Going on a West Virginia road trip? In this guide we’re sharing a West Virginia road trip itinerary, plus where to stay, when to visit, and more!
Until a few months ago, we didn’t know much about West Virginia. And it wasn’t really on our radar of places to visit. But after our plans to visit New England in the fall fell through, we started researching a good Plan B. Our criteria was: lots of hikes, beautiful fall foliage, and ideally, not super busy. We somehow stumbled upon a blog post about West Virginia. And we saw the gorgeous nature in the state and we were sold!
We spent about a week going on a West Virginia road trip and stopping in cool small towns, hiking, chasing waterfalls, learning history, seeing mountain views, and freaking out over fall foliage. It was one of the best surprises we have had since hitting the road in our van almost a year and a half ago!
We loved how natural and remote West Virginia felt. Most of the roads we drove on were country roads (“take me homeeee!”), we didn’t see many people on hikes (well, minus the Dolly Sods 😅), and it felt like everywhere we looked, we saw mountains (they don’t call it the Mountain State for nothin’!).
After sharing our adventures on YouTube, we learned that we weren’t alone in not knowing how epic West Virginia is! So we are especially pumped to share this West Virginia road trip itinerary with some of our favorite stops during our adventures so you can recreate it for yourself!
This West Virginia itinerary is for 7 days, which will give you enough time to see most of the spots we visited (and spend more time in some of them), but if you have more time, we’re including some other spots at the end that you should check out as well.
We hope you enjoy wild and wonderful West Virginia as much as we did!
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
About West Virginia
As we mentioned above, West Virginia is nicknamed “The Mountain State” because not only is the state home to many mountains and is the third most forested state, it’s the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain range.
With mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys, gorges, small and medium towns, skiing and winter activities, and interesting history, the state is home to about anything you could possibly want, minus maybe a professional sports team and the ocean.
Despite being located within a day’s drive from 75% of the US population, it doesn’t feel crowded or over developed. And you’ll experience much more solitude compared to neighboring states.
West Virginia Road Trip Route
This West Virginia road trip route is almost identical to our trip. But with a little bit more time in some places and without one stop that is a bit more out of the way. Want to see our exact trip? Watch our road trip here.
While this West Virginia itinerary isn’t an exhaustive list of all of the best things to do in West Virginia, as there are some amazing spots we missed, it is a great starting point if it’s your first time in the state!
In this West Virginia road trip we’re including:
- Blackwater Falls State Park
- Canaan Valley (Read our Canaan Valley guide!)
- Dolly Sods Wilderness
- Seneca Rocks (or our favorite…NROCKS!)
- Spruce Knob
- The New River Gorge
This itinerary is meant to be super modifiable to make the trip perfect for you! We’re including a variety of options for restaurants and activities so you can customize it to fit your tastes and preferences.
And if you have less than 7 days, you can cut down the itinerary to just visit the spots that excite you the most. Have more than 7 days? We’re including a few extra options at the end that you can check out too!
When to visit West Virginia
While the weather varies a little bit across the state, West Virginia is a state that you can visit year-round and still have a great time!
The winters are cold (but not horrible) and there are lots of winter activities across the state. Like skiing, tubing, snowshoeing, and sledding, which makes the colder weather a lot more fun! You also may have the chance to see frozen waterfalls, which are magical!
In the spring, the temperature starts to warm up a bit. Wildflowers will pop out. And the waterfalls will also be especially raging this time of the year due to the snow melting. This is also a quieter time of the year to visit. So if you dislike crowds, this may be a good season to go!
During the summer, the temperatures are pretty mild compared to some parts of the United States, but it can be humid. The crowds may also be higher during this part of the year due to summer vacations. But if you want to hike and be out on the water, this would be a great time to visit!
We visited in the fall, during the end of September and early October. And not only was the weather incredible, minus a rainy day or two, but we got to see a lot of fall foliage across the state! The peak foliage varies depending on what part of the state you’re in. But the late September to mid-October time frame will give you a chance to see some areas at their most colorful. We didn’t think the crowds were too bad during the fall. But we definitely noticed more people at some of the popular spots and in areas with lots of foliage.
This West Virginia road trip itinerary is geared more towards warmer weather activities. Like hiking and rafting instead of snow sports. So to enjoy this itinerary to its fullest, we’d suggest visiting between May and October!
Getting to West Virginia
With West Virginia being within a day’s drive to 75% of the US population, it is pretty close to many major cities. However, the state is only home to one major airport, Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV (the state capitol). American Airlines, Delta, United, and Spirit fly in and out of this airport. With non-stop service from Charlotte, DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, Myrtle Beach, and Fort Lauderdale.
The Yeager Airport is 2.5 hours from the starting point of this guide. Which is Morgantown, WV, but super convenient to the ending spot of this guide, which is Charleston. So it is a pretty good option if you’re flying into West Virginia!
You could also fly into the Morgantown Municipal Airport, which has non-stop flights to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. This would be a convenient airport for the start of your West Virginia road trip. But your flight options will be very limited.
