The iconic country roads of West Virginia draw over four million visitors annually, lured in by this mountain state’s stunning landscapes, epic outdoor adventures, and rich, storied history. With many beautiful towns around the state offering iconic attractions, narrowing down your itinerary can be difficult!
West Virginia’s winding country roads lead you to uncrowded towns, each with its distinct Appalachian charm. The state’s rich history and culture are reflected in these small towns, making every stop a delightful learning experience.
We’ve rounded up this list of can’t-miss things to do in West Virginia to round out your “Mountain State” road trip!
1. Take a Historical Tour Through Harpers Ferry
- Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
- Website: nps.gov/hafe/index.htm
Harpers Ferry, lovingly called the ‘front porch’ of West Virginia, makes a great first stop on your West Virginia adventures. Nestled on the upriver bank at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, its cobblestone streets, historical markers dotting the downtown area, and natural spaces will leave even the most traveled guest charmed.
Stop by Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, where abolitionist John Brown led a pivotal raid in 1859, stoking the flames of the emerging Civil War to feel the rich blend of natural landscape and historical significance of the area. The park preserves his legacy with John Brown’s Fort, which also served as the guard house for the historic Harpers Ferry Armory.
The park offers 22 miles of hiking trails, providing the perfect blend of history and nature. You’ll follow trails through American Civil War-era landscapes, getting glimpses of historic sites while enjoying panoramic views of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Take time to also visit the surrounding historic battlefields of Bolivar Heights and Antietam as well.
Pro Tip: Stay the weekend and book a Harpers Ferry mountain cabin retreat to soak up the majestic views of the natural beauty of this storied room.
2. Hit the Appalachian Trail
- Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
- Website: nps.gov/appa/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm
The Appalachian Trail travels briefly through northeastern West Virginia in Harpers Ferry. This 4-mile stretch of the ‘AT’ winds through lush forests and along the scenic banks of the Potomac River, providing stunning vistas and plenty of opportunity to spot native wildlife in their natural habitat.
Both the Maryland Heights Trail and Loudoun Trail offer a snapshot of the bigger trek. Hikers wanting to experience the AT without committing to the long haul will find this short stretch of trail to be the perfect opportunity.
3. Enjoy a Train Ride at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
- Location: 12363 Cass Road, Cass, WV
- Website: mountainrailwv.com/tour/cass-scenic-railroad-bald-knob-trip
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, located in the town of Cass offers visitors a unique opportunity to tour West Virginia’s landscape via a historic steam-driven locomotive operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad.
This train takes visitors on a scenic ride to Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia! The journey lasts approximately 4.5 hours, offers panoramic views of the Appalachian mountains, and includes a lunch break.
For families with children or those looking for a shorter trip, the two-hour round trip to Whittaker Station, a recreated logging camp, is the way to go. Visitors can also explore the former lumbering town, including a museum that provides insight into the area’s history. The park also features a gift shop, a restaurant, and a theater.
4. Tour the Vibrant Art Scene of Charleston
- Location: Charleston, WV
Charleston, the capital city of West Virginia, boasts a vibrant art scene that is worth a focused visit in itself! The art scene in Charleston can be traced back to the Charleston Renaissance, a period between World Wars I and II when the city experienced a significant cultural revival. This era was associated mostly with the visual arts and saw many artists of all mediums flock to the city.
Stop by the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences, a hub for the performing arts, visual arts, and sciences all under one roof, and tour the renowned Juliet Art Museum, which features rotating contemporary exhibitions.
Take in a performance at the Charleston Ballet, one of the oldest ballet companies in America, and shop bespoke West Virginia artisan goods at the downtown area’s Art Emporium, a gallery that features works from local and regional artists, including paintings, photography, and ceramics.
5. Take a Dip in the Natural Springs at Berkeley Springs
- Location: Berkeley Springs, WV
- Website: berkeleysprings.com
Located in the picturesque Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia’s countryside, Berkeley Springs is a charming town best known for its natural mineral springs. These ancient waters are believed to have healing therapeutic properties. George Washington was said to have frequented this spot, and visitors can even see the outdoor stone bath he once soaked in.
Today, visitors can take a dip in the historic Roman Baths or opt for a more contemporary spa experience. Beyond the springs, the town offers plenty of small-town mountain charm, making it the perfect day trip for travelers seeking a day of relaxation and rejuvenation.
6. Go Whitewater Rafting in New River Gorge National Park
- Location: Canyon Rim Visitor Center, 162 Visitor Center Rd, Lansing, WV
- Website: nps.gov/neri/index.htm
New River Gorge National Park, between Fayetteville and Beckley, is a top destination for whitewater rafting, attracting thousands of thrill-seekers specifically for the adrenaline rush annually. The park offers a variety of rafting experiences, from family-friendly rides to pumping rapids.
