With the tagline of “Almost Heaven,” West Virginia has plenty to live up to, especially when it comes to gorgeous places. While the state may not be the largest in the U.S. (it comes in at #41 out of 50), what it does offer visitors packs a jaw-dropping pretty punch. Here are the most beautiful places to visit in West Virginia.
1. New River Gorge National Park
Once simply a beautiful area with Class IV rapids, New River Gorge grows in popularity yearly. In 2020, the area was officially designated as a National Park, and for good reason. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll find plenty of beautiful hiking, zipline, and, of course, whitewater rafting.
If you’re up for a challenge and want to see some stunning sights, head to the New River Gorge Bridge, a 3,000-foot-long architectural wonder that hosts an annual day where daring folks do free jumping. If you’re not that much of a daredevil, try out the bridge walk that offers a 24-inch wide platform underneath the roadway. Additionally, if you’re looking for places to eat, head to the local town of Lansing, WV.
2. Blackwater Falls State Park
If you want to visit West Virginia’s most iconic waterfall, head to Blackwater Falls State Park. Compliments of the tannic acid released by fallen hemlock trees and red spruce needles, the water falling off the 62-foot plunge gives off an amber hue. From the park’s parking lot, it’s an easy 10-minute walk to get to the viewing decks.
3. Monongahela National Forest
Established in 1920, Monongahela National Forest is a true state treasure. Its ecologically diverse 919,000 acres offer elevations from 1,000 feet up to 4,863 feet above sea level. With an extensive backroad road and trail system, it’s a hiker’s haven. If you’re looking for a well-rounded outdoor experience, you’re lucky: the forest has everything from mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and fishing to horseback riding and hunting.
4. The Greenbrier
If you love historical lodging, The Greenbrier will be right up your proverbial street. Since 1778, the massive property has been the (White) House away from home for nearly a dozen U.S. Presidents, from Kennedy to The Bushes. With 710 guest rooms, ten lobbies, and 55 indoor and outdoor activities, it’s a must-visit place in West Virginia.
The Greenbrier has been on my travel bucket list since I’ve known about it, not only for its luxury and beauty but also for its four-season beauty. In winter, sleigh rides bring back holiday nostalgia, and the calmness and pristine grounds are ideal for families and couples getaways.
5. Harpers Ferry
In the heart of Appalachia, and at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, is Harpers Ferry, a quaint town filled with laidback charm. The lowest point in the state at 247 feet above sea level, it’s an ideal day trip. Famous for John Brown’s Raid against slavery in 1799, the downtown area is beautiful thanks to its 19th-century buildings and adorable streets.
Away from downtown, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park is very busy, especially during moderate temperatures. Remember there is an entrance fee, so take cash or credit card. Additionally, check out the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park towpath that’s part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
6. Seneca Caverns
In the 1400s, the Seneca Indians used the cave for shelter and ceremonial purposes, but these days, Seneca Caverns is a major tourist attraction. It is located in Riverton, WV, and sits at a constant 54 degrees, perfect in the summer and the cold winter. Don’t worry about uneven pathways; the cave walk offers a smooth path and handrails where necessary.
7. Hawks Nest State Park
Not as large as many of the national and state parks in the state, its 270 acres are filled with beauty and attractions to make your heart pump. The park offers jetboat rides, hiking, walking, and photography, but its most famous attraction is the aerial tramway.
There’s no way not to mention the Hawk’s Nest Overlook, a panoramic view of the Hawks Nest Tunnel, New River, and the breathtakingly beautiful mountains. To access it, you’ll need to park at the parking area and walk roughly ¼ of a mile, but trust me, it’s worth it.
8. Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort
Remember the days of ski resorts only being open during the winter months? Happily, that’s no longer the way for many properties, including Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort. During the winter, it brings in skiers from the surrounding states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., for upscale lodging, fun ski runs, and terrain-based learning programs for beginners.
In summer, it’s all about the outdoors, and there’s plenty to do, including sporting clays shooting, off-roading, mountain biking, kayaking at the lake, and scenic ski lift rides. If that wasn’t enough to lure you in, its dining options range from pizza to top-notch restaurants.
Drive through Charleston, and on a sunny day, its gold dome (23.5 karat dome, to be precise) will make you want to visit. Historical to the core, West Virginia’s capital city is filled with fun things to do. With a highly walkable downtown area, head to the West Virginia State Museum for insights into the state’s and city’s history. If you love quaint streets, Capitol Street is the place to go for shopping and dining. No matter what time of year you go, Haddad Riverfront Park is the place to go for views of the Kanawha River.
When I was much younger, my parents would announce, “Let’s get the Wheeling feeling!” every time we’d hop in the car to visit. While the rhyming phrase is outdated, the city is still filled with happiness and music. My top pick is Oglebay Park, packed with family-friendly fun, including the Good Zoo, miniature train display, and museums. During the holidays, its Festival of Lights brings people from hours away to see the animated outdoor displays.
As for more outdoorsy fun, Wheeling Park and Heritage Port Amphitheater offer everything from picnicking to live music. If you visit during the colder months, there are many indoor activities to keep you entertained: The Kruger Street Train & Toy Museum, Oglebay Institute Glass Museum, Wheeling Artisan Center, and the Eckhart House for tea parties are all guaranteed to satisfy.