If you want more flight options, we’d suggest flying into the Pittsburgh International Airport in Pennsylvania. This is the largest airport nearby and you’d have a higher chance of getting a non-stop flight or a more affordable flight. The Pittsburgh airport is only 1.5 hours from Morgantown, WV, but it is 3.5 hours from Charleston, the ending point of this guide.
Live nearby and want to drive to West Virginia? Here is how long the drive is from some nearby major cities.
- Pittsburgh, PA: 1.5 hours from Morgantown, 3.5 hours from Charleston
- Cleveland, OH: 3 hours 15 minutes from Morgantown, 3 hours 45 minutes from Charleston
- Columbus, OH: 3.5 hours from Morgantown, 2 hours 45 minutes from Charleston
- Washington, DC: 3.5 hours from Morgantown, 5.5 hours from Charleston
- Baltimore, MD: 3.5 hours from Morgantown, 5.5 hours from Charleston
- Cincinnati, OH: 4 hours 45 minutes from Morgantown, 3.5 hours from Charleston
- Richmond, VA: 5 hours from Morgantown, 5 hours from Charleston
- Philadelphia, PA: 5 hours from Morgantown, 7 hours from Charleston
- Lexington, KY: 5 hours from Morgantown, 2 hours 45 minutes from Charleston
Getting around West Virginia
To experience all of the best things to do in West Virginia, including the items on this road trip, you’ll definitely want to rent a car if you’re flying in so you can properly explore!
We tried to group the days together on this road trip so some days you’ll drive 1-3 hours and some days you won’t drive at all. But even on the days you do have to drive, the views from the car make it pretty enjoyable!
Where to Stay in West Virginia
There are two main areas we would suggest staying while on your West Virginia road trip to limit how often you have to move accommodations: Canaan Valley (Davis & Thomas) and the New River Gorge (Fayetteville).
These two areas are convenient to almost everything on this West Virginia road trip itinerary. So you’ll be able to spend more time adventuring and less time packing and unpacking.
We’re listing a variety of accommodations for both areas below. And we will include what area you should stay in each night under each day of the itinerary.
From lodges to campgrounds to vacation rentals, there are quite a few options when it comes to where to stay in Canaan Valley. Here is a list of some of the best places to check out for your visit!
Want the comforts of a home, but tucked into nature? The cabins at Blackwater Falls, as well as the neighboring Canaan Valley Resort, offer a mix of cabin types and amenities to choose from!
Blackwater Falls State Park Cabins
Blackwater Falls State Park is home to 39 fully-furnished cabins. Ranging from classic cabins to vacation cabins, 10 of which are pet friendly. The 26 classic cabins have various room arrangements. And all have water, electricity, a TV, WiFi, kitchens, linen service, and private bathrooms with showers.
The 13 vacation cabins have 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, making them great for larger groups. These are a bit higher end and nicer than the classic cabins. And come with a full kitchen and dishwasher, washer and dryer, a gas fireplace, and a porch.
Canaan Valley Resort Cabins
Canaan Valley Resort also offers cabins and cottages, ranging from 2 to 4 bedrooms. All of these cabins or cottages include furnished kitchens, wood burning fireplaces, TV, internet, and even a BBQ grill and fire pit! However, there is no air conditioning in the cabins or cottages, but you will also have access to the other amenities at the resort.
Traveling with your dog? Pets are allowed in 11 of the cabins and cottages for a fee depending on what size room you book.
Canaan Valley is home to two lodges. Which will give you lots of amenities, while still having a rustic, nature-y vibe.
Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge
Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge is located in the state park, on the southern rim of Blackwater Canyon.
The lodge was built in the 1950s and there are 54 rooms, a restaurant on site, fitness center, tennis courts, a game room, and more! While we were not guests at the lodge, we walked inside of the lodge and checked out the views of the canyon from the large back patio!
Canaan Valley Resort Lodge
This lodge is a much larger and luxurious lodge than Blackwater Falls. With 160 rooms and even nicer amenities, including granite countertops and more room options.
Along with the lush accommodations at the resort, it is also close to some of the top golfing and skiing in the region. The resort is also home to an outdoor pool, which sounds like a nice, relaxing activity after a day full of hiking and adventuring.
Looking to spend as much time as possible in nature? There are many campgrounds to choose from!
Blackwater Falls State Park Campgrounds
The campground at Blackwater Falls State Park is open from late April to October 31, weather permitting. There are a total of 65 total tent and trailer sites and 30 of the sites include electric hookups.
Normally starting November 1st, the non-electric sites (31-65), as well as the shower house, close, while sites 1-30 stay open. However, the campground is 100% closed for the 2020-2021 winter season. Keep in mind that when booking for Friday and Saturday nights, you must book at least two consecutive nights.
Canaan Valley Resort Campground
This campground has 34 campsites with electric and water hookups, as well as 3 primitive tent sites. All sites have a fire ring and a picnic table, and the campground has shower and laundry facilities, which are open year-round. There is also WiFi, although it may not be strong.
The Restrite Campground is located close to the entrance of the park, in Davis, WV. This campground has full electric and water hookups for RVs and trailers and they also have tent camping sites. Almost all of the most recent Google reviews say the campground is very well maintained and the bathrooms are nice and very clean.