Where should you go? The Lower New River offers Class III to V rapids and is ideal for experienced rafters. Highlights include the Keeney’s Brother’s rapids and the intense Double Z rapid.
In contrast, for those who like a meandering and relaxed adventure, the Upper New River is perfect for beginners and families with Class I to III rapids. This section offers a more relaxed ride, with swimming and rock jumping opportunities!
Several outfitters operate in the area, including Adventures on the Gorge. They provide all necessary equipment and safety briefings.
7. Take the Bridge Walk in Lansing
- Location: 57 County Route 85/9, Lansing, WV
- Website: bridgewalk.com
The New River Gorge National Park has more tricks up its sleeve beyond the rapids with awe-inducing Bridge Walk. The New River Gorge Bridge, completed in 1977, has become an iconic landmark in West Virginia, and the Bridge Walk offers a unique perspective on this engineering marvel. The bridge stands 851 feet above the New River, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Guided tours are available, usually lasting between 2 to 3 hours. The guides offer insights into the history and construction of the bridge, adding an educational element to the adrenaline-fueled experience.
8. Tour the Lost World Caverns of Lewisburg
- Location: 907 Lost World Rd, Lewisburg, WV
- Website: lostworldcaverns.com/tours/cave-tour
Lost World Caverns, located in Lewisburg, West Virginia, is an underground natural wonder known for its impressive array of stalactites, stalagmites, and other unique formations. The caverns were discovered in 1942 and have been attracting visitors from around the world ever since!
There are two types of tours through the caverns: self-guided or the popular Wild Cave Tour for the more adventurous spelunkers.
As a self-guided tour, you can traverse the half-mile loop at your own pace and marvel at the stunning formations such as the War Club, the Bridal Veil, and the Snowy Chandelier, one of the nation’s largest compound stalactites.
For the more adventurous, the Wild Cave Tour will take you off the beaten path and into the deeper parts of the caverns, where you’ll crawl through mud and squeeze through tight passages. This tour requires advance reservations and is not recommended for those with claustrophobia!
9. Chase Waterfalls at Falling Waters
- Location: Route 11, Falling Waters, WV
While many people in West Virginia head to Blackwater Falls State Park in search of waterfalls, you’re missing out if you skip the quiet beauty of Falling Waters Waterfalls. You’ll find this enchanting oasis just outside of Berkeley Springs. Its lush foliage and bubbling waters make it ideal for a quiet afternoon picnic.
This brief, scenic hike leads to a 15-foot cascading waterfall flanked by emerald green moss on both sides. This tranquil waterfall has a storied history. Once the site of several Civil War battles, this tranquil spot once witnessed devastating battles.
10. Experience the Best of Outdoor Adventure with River Riders
- Location: 408 Alstadts Hill Rd, Harpers Ferry, WV
- Website: riverriders.com
River Riders offers an aerial adventure park where you can reach new heights on a ropes course through the forest. They offer nine different trails with five different skill levels so everyone in your party can participate. Thrill seekers can even hop aboard River Riders’ zipline tour and take the scenery from a new perspective. There’s an optional 50-foot free fall at the end of the tour for the truest of adrenaline junkies!
Pro Tip: If you are traveling through West Virginia in the winter, an epic snow tubing experience is offered with Snow Riders, River Riders’ sister company, from December through April (weather permitting). Their giant snow tubing hill is almost three football fields in length!
11. Explore the Galaxy at the Green Bank Observatory
- Location: 155 Observatory Rd, Green Bank, WV
- Website: greenbankobservatory.org
Whether you’re a science enthusiast or just curious, the Green Bank Observatory provides an intriguing experience. Its contributions to radio astronomy make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in space exploration.
Situated with a place of pride in Green Bank, West Virginia, the observatory is a renowned astronomical observatory in the ‘National Radio Quiet Zone,’ a unique area that restricts all radio transmissions to prevent interference with the observatory’s highly sensitive radio telescopes.
The observatory, recently designated as a Historic Site by the American Physical Society, is home to the impressive Green Bank Telescope (GBT), one of the largest fully steerable telescopes in the world. The GBT is an enormous 2.3-acre dish that picks up weak radio waves from celestial objects.
The on-site Science Center offers hands-on exhibits and displays that introduce visitors to the science of radio astronomy.
Experience the Best of West Virginia
From the history of living in the mountains to the stunning landscape that inspired legends, each trip to the area uncovers even more hidden gems. West Virginia offers a lot of mountain charm, and you’ll find the best it has to offer, all within a short drive from the town of Harpers Ferry and your mountain cabin rental.