The place to Go on a Street Journey By way of West Virginia

I knew from some brief visits from my residence in D.C. that West Virginia is a state of immense pure magnificence—with extra parks than I might hold straight (together with the nation’s latest nationwide park, New River Gorge). It’s additionally a state of contradictions—of coal mines and verdant parks, of huge infrastructures and wide-open areas.

After three days of street tripping alongside the state’s well-known nation roads in April, I felt like I used to be in on its secrets and techniques. Right here’s take a street journey by way of West Virginia, centered round three pure landmarks of curiosity: Blackwater Falls within the north, Seneca Rocks midstate, and New River Gorge within the south. It’s a visit you’ll need to do once more—when you recuperate from the windy roads.

Blackwater Falls State Park.jpg

Embrace the quiet great thing about Blackwater Falls State Park.

Courtesy of West Virginia Tourism

Day 1: Blackwater Falls State Park

Drive time from Washington, D.C. to Blackwater Falls State Park: simply over three hours

Blackwater Falls State Park, within the north of West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, is a scenic instance of the state’s wealthy however underrated out of doors choices. It’s quiet right here—very a lot so—although the 57-foot cascade, for which the park is known as, is without doubt one of the most photographed spots within the state. As quickly as you see the falls, you’ll perceive why Blackwater Falls has its title: The water is dyed a blackish-amber tint from the tannic acid within the needles of hemlock and purple spruce that drop into the stream. The park additionally has a small community of trails in addition to the longest sledding route on the East Coast. Don’t miss the brief, however steep, climb all the way down to the falls the place you may take within the views from well-maintained remark decks.

Tip: The climate right here, as elsewhere within the state’s mountains, will be unpredictable. My April journey got here simply because the snow melted.


Drive time from Blackwater Falls State Park: 5 minutes

After stretching your legs within the park, head a couple of minutes again to the cities of Thomas and Davis. Typically talked about in a single breath, as if two brothers in a household, the postage stamp–measurement cities are about three miles from one another and simply north of Blackwater Falls State Park. Davis is the smaller of the 2, with a important avenue providing posthike bites at Hellbender Burritos (which could shock you with vegetarian choices just like the Goofy Foot, a burrito full of soy sauce–grilled tofu with assorted veggies). Take pleasure in craft brews at Stumptown Ales, an area spot that welcomes friends underneath a rainbow satisfaction flag.


Drive time from Davis: 5 minutes

Hop again in your automotive and drive on to Thomas. As soon as a melting pot mining city (with an Italian language newspaper as well), Thomas is now an eclectic, inventive enclave that attracts metropolis dwellers for its music and proximity to Blackwater Falls. Thomas encompasses a vigorous mixture of pottery studios, galleries, a classic retailer, and an outpost of the state’s finest espresso store, TipTop. However the actual draw right here is the Purple Fiddle, a legendary honky-tonk music venue. On most nights of the week, the Purple Fiddle hosts a variety of nation, folks, and bluegrass acts. Tickets vary from free to $30 relying on who’s taking part in.

The place to remain: Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge

E-book now: Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge

Blackwater Falls State Park’s midcentury lodge completed top-to-bottom renovations in 2022 and presents cozy, upgraded rooms with sweeping views of the park. With simply 54 rooms, the lodge feels as near nature as you will get from the consolation of an actual mattress. Its location makes for immersive stargazing and—should you get up early sufficient—for watching the solar rise over the falls.

Seneca Rocks National Recreational Area in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia

Seneca Rocks is a spot well-loved by each fly-fishers and photographers.

Picture by Arlene Waller/Shutterstock

Day 2: Seneca Rocks

Drive time from Blackwater Falls to Seneca Rocks: 45 minutes

After an evening toe tapping on the Purple Fiddle, settle in for a down-home breakfast on the lodge’s Smokehouse Restaurant or get espresso and a pastry to go at TipTop earlier than driving south to Seneca Rocks. This dramatic outcropping is widespread with boulderers, and the North Fork River under the 900-foot-high rock formation is well-known to fly-fishers and photographers.

The 45-minute drive grows more and more curvy as you wind south (it’s value taking slowly). Its unobstructed vistas accompany quite a few Christian church buildings round each bend. Park on the Seneca Rocks Discovery Heart, which, like different customer facilities within the state, is state-of-the-art and staffed by educated and pleasant rangers (one lent me a few of her sunscreen).

The Discovery Heart provides probably the greatest views of the rocks, so cease in for a fast photograph and acquire a map whereas there. For a wonderful afternoon climb, a 3.6-mile out and again hike encompasses a swift ascent up, however you’ll be rewarded with a view of Pendleton County’s valleys and the encompassing Monongahela Nationwide Forest.

Culinary choices round Seneca Rocks are scarce, so should you’re hungry after your hike, take a 10-minute drive south to American restaurant Asbury’s for fare that features bison burgers and beet and goat cheese salads.