They don’t seem to have a website, but you can reach them at (304) 259-5569 for reservations and more information.
Five River Campground
The Five River Campground is about a half an hour drive from Blackwater Falls State Park. They have 160 RV and tent sites with full hookups and dump stations. Amenities include hot showers, restrooms, and a laundromat. While the campground is open year-round, the bath house is only open from April until the end of October.
Horseshoe Recreation Area
This campground is open from mid-May until mid-September and has both RV and tent sites available for $22/night. It’s also located in a valley along the Horseshoe Run River, where you will find great fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities!
Want to find campsites all over the US? Try the Dyrt PRO for FREE for one month!
The Dyrt is the #1 camping app in the US! Sign up for a FREE 30 day trial of their PRO version using our code AplusK!
The Dyrt PRO offers many incredible features to make finding campsites even easier (+ cheaper). Some of our favorite features are:
-Offline maps, so you can find campsites without cell service
-Map layers to find free camping areas (+ cell phone service map layers)
-Discounts from PRO partners and on campground bookings (up to 40%!)
Want something a little more homey and closer to restaurants? Both Davis and Thomas, two cute towns in Canaan Valley, have a handful of vacation rental options to choose from!
Adorable Tiny Home: This 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom tiny home is so incredibly unique!!
Charming Loft Cabin: A cute 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom unit that sleeps 4.
2 Bedroom Townhouse: This 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouse sleeps 6.
Tiny Home in Thomas #1: A beautiful brand new 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom tiny home near the Purple Fiddle in Thomas. Don’t let the tiny home notion scare you away, this place has everything you’ll need, including a gas fireplace, BBQ, deck, and washer/dryer!
Tiny Home in Thomas #2: This tiny home technically has 2 bedrooms and sleeps 4 people!
House in the woods: A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with lots of privacy and is only 1 mile from Thomas!
2 bd, 2 bth: A 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house right in Thomas
New River Gorge
The best area to stay in the New River Gorge is near Fayetteville, which is in the center of all of the action, has some solid restaurants, and is super charming!
Adventures on the Gorge
This spot has a variety of cabins, ranging from small to large, as well as basic to more luxurious, all located right by the New River Gorge!
Ace Adventure Resort
Ace Raft offers 50 different cabin options, all of which look a bit different from one another! Their options can sleep anywhere from 3 to 16 people, so they have an option for almost any size group. The property also has a few restaurants and a water park, so you can stay fed and entertained while staying there.
Hawk’s Nest State Park Lodge
This state park, which is right by the New River Gorge, has a 31 room lodge. There is also a restaurant on site, a pool, and mini golf!
New River Gorge Campgrounds
The NPS has 9 FREE campgrounds around the New River Gorge. These are all primitive campsites, without water or hookups, and limited restroom facilities. These are all first-come, first-served campgrounds and you can stay up to 14 days.
Ace Adventure Resort
Ace Adventure Resort also offers campsites in addition to their cabins. There are both tent campsites (starting at $15 per person/night) and RV sites (starting at $49/night). The tent camping is mostly in just an open field, so there is no privacy and not all sites have a table and fire pit.
You can also rent tents ($10) and sleeping gear ($5), which is a really cool feature we have never seen at a campground before!
American Alpine Club Campground
This campsite has 40 private campsites, each with a picnic table and elevated tent platform, which cost $30/night if you are not an American Alpine Club member. They also offer communal campsites, which are in an open area, for $12/night for non members. The campground has coin operated showers, communal fire rings, communal grills, and a climbing wall!
New River Tiny House: A cute tiny home that sleeps 4 and is just minutes away from the river adventures.
Newly Built Home: This brand new 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom home has a huge deck with a grill!
New River Gorge Cabin: A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom cabin that sleeps 6 and is pet friendly!
The Steel Caboose: It’s a train car turned into a house!! There’s 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a kitchenette.
Perfect Basecamp: This is a super cute 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom historic home in downtown Fayetteville.
7 Day West Virginia Road Trip Itinerary
Now that you have a better idea of when to visit West Virginia, your options of how to get there, and where to stay, it’s time to start planning what you’ll do on your West Virginia road trip! In this 7 day itinerary below, we’re sharing some of the best things to do in West Virginia. While this list doesn’t include all of the amazing things you can do in the state, it’s full of tons of the must-see highlights if it’s your first trip. And if you have more than 7 days, we’re including some extra ideas at the end too.
Ready to see West Virginia? Let’s hit the road!
Day 1: Morgantown, Coopers Rock, & Local Eats
Day 1 of your West Virginia road trip will kick off in Morgantown, which is probably best known for being home to West Virginia University. You’ll enjoy some scenic views and some iconic local West Virginia foods!
- Start your morning with breakfast in downtown Morgantown! A couple good options are The Grind and Blue Moose Cafe.
- Head 15 minutes outside of Morgantown for your first outdoor adventure of the trip at Coopers Rock State Forest! Make sure to check out the overlook, which has great views of the Cheat River and surrounding mountains. There are also a couple cool hikes to check out as well:
- Raven Rock Trail: 2.5 miles, 433 ft of elevation gain. This super rocky trail leads to an amazing overlook of the river!
