With the first day of spring arriving this past week, I’ve been thinking about getting away for a weekend real soon. I love traveling around West Virginia and seeing all the natural beauty it has to offer. There are so many neat places to visit and so much to do that it would take the whole summer to experience it all.
West Virginia is blessed with thousands upon thousands of acres open to the public to enjoy endless outdoor opportunities. Scattered throughout WV there are 36 State Parks and 9 State Forests in which many have campgrounds and cabins for rent that would make for a perfect weekend getaway.
The DNR has several Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) throughout the state providing great places to hunt, fish, hike, etc. The Monongahela and George Washington National Forests also provide a large chunk of acreage to roam around and explore. I have had the opportunity to visit many of these special places. I’ll name some, but not all because I don’t have enough space, of what WV has to offer as an example.
Canaan Valley is a popular destination to visit with lots of stuff to do. Besides Canaan Valley Resort and State Park, within a short drive there’s Seneca Rocks, Dolly Sods, and Spruce Knob which is the highest point in West Virginia. Blackwater Falls State Park is also close by and I’ve stayed at their lodge a couple of times. The roar of the falls and the rugged canyon below is a must see for anyone.
If you like deep dark places and aren’t claustrophobic, Smoke Hole and Seneca Caverns are in the same general area. Stalactites and Stalagmites are what you’ll encounter here. The caverns stay a cool 56 degrees all year long providing some escape from the summer heat.
There is also the Smoke Hole Recreation area close by and that section of the South Branch River is a well known trout fishing destination. Another must see place in the Pendleton/Grant County vicinity is the North Fork Mountain Trail which runs 24 miles along a ridge top. The view from the trail is breathtaking with endless rolling mountains that will make you feel like you’re Almost in Heaven. The first time I hiked the trail all I could do was stand in awe as I admired the beauty of our Appalachian Mountains. I highly recommend a hike on North Fork Mountain!
Pocahontas County is full of outdoor activities and is one of my favorites. There’s Cass Scenic Railroad where you can take a ride to the top of Bald Knob behind one of the old Shay Engines that they used to haul timber with back in the early 1900’s. The Greenbank Observatory is only a few miles from Cass. The huge satellite dish is used to listen for noises in outer space. Discovery did a show about Greenbank and their SETI program. SETI stands for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. The satellite dish is enormous and quite the sight to see alone if nothing else.
Snowshoe Resort is one of the best ski resorts in the east coast and remains open year round even after ski season is over with. The Greenbrier River has always been one of my favorites and runs right through the heart of Pocahontas County. There’s a trail system that follows the river for miles and it’s a well known place for bike enthusiasts. Hills Creek Falls, which is the tallest falls in WV, as well as the Scenic Highway and Cranberry Glades are great places to visit and will keep you busy for an entire day.
I have fond memories while growing up at Watoga State Park. My grandparents use to have a camp near there and I’ve spent many days wondering around in Watoga. This is the largest state park in WV and there are several cabins for rent there.
Maybe lakes are your thing. Well West Virginia has plenty of those too. There’s Summersville, Sutton, Burnsville, Stonewall Jackson, and Jennings Randolph to name a few. All of these provide excellent warm water fisheries and all of them have campgrounds. I visit Summersville Lake, which is the largest lake in WV, every year and have been doing so ever since I was born. I enjoy boating, waterskiing, and taking a refreshing dip during the hot summer months and Summersville is the perfect place to do so.
And if whitewater is your thing, well we have that also. The Gauley River is known world wide for its challenging rapids. I have yet to do the Gauley, mainly because I’m too chicken, but I’ve been down the New River which is another excellent place for whitewater rafting the mountain state offers. Rivers, lakes, or streams we have it all right here.
The places I’ve mentioned above only scratch the surface of what’s out there for a weekend getaway. Add in the abundant wildlife along with spectacular scenery and you never know what you’re going to see or what awaits you around the next bend. We’re truly blessed to live in an outdoor paradise.
West Virginia State Parks and Forests Campgrounds and Cabins are now open for reservations. Not all campgrounds require reservations and there are several that operate on a first come first serve basis. I suggest checking the WV State Park and DNR websites for all the information you’ll need for planning a trip. I’m ready for spring and looking forward to spending my weekend’s right here in good ole’ West Virginia.