Drive time from Seneca Rocks to Lewisburg: 2.5 hours

From Asbury’s it’s again within the automotive and a virtually two-and-a-half-hour drive south to Lewisburg. Select the smaller and windier Route 219 (surroundings alongside the route deserves loads of pull-over moments). If in case you have the automotive radio on, or should you’re relying in your cellphone for navigation, you’ll most likely discover once you drive by way of the city of Inexperienced Financial institution. The close by Allegheny Mountains are residence to the world’s largest radio telescope, the Robert C. Byrd Inexperienced Financial institution Telescope. The huge white construction, operated by the Nationwide Radio Astronomy Observatory, is unavoidable from the street. Since 1958, Inexperienced Financial institution has maintained strict “quiet zone” rules, banning cell telephones, radios, and even microwaves in an effort to keep away from disturbing the telescope’s sensitivities.

About 45 minutes earlier than Lewisburg (and after you get cell service again), you would possibly see a stately white residence set again from the street. Flip within the driveway at what’s the sudden homestead the place Pulitzer Prize–successful novelist Pearl S. Buck was born. Though she solely lived within the Hillsboro, West Virginia, residence for a number of months, the property is preserved and proudly cared for by a docent who can be glad to provide you a tour.

Proceed on the street to Lewisburg, a genteel city with a pleasing important avenue of antiques shops and cafés. Lewisburg’s Stardust Cafe serves farm-to-table meals in sandwiches and salads with natural meats and greens. The motion’s reverberations are felt all through the city with some glorious eating choices; most notable is the French Goat, the place upmarket French delicacies is served at white tablecloth-covered tables in a historic residence.

The place to remain: The Common Lewis Inn

E-book now: The Common Lewis Inn

The crowning jewel of Lewisburg, the Common Lewis Inn is a vacation spot in itself. The inn has been in steady operation since 1929 and was renovated in 2009 by new house owners, a husband-and-wife group with deep native roots. The Common Lewis retains its historic attraction whereas being completely fashionable with rooms mixing antiques and modern items, plus flowers picked from the backyard. Don’t miss its swanky cocktail bar and restaurant that serves inventive spins on southern favorites like hush puppies, fried okra, and cornbread biscuits served in miniature forged iron skillets. You’ll need to get pleasure from dinner—or not less than a drink—on the porch.

New River Gorge, West Virginia

Go to one in all North America’s oldest rivers in New River Gorge Nationwide Park.

Courtesy of West Virginia Tourism

Day 3: New River Gorge

Drive time from Lewisburg to New River Gorge: about 70 minutes

After breakfast on the inn or on the town on the Wild Bean or Corn + Flour, bid farewell to Lewisburg and set your sights south on New River Gorge. The most recent nationwide park, New River Gorge is accessible by a significant freeway. However go for the nation roads and drive south alongside Route 60. Probably probably the most lovely drive in West Virginia—and one which positively lives as much as the “Nearly Heaven” tagline John Denver gave the state, the route cuts by way of a panorama that appears just about untouched minus the occasional mine or wind turbine. Hairpin turns abound however the surroundings is definitely worth the drops in your abdomen.

Cease on the park’s Canyon Rim Customer Heart, which presents an intensive overview on the New River panorama and the individuals who have known as it residence. A wealthy assortment of pictures and oral histories offers a way of the realm when mining was booming and the New River Valley was bustling with communities that relied on the gorge, mines, and the C&O railroad that after barreled by way of the valley.

Though New River Gorge grew to become a nationwide park in 2020, the river itself is without doubt one of the oldest in North America. Immediately the park spans 70,000 acres and is widespread with hikers, white-water rafters, and photographers on the lookout for the proper shot of New River Gorge Bridge, a dramatic engineering feat that’s the longest metal span bridge within the Western Hemisphere

From the customer heart, drive alongside the steep, curvy one-way Fayette Station Street to the bottom of the Gorge. Proceed the drive till you attain the city of Thurmond. As soon as a busy mining and railway city with dry-goods shops, saloons, accommodations, and a jeweler, Thurmond is now a ghost city steeped in historical past. A self-guided strolling tour will lead you previous remnants of the once-lively heart.

The place to remain: ACE Journey Resort

E-book now: ACE Journey Resort

Regardless of its magnificence and wealth of choices, the New River Gorge space principally lacks locations to remain exterior of rental houses and visitor homes. ACE Journey Resort, the chief in white-water rafting excursions on the Gorge, has cabin leases set again within the woods. A lot of the cabins are very rustic and naked bones, however all include an out of doors sizzling tub (a great option to finish a day of mountain climbing and driving). A keep right here is for the pure, woodsy air and premium stargazing, slightly than luxe bedding. Take pleasure in dinner at the Misplaced Paddle, ACE’s bar and grill serving sandwiches and pizza.

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