- Coopers Rock State Forest Loop: 4.7 miles, 600 ft of elevation gain. Along this trail you’ll see cool rock formations, an old iron furnace, and a pond. This trail is a series of trails, so we recommend using AllTrails to make sure you don’t get lost!
- Head to Fairmount, a small town just south of Morgantown to try one or two local food specialities!
- First up: pepperoni rolls! If you google iconic foods in West Virginia, pepperoni rolls are pretty much always the first to show up. They are basically just rolls with sticks or slices of pepperoni inside and they originated when Italian immigrants worked in the coal mines.
Miners would work long hours, and they needed a filling, simple lunch they could take with them into the mines. And in the 1920s, an Italian coal miner named Giuseppe Argiro noticed his coal miner friends eating a stick of pepperoni in one hand and bread in another, so he married the two and created pepperoni rolls. They became so popular that he quit the coal mines and started Country Club Bakery in Fairmont in 1927.
We tried our pepperoni rolls at the original spot, Country Club Bakery, which are pretty simple, just pepperoni and bread, but very tasty! We hear Colasessano’s also has amazing pepperoni rolls, but with sauce and cheese in them too!
- Next, try a West Virginia hot dog! Similar to pepperoni rolls, hot dogs also became popular in the 1920s around the time of the Great Depression. Hot dogs were cheap and easy to eat when working in the coal mines. And they are now a staple in the state!
In West Virginia there is a specific style of hot dog, which includes mustard, onions, sauce (which is basically chili without beans), and slaw. However, there is a bit of a line across the state when it comes to the slaw. In the north, they do not put slaw on them and the focus is more on the sauce, but in the south they put slaw.
Since you’ll be in the north, slaw dogs are less common. But if you want to try the slaw dog, head to Woody’s, where you can ask for slaw on top.
If you want to try a dog without slaw, head to Yann’s. This is an iconic local spot that is only open Tuesdays-Fridays from 8:30 AM-1:30 PM (or until sold out) and is known for having some spicy sauce. Don’t ask for ketchup or slaw here, it’s strictly mustard, onions, and sauce. And make sure to get chocolate milk! We preferred these over the slaw dogs.
- Head to the Canaan Valley, where you’ll call home for the night and start exploring tomorrow!
Where to sleep: Canaan Valley
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!
We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
Day 2: Canaan Valley- Blackwater Falls, Douglas Falls, & Thomas
On day 2 of your West Virginia road trip you’ll begin to explore the Canaan Valley (pronounced “kuh-nayne”), which is located in Northeastern West Virginia in Tucker County. The valley is nestled among the Allegheny Mountains and is 13 miles long and between 3-5 miles wide, with an average elevation of 3,200 feet.
And first up: chasing waterfalls at Blackwater Falls State Park and the nearby Douglas Falls, as well as exploring the super cute town of Thomas!
For a more detailed list of things to do in the Canaan Valley, check out our Canaan Valley guide!
- Wake up bright and early to catch sunrise at Lindy Point at Blackwater Falls State Park! We know this sounds brutal, but it’s SO worth it!
This 0.8 mile hike, which is more of a walk through the woods, takes you to a wooden overlook, which has views in both directions of the mountains, canyon, and rock outcroppings, including a 35 ft rock tower, which makes the view extra unique. We loved seeing the sun pop over the mountains and light up the trees. It was magical!
A couple notes: You can go around the viewing platform to stand on some of the large rocks that surround the overlook, but please be careful!
Also, parking is a bit tight here, with only room for 4-5 cars, but when we went at sunrise we didn’t see anyone the entire time! If you cannot get a spot, you can park in the ski area 1 mile up the road.
- If you’re hungry after your sunrise adventure, grab breakfast at The Smokehouse at the Blackwater Falls Lodge. They have a breakfast buffet and the lodge has gorgeous views from the back patio too!
- Go on a quick hike to Elakala Falls, which starts just to the left of Blackwater Falls Lodge. Once getting on the trail, you’ll follow it for a few minutes before reaching a bridge, which goes over the falls. Look over on the right side to get your first sneak peek!
Continue on the trail, which will go down some steep dirt and rocky sections, to the base of the falls. From here, you’ll have a cool view of the bridge, with Elakala Falls running underneath and depending on the water flow, you may be able to walk right up to the falls!
- Visit the park’s namesake, Blackwater Falls! This is a 57 ft waterfall that depending on when you visit, may be one giant, wide waterfall or a few different streams of falls.
The waterfall gets its name from the amber colored water, which is due to tannic acid from fallen hemlocks and red spruce needles. While the falls themselves were very clear looking for us, you can see the tint in the river that the falls land in.
You can park at the trading post, which has a lot of parking spots, and take a 0.4 mile trail down a bunch of wooden steps to two different viewpoints of the falls.
One of the viewpoints takes you right next to the falls, while the other is a bit higher up, but gives you a more head on view of the falls. Both are beautiful and we highly recommend stopping at both to see these gorgeous falls!
- Check out the Pendleton Point Overlook, which similar to Lindy Point, has great views of the canyon and river!
