West Virginia could be the perfect destination if you want to take a break from your daily routine and enjoy a weekend getaway surrounded by nature! This state is located in the southeastern part of the United States and there are plenty of National parks in West Virginia.
People across the country visit West Virginia for its numerous sites that provide all types of recreational activities. Combined with the state’s stunning landscapes, they make for a perfect family or school holiday.
Moreover, West Virginia is rich in history as it hosts important historical parks and scenic trails, where you’ll learn something new about American history. Let’s get started and talk about 8 fantastic National and state parks now!
1. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
|New River Gorge National Park and Preserve|
|Location||Fayette and Summers Counties|
|Animals to spot||Virginia big-eared, Indiana bats|
|Recreational activities||Whitewater rafting, rock climbing, fishing, hiking, biking|
If you ever visit the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, you’ll get yourself busy with the park’s numerous recreational activities and enjoy the scenic landscapes!
The most popular recreational activity in the area is whitewater rafting. This park is at the top of the list for rock climbers, featuring over 1,400 established rock climbs. Visitors can also fish, hike, and bike.
Plant and animal lovers will enjoy their time too, as the park hosts over 60 species of mammals, including some endangered ones like Indiana bats, and almost 50 species of amphibians. There are over 1,300 species of plants that will take your breath away!
2. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
|Harpers Ferry National Historical Park|
|Location||Harpers Ferry, where Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet|
|Animals to spot||Reptiles, amphibians, mammals, fish, spiders, insects|
|Attractions to see||The historic town of Harpers Ferry and the natural landscape|
Preserving and commemorating the historic town of Harpers Ferry and its natural surroundings, you’ll find the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Nature, animals, and history lovers should add this national historical park to their list of places to visit! George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are only two of the numerous prominent figures who left a mark on this park. Moreover, the area hosted some pivotal events in American history, such as the first successful application of interchangeable manufacturing. Other things you’ll learn about during your visit include John Brown’s attack on slavery and the education of formerly enslaved people.
The natural surroundings host around 15 amphibian and reptile species, around 30 mammal and spider species, 43 types of fish, and more than 170 types of birds and insects. You’ll enjoy scenic wooded slopes, fields, and rocky cliffs.
3. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
|Appalachian National Scenic Trail|
|Location in West Virginia||Harpers Ferry, Monroe County|
|Animals to spot||White-tail deer, chipmunks, coyotes, squirrels|
|Attractions to see||Historic sites, hiking trails|
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a 2,200-mile trail across the eastern United States. It crosses 14 states, including West Virginia. The trail starts in Georgia at Springer Mountain and ends in Maine at Mount Katahdin.
West Virginia has two points where the Appalachian National Scenic Trail passes through – Harpers Ferry and Monroe County. The Harpers Ferry trail is shorter and accessible even for beginner hikers. The trail’s headquarters, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, is also located in Harpers Ferry. If you’re not up for a hike, you can check out the headquarters and buy some souvenirs.
The portion in Monroe County has a higher elevation than the one in Harpers Ferry. It’s more suitable for experienced hikers. But, no worries! Even if you don’t want to hike, you can check out the campsites or cabins that can be rented in Monroe County, as the views will still be worth it!
4. Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
|Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park|
|Location||Across West Virginia|
|Animals to spot||Deer, butterflies, various species of reptiles and amphibians|
|Recreational activities||Hiking, camping, boating, biking|
Preserving and protecting the remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal lies the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. It starts in Georgetown, D.C., along the Potomac River, and ends in Cumberland, Maryland. The canal was built over the course of 22 years.
The trail has 184.5 miles, and it crosses several points in West Virginia, including Jefferson County, Berkeley County, and Hampshire County. Tourists can visit the park for recreational activities, such as biking, hiking, boating, or wildlife observation.
Moreover, if you visit the site in Harpers Ferry, you can also check the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and parts of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
If you’re interested in history and want to put these tourist attractions into context, we recommend this book entitled “West Virginia: A History.”
5. Bluestone National Scenic River
|Bluestone National Scenic River|
|Location||Summers and Mer|
|Animals to spot||Deer, bobcats, raccoons, beavers, turkeys|
|Recreational activities||Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, hunting, taking the aerial tram|
Preserving 10.5 miles of the Bluestone River, the Bluestone National Scenic River is considered an outstanding natural, geological, cultural, and recreational area of value. If you’re looking for an adventure in the heart of nature, this is it!
Because it’s located in a deep gorge, it can be pretty challenging to get there. You can use the entry through Bluestone State Park and then go hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or hunting.
Another popular feature people visit the Bluestone National Scenic River for is the aerial tram that can be taken at Pipestem Resort State Park. It gets the tourists to the bottom of the gorge, thus opening up stunning landscapes that can take one’s breath away!
6. Gauley River National Recreation Area
|Gauley River National Recreation Area|
|Location||Nicholas County (nearest city Summersville)|
|Animals to spot||Various species of birds, fish, amphibians|
|Recreational activities||Whitewater paddling, fishing, camping|
The Gauley River National Recreation Area protects and preserves 25 miles of the Gauley River, as well as 5.5 miles of the Meadow River.
This national recreation area is primarily popular for whitewater paddling and fishing. The area also provides camping sites if you’re just willing to spend a few days relaxing and reconnecting with nature. The abundant wildlife will make it even easier! It’s considered that the Gauley River shelters the largest population in the world of a rare plant species called Virginia Spiraea.
Moreover, there are numerous attractions nearby, including the Bluestone National Scenic River, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, and other West Virginia state parks that will recharge your batteries!
7. Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
|Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge|
|Animals to spot||White-tail deer, geese, raccoons, black bears, bobolinks|
|Recreational activities||Hiking, biking, horseback riding|
Did you know that the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge preserves scenic uplands and wetlands with the highest elevation of 3,284 ft? It is popular among tourists due to its rich wildlife. Visitors can spot many animals, including white-tail deer, geese, raccoons, black bears, barred owls, wild turkeys, and woodcocks. Moreover, if you’re lucky enough, you might even see a bobolink or a cerulean warbler, some of the declining bird species that live in the area.
Hiking enthusiasts will undoubtedly enjoy the 31 miles of pedestrian trails, out of which 23 miles can be used for biking and 22 miles for horseback rides. Canaan Valley Resort State Park is located nearby, where you can camp, hike, and ski.
8. Blackwater Falls State Park
|Blackwater Falls State Park|
|Location||Tucker County (nearest city Davis)|
|Animal to spot||Red foxes, squirrels|
|Attraction to see||Blackwater Falls|
The centerpiece of Blackwater Falls State Park is the 62-foot Blackwater Falls. It is one of the most popular destinations in the state. But that’s not the only fall you can delight in! Additionally, there are several smaller and just as beautiful falls across the parks.
Blackwater Falls State Park provides guest rooms, cabins, and campsites for its visitors. You’ll be able to bike, hike, fish, and even ski during the winter. Trails such as Elakala to Yellow Birch Trail and Pendleton Point Overlook create incredible natural views!
Moreover, this state park preserves and protects various tree species, including red spruce, eastern hemlock, and red maple.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kathleen K. Parker/Shutterstock.com
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