at the stake. See the abandoned Ferris wheel and swings in all their spooky glory. Where else can you visit an amusement park on an American Indian burial ground? To book an event, visitors must be over 18 years of age, or children strictly accompanied by parents. Not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure.
Drawing comparisons to the US Capitol Building in Washington DC, the dome of Charleston’s prominent landmark is slightly higher (292ft, or 89m) – take that, capital of the USA! Designed by Cass Gilbert – who devised the Woolworth Building in New York, the world’s tallest building from 1913 to 1930 – it required 700 train carloads of Indiana limestone over eight years to complete construction. Unashamedly revelling in Italian architectural influences, WV’s State Capitol is on the hit list of all tourists and is regularly visited by locals fascinated with history.