- Head into the cute town of Thomas! Grab coffee at TipTop, which has amazing coffee and a cool vibe. We visited in late September and they had an incredible canned pumpkin latte. If you visit when they have this, you MUST get it! As a pumpkin latte lover, I can truly say it’s the best I have ever had!
As you enjoy your coffee, walk around Thomas and visit some of the cool galleries and shops. We especially loved a store called Bloom!
- Just a 10 minute drive from Thomas is the beautiful Douglas Falls, which was our favorite waterfall of the day! The drive may be quick, but it is on a dirt road, which can be narrow at times. Our van made it just fine though!
As you drive down the road, keep an eye out on the left for old coke ovens from the mines that were in the area. A coke oven is what they used to turn coal into coke, which is used as fuel to melt iron ore.
These ovens have given the rocks on the river a reddish, orange color, which you’ll notice on your way to the falls. After a little bit more driving, including on an old wooden bridge, you’ll make it to the parking lot for the falls.
Continue on foot along the dirt road until you reach a gate. Go to the left around the gate to make it onto the trail. From here, it’s a short, but steep and slick hike down to the falls, but they do have a rope to help you if needed!
Once you make it to the bottom of this steep section, you’ve made it to Douglas Falls! The falls are a gorgeous light blue color, almost like the glacial lakes we have seen in Montana and Canada.
You can enjoy the view from here, or continue down the path a bit longer to get a different view. It’s very slick though, so be careful!
- Head back to Thomas to have dinner at the Purple Fiddle! This is an iconic spot in the area with food and live music! Warning: they are closed Mondays-Wednesdays.
Where to sleep: Canaan Valley
Day 3: Canaan Valley- Dolly Sods
You’ll continue exploring Canaan Valley on day 3 of your road trip with a day exploring the Dolly Sods Wilderness! This wilderness and scenic area sits atop the highest plateau east of the Mississippi and here you’ll find a unique landscape with flagged trees, wind-carved boulders, heath barrens, and grassy meadows.
For a more detailed list of things to do in the Canaan Valley, check out our Canaan Valley guide!
- Grab a quick coffee and breakfast at Milo’s Cafe and Restaurant in Davis before hitting the road for today’s adventure!
- Explore the Dolly Sods! This is a very popular area, so try to arrive early! But it’s popular for a couple reasons. First, the weather and landscape on top resembles northern Canada and second, the Sods, as they are referred to locally, are located along the Eastern Continental Divide.
Depending on what side the rain falls, one side drains to rivers and tributaries that flow to the Mississippi eventually to the Gulf of Mexico and on the other the water flows to the Potomac River then to Chesapeake Bay.
We loved the endless mountain views, mixed with meadows with colorful red plants and green grass. There are also cool rock formations that pop out of the mountains as well, which just makes the scenery very interesting, beautiful, and unlike anywhere we have been.
We’d suggest doing a few hikes! First, visit Bear Rocks Preserve. This is the area we visited and even without leaving the parking area, the views are amazing! (Watch our vlog for more details!)
You can either just sit and picnic on the rocks and take in the view, climb around the rocks in the immediate area near the parking lot, or use this as a starting point for longer trails.
From Bear Rocks you can hike to quite a few different trails. We’d suggest looking at this map to see what offshoots you want to go on.
After exploring Bear Rocks, hike the Red Creek Trail to Lion’s Head trail, which is 6.7 miles round trip and leads you to one of the best views in the Dolly Sods, Lion’s Head rocks! Along this trail you’ll see rivers, forests, and mountain views.
- Head to Davis for dinner! We’d suggest going to Sirianni’s for some pizza and Italian food and then grabbing dessert at The Ice Cream Shop! Want a drink after dinner? Check out Stumptown Ales!
Where to sleep: Canaan Valley
Day 4: Spruce Knob + NROCKs or Seneca Rocks
For day 4 of your West Virginia road trip you’ll continue your drive south to the Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob area, where you have a couple options of things to do, depending on how adventurous you’re feeling!
- Pack your bags and hit the road! Today’s adventure will take you between 40 minutes to 1 hour down the road, depending on what activity you choose!
- Option #1: Climb the NROCKS Via Ferrata! We did this activity and LOVED IT and couldn’t recommend it enough! Although, it may be a bit scary if you’re afraid of heights (we both survived it though even with our fears).
Via Ferrata is Italian for ‘iron path’’ and it’s a climbing route that uses steel cables, rungs or ladders, fixed to the rock. Climbers don’t need any technical equipment or skills and just use a harness with two leashes to avoid the risk of a fall.
It originated during the First World War in the Italian Dolomites to help with the movement of troops. There are more than 1,000 via ferratas in the European Alps, with most of them found in Italy and Austria. And a few in the US now too!
The NROCKS Via Ferrata costs between $80-$125 a person and lasts 3.5-5 hours. During the climb you gain 1085 feet in elevation, cross a suspension bridge that is 150 feet high and 200 feet long, and reach exposed heights of 280 feet. It was the most thrilling, adventurous, and coolest thing we have ever done. Our guide was so helpful and gave us tons of guidance in any spots where we felt nervous.
Not only is the experience itself insanely awesome, but the views are phenomenal! You get to see some pretty crazy rocks, beautiful mountains, and beautiful meadows. We loved it so much!
Watch our vlog from our via ferrata adventure to get a better idea of the experience. Although it looks terrifying, we are SO glad we did it and felt safe the entire time. It was such a rewarding feeling to get out of our comfort zone and face our fears!
- Option #2: Hike at Seneca Rocks. For something less scary, hike at Seneca Rocks. Similar to NROCKS, Seneca Rocks is a 900 ft tall thin and tall rock face that juts out of the mountains.
A 2.7 mile hike will take you to an observation deck at the top of the rocks. Some people do go past this observation deck, but it can be dangerous, so please proceed with caution. They say the views are just as good from the safe observation deck.
- Option #1: Climb the NROCKS Via Ferrata! We did this activity and LOVED IT and couldn’t recommend it enough! Although, it may be a bit scary if you’re afraid of heights (we both survived it though even with our fears).
- After your activity of choice, grab lunch at the Gateway Restaurant. We enjoyed burgers, fries, and pies here after NROCKS and it was actually pretty solid!
- Drive up to Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia at 4,863 feet! While you can do some hikes in the area, we just drove to the top (which was very windy and steep!) and did the quick loop trail up there, which has amazing views!
- Hop into the car and head to the New River Gorge! This is about a 3.5 hour drive, but it’ll be super scenic!
Where to sleep: New River Gorge
Day 5: New River Gorge
Up next on your West Virginia road trip: the New River Gorge! This is one of the most popular areas in West Virginia and it totally lives up to the hype…it’s GORGEous!
The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world and flows north, unlike many other rivers in North America. And the gorge is the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains!
This area is home to some of the country’s best whitewater rafting and most popular rock climbing areas, with over 1,400 established routes in the area. But even if those aren’t your preferred activities, there are tons of hikes and other outdoor adventures to go on!
- Kick off your time in the New River with breakfast and coffee at Cathedral Cafe and Bookstore. This is a former church which is now turned into a cafe and bookstore. It’s very pretty inside with gorgeous stained glass windows.
It’s located right in the heart of Fayetteville, which is such a neat town. In fact, in 2006 it was listed as one of Budget Travel Magazine’s “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America.” And much like other towns in West Virginia, Fayetteville boomed because of the coal industry and now is a popular destination as a base camp for the outdoors.
- Hike to Long Point, which is a 2.9 mile trail with 344 feet of elevation gain to a rocky overlook of the New River Gorge and bridge, as well as the surrounding mountains. It’s an amazing spot! Even in the rain, like during our visit 🙂
- Visit the different overlooks of the New River Gorge Bridge at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. This bridge, which is an iconic sight in the area, is really cool!
The arch of the bridge is 1,700 feet long, making it the longest steel arch in the Western hemisphere. The bridge, which is 3,030 feet long total, is the 4th longest single-span arch bridge in the world and the second highest bridge in the United States, at 876 feet above the water!
It also reduced a steep, windy 45 minute drive down and across the gorge into a less than a minute drive, which is wild!
From the visitor center, you can take a staired boardwalk down to two different overlooks, one which is just a short walk down steps from the visitor center, while the lower overlook is 178 steps to the bottom. We highly recommend the lower overlook!
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can do the Bridge Walk, but we will share more about that on day 6! There is also an annual event at the bridge called Bridge Day, which is held every third Saturday in October since 1980.
During this event, daredevils descend upon the Gorge Bridge to celebrate the bridge and about 400 people base jump(!!!) from the bridge, while others rappel and bungee jump off of it! On this day, the bridge is closed to everyone but pedestrians and around 100,000 people visit every year. We would’ve loved to have seen this!
- Hit the trails again by hiking the Endless Wall trail! This is a 2.3 mile hike with 288 feet of elevation gain and has amazing views of the river, gorge, and mountains from Diamond Point. And there are some optional ladders you can climb as well. It gets busy and parking can be tough, so be prepared to wait for a spot if you come on a weekend.
- After a day of exploring, head back to Fayetteville to grab dinner at Pies & Pints! They have a bunch of unique pizza combinations and we got a bit more adventurous than usual and tried the grape and gorgonzola!
The combination of the pungent gorgonzola with the sweet tartness of the grape makes a perfect combo on a pizza. We also got a classic margarita and it was super tasty too! We did get these on gluten-free crusts, so it wasn’t the full experience, but it was one of the best gluten-free pizzas we have ever had!
Where to sleep: New River Gorge
Day 6: New River Gorge
On day 6, you’ll continue exploring the New River Gorge! There is so much to do here, so we’re including quite a few options for this day so you can choose what excites you the most!
- Have breakfast and coffee at Wood Iron Eatery. This coffee shop is in an old building tucked a bit behind the main street in Fayetteville. It’s a really cool spot and the Spanish latte is SO GOOD!
- Spend the rest of the morning doing one or a mix of the following activities!
Option #1: Go rafting!
The New River Gorge, especially during Gauley season, which is the first weekend after Labor Day and continues for six weekends, is the prime time to go rafting in the area. There are quite a few rafting companies, as well as tour options, but we’d suggest looking into Ace Adventure Resort or Adventures on the Gorge!
Option #2: Do the Bridge Walk!
The Bridge Walk is a 2-3 hour experience where you get to walk on a 24” wide catwalk, which rests 25 feet under the New River Gorge bridge, across the entire 3,030 foot length of the bridge.
Option #3: See old coal mines!
West Virginia has a ton of coal mining history and the New River Gorge is home to two mines you can go explore by foot! The first is the Kaymoor Mine, which is 1.6 miles and 869 feet of elevation gain, and takes you to an old mine building and even a waterfall!
Another option is to hike the Headhouse trail to the Nuttallburg mines. This is a 1.3 mile trail and 393 feet of elevation gain. We hear it’s a bit strenuous!
Option #4: Babcock State Park
Babcock State Park has a really cool old grist mill that makes for some gorgeous photos, especially in the fall. There are also hikes you can do in this state park including:
- Skyline, Rocky, and Narrow Gauge Loop: This hike is 3.9 miles and 692 feet of elevation gain. You get to cross a cool bridge over a river and there is a nice view of the mountains and river!
- Island in the Sky: At only 0.7 miles and 154 feet of elevation gain, this is an easy hike with some cool rock features and a ladder you can climb!
Option #5: Grandview Overlook
Continue driving around the New River Gorge area and make a stop at the Grandview Overlook, which is a quick drive from a parking lot, but there are also trails you can explore too if you have time!
- Head back to Fayetteville for dinner! Our #1 pick would be the Secret Sandwich Society. Don’t tell anybody about it…it’s a secret! Try as you might, if you eat here you’re going to want to tell everyone, it is so dang good! We were so sad to learn that their building got 2020-ed and burned down, but they plan to rebuild it so keep an eye out for it!
But until it reopens, we’d suggest eating at Wanderlust Creativefoods, which is Southeast Asian food (closed Sundays and Wednesdays).
Where to sleep: New River Gorge
Day 7: Charleston
For your final day on your West Virginia road trip, explore the capital city of Charleston! This is a cool little city with lots of awesome local shops, a market, and a unique tour nearby!
- Head to Charleston from the New River Gorge. On the way, stop by Tudor’s Biscuit World for a quick breakfast! This spot is a MUST in West Virginia and we feel bad making you wait until your last day to try it because it’s so good and you’ll want more! (We may be overhyping it, but Adam still talks about it!)
It isn’t fancy, but the biscuits are really good, especially for a chain, fast-food type spot. And the biscuit sandwiches are all named after West Virginia sports teams, which is pretty fun. Adam got the Huggie Bear, which is named after the WVU basketball coach, and it was delicious!
- Make the hour drive to Charleston, the state’s capital city. Once you get there, we suggest going straight to the Capitol Market, which is an indoor and outdoor market with meat, produce, coffee, wine, beer, cheese, chocolates, and much more! We loved checking out the locally made food and gifts!
- While you’re at Capitol Market, grab coffee at Mea Cuppa, which is in the indoor part of the market.
- Spend the rest of the morning wandering around downtown Charleston, which has some pretty old buildings and tree lined streets. We suggest visiting:
- Taylor Books: This bookstore on Capitol Street has been an independent bookstore, cafe, and coffee shop since 1995.
- Buck & Bette: We loved this little store! They had home goods, puzzles, clothes, local West Virginia items, and other fun gifts.
- Capitol: West Virginia has one of the more beautiful and intricate capitol buildings we have come across so far! It is built of more than 700 train carloads of limestone and 4,640 tons of steel! The dome is 293 feet tall, which is 5 feet taller than the U.S. Capitol building, and is gilded in 3 ⅜ inch 23 ½ karat gold leaflets.
- While downtown, grab lunch at Chow Thai!
- It wouldn’t be an Adventures of A+K guide without ice cream, so go get some scoops from Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream. Their flavors do change sometimes, but we loved the Pawpaw flavor, which is only available seasonally.
Pawpaw is an oblong, greenish brown or yellow fruit that has a sweet, custard-like flavor similar to that of a banana mixed with mango. It’s native to the area and makes a dang good ice cream flavor!
- Explore the Elk City Historic District, which used to actually be its own town called Elk City, but it became part of the city of Charleston in 1895. It’s now being revitalized and has some cool shops and murals. A couple spots to check out:
- If you have time, take a tour of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works, a salt farm!
This salt farm produces all-natural salt from the ancient Iapetus Ocean, which lies under the Appalachian Mountains, by using hand made tools and the power of the Earth to harvest and process the salt. It sounds crazy, we know, but it’s true!
In 1817, the owner’s ancestors first drilled for brine by using a hollowed-out tree trunk for piping. And by the 1850s, the Kanawha Valley became the largest salt producing region in the US, producing more than three million bushels of salt per year. It even won an award for “The Best Salt in The World” at the World’s Fair in London in 1851.
They offer free tours from 10 AM-4 PM between Monday-Saturday, so we’d highly suggest stopping by to see something a little different!
Even if you can’t make it to the property, it is fascinating to learn about them and if you want to try the salt, you can order it online. They also have another online store called Appalachian Mercantile that is a curated market of many other high quality food and goods they have discovered across the Appalachia.
- For dinner, head to Black Sheep Burrito and Brews (closes early on Sundays, FYI!) for some unique burritos!
Where to sleep: We’d suggest grabbing a hotel or vacation rental in Charleston or continuing on to wherever your road trip takes you next!
Have an extra day or two?
There are so many things to do in West Virginia and we wish we could’ve squeezed it all into 7 days! But if you have some extra time, or want to swap out some of the activities above, here are a few extra ideas of things to do in West Virginia!
We visited Harpers Ferry and loved it, but we didn’t include this in the main itinerary since it’s a bit out of the way from the other stops. If you wanted to add this on to your road trip, it would make the most sense to do between days 3 and 4.
About Harpers Ferry
Harpers Ferry is the easternmost town in the state and is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. If you’re interested in history and seeing really old buildings, by American standards, Harpers Ferry is a great place to check out! Once an important site during the Civil War, it still has around 100 historic structures to explore.
The town is maybe most notable for John Brown’s raid where Brown and some others took over the federal armory, arsenal, and rifle factory, and wanted to use the weapons in there to start a large slave revolt that would grow south.
Today, the town is also referred to as the ‘psychological’ midpoint of the Appalachian Trail. The physical midpoint is a bit farther north. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s headquarters is also here in Harpers Ferry.
It costs $20 to visit Harpers Ferry, as it’s managed by the National Park Service. However, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and will get you into any National Park, monument, or forest for free.
Things to do in Harpers Ferry
- Hike to the Maryland Heights Overlook! This 4.3 mile trail gains 1,036 ft in elevation, but takes you up to an amazing overlook of the town of Harpers Ferry. We did this hike for sunrise and even though it was super cloudy, the views were amazing! Note: you start this hike by the train station in Harpers Ferry and cross the bridge into Maryland.
- Visit the Point, which is where you can see the confluence of the rivers and the states of Maryland and Virginia.
- Hike the Loudoun Heights trail, which is 6 miles and 1,482 feet of elevation gain. It has a similar view to Maryland Heights, but a different perspective.
- Take the quick walk up to Jefferson Rock, which is a rock that now sits on top of pillars, with views of the river and mountains. When Thomas Jefferson was here in October 1783, he said “this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” To get here, take the steps up towards St. Peter’s Catholic Church and then continue on the steps for a little longer. The rock will be on your left!
Walk around! There are so many cool buildings to see, little museums to walk through, and windows to peek into. The entire town is historic and beautiful!
Where to eat in Harpers Ferry
- Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee: Great sandwiches and outdoor seating! We ate here and really enjoyed it.
- Kelley Farm Kitchen: A vegan spot with great food!
- The Canal House Cafe: Sustainably sourced American food in an 1820s stone house.
Old Fireman’s BBQ and Catering Co: A BBQ joint in an old train car.
Summersville Lake is close to the New River Gorge, so it makes for a great stop before, during, or after if you have time! We didn’t personally visit Summersville Lake, but it looks gorgeous!
Summersville Lake is the largest lake in West Virginia and features a rugged coastline, lots of hiking, and other fun water activities.
Things to do at Summersville Lake
- Hike Long Point Trail to Long Point (a different Long Point than in the New River Gorge). This 3.9 mile trail is relatively flat and has great lake views and looks like a nice spot for a little picnic on the lake!
- The Patterson Trail is an easy 2 mile loop trail at the Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, which is an important Civil War battlefield and one of the oldest state parks in the United States. This trail skirts the battlefield and features several overlooks of the river and valley below.
- The Summersville Lake via Orange Oswald is a 2.4 mile flat trail that leads you out to a water level view and a stroll of the Gauley River.
- Rent a boat and hit the water!
Greenbrier is a resort located between Spruce Knob and New River Gorge, so it would be a good stop between day 4 and 5 of this West Virginia road trip.
Known as ‘America’s Resort’, The Greenbrier has been around in one form or another since 1778. It has an important link to America’s history, so much so that 26 Presidents have stayed here with the most recent being Dwight D. Eisenhower.
If you’re looking for luxury and relaxation this looks to be a nice spot. Here they have everything you need including a spa, golf course, dining, a casino, and more. There have been a few iterations of the resort, with the most current being built in 1913.
One interesting feature of the resort is the bunker that was built in the 1950s in case there was a fallout from a nuclear holocaust. Although it was never used, it was stocked with supplies and necessities for over 30 years and was built to protect Congress and other important government figures.
West Virginia Penitentiary
The West Virginia Penitentiary is located 1.5 hours northwest of Morgantown, right by the Ohio border. This spot would make the most sense to visit when you’re near Morgantown.
The West Virginia Penitentiary was built in the 1860s and is a castle-like stone structure with turrets and battlements. Once a working penitentiary, it is now a tourist stop in Moundsville, WV.
While there, you can go on a day tour, paranormal investigation, do an escape room adventure, and if you’re really adventurous and are in desperate need of a place to sleep, you can even stay the night in the old penitentiary. Which sounds pretty creepy and cool!
Ready for a West Virginia Road trip?
Pin this West Virginia road trip itinerary to help plan your adventures!