10 Must-See Hikes in West Virginia
From one side of West Virginia to the other, you’ll find hiking trails meandering through state parks, national parks and forests, and natural spaces. With so much vast and diverse scenery open for exploration, it might be hard to decide what to do. That’s why we rounded up the 10 best hikes in West Virginia.
These top hiking trails in West Virginia range from challenging to easy, so you’ll have no problems finding something to suit your needs. The next time you’re ready to set out on an unforgettable hike, make plans to explore a few of these hikes that show off the best that the Mountain State has to offer.
1. Monongahela National Forest
One of the treasures in West Virginia is Monongahela National Forest. Located in the Allegheny Mountains near the state’s eastern border with Virginia, this national forest protects over 921,000 acres of land.
With so much land to explore and scenic views that literally go on for miles, it can be hard to decide which hiking trails to check out. If you’re interested in a waterfall hike, the 10.1-mile out-and-back Seneca Creek Trail is a good option.
Although this trail is long, it follows the creek almost the entire way, so it’s relatively flat. There are also numerous spots for backcountry camping if you really want to take your time. The trail ends at the impressive 30-foot Upper Seneca Creek Falls.
Another waterfall hike in Monongahela National Forest you’ll love is Falls of Hills Creek Trail. This hidden gem hike is tucked away in a narrow gorge in the Falls of Hills Creek Scenic Area. The first 1,700 feet of this trail is paved as it heads to the upper falls viewing platform.
From there, you can follow the three-quarter-mile trail as it descends 220 feet to the spectacular lower falls. At 63 feet, the lower falls are the second-highest waterfall in West Virginia.
2. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
If you’re planning on doing some hiking in West Virginia, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park should be on your list for a number of reasons. First, this is the psychological midpoint of the famous Appalachian Trail. (The geographic midpoint is actually about 75 miles further north in Pennsylvania.)
Not only can you hike a few miles of the Appalachian Trail, but you can also stop by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters to learn more about the it.
You can use a footbridge to cross the Potomac River and hike some of the 184.5-mile-long towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
If you’re looking for views, the 5-mile Maryland Heights Loop Trail and the 6-mile out-and-back Loudoun Heights Trail both offer spectacular views of the Potomac River, Shenandoah River, and Harpers Ferry.
3. Blackwater Falls State Park
We already talked about the second-highest waterfall in West Virginia; now let’s take a look at the tallest! Blackwater Falls, located in Blackwater Falls State Park, is a magnificent 57-foot cascade that tumbles over the side of a cliff in a spectacular fashion.
The falls got their name because the water looks black from the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. It’s easy to walk to the falls thanks to the trail and some steps that lead directly from the parking lot. Plus, they’re not the only attraction at this state park.
You’ll also find more than 20 miles of hiking trails that take you to everything from stunning scenic overlooks to other waterfalls, such as Elakala Falls and Pendleton Falls.
4. Dolly Sods Wilderness
Dolly Sods Wilderness, located in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, is part of the Monongahela National Forest. The area covers over 17,000 acres of land with elevations that range from 2,500 feet to over 4,700 feet.
With so many breathtaking views around each corner, it’s easy to see why this area has some of the best hikes in West Virginia.
The wilderness area has several loop trails that make for fantastic multi-day backpacking trips. If you’re looking for some great day hikes, consider the 2.4-mile Bear Rocks Trail, 2.5-mile Fisher Spring Run Trail, or 1.47-mile Beaver Dam Trail.
Pro Tip: During World War II, the military used Dolly Sods for training. Many of the artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice still exist and could be live. This is why you should ALWAYS stay on the trails when hiking here.
5. Wolf Gap Recreation Area
Wolf Gap Recreation Area is located in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests right on the border between Virginia and West Virginia. At one time, it was the site of a 1930s African American Civilian Conservation Corps Camp.
Today, the recreation area is known for scenic hiking opportunities. One of the most popular hikes in the area is the 4.4-mile trail to the summit of Big Schloss.
The trailhead is located at the Wolf Gap Campground. The first part of the trail is definitely the most difficult as you make you way up. After about the first mile, it eventually evens out for a slightly easier hike.
Once you reach the summit, you’ll be treated to expansive views of rolling mountains. If you hike during the spring or summer, these mountains are covered in beautiful, lush green foliage. However, if you choose to hike in the fall, the valley is covered in an amazing patchwork of bright colors.
6. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is one of the most dramatic spots in West Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that it also offers some of the best hiking trails in the state! The park encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River, which is one of the oldest rivers on the continent.
There are several areas of the park, and each offers something new and different to see. Hiking in the Glade Creek area provides scenic walks along cascading waterfalls and rivers. The Sandstone Brooks area also has beautiful waterfalls.
You can explore the remains of an old coal mining town on the Nuttallburg area trails. The Grandview area has 6 miles of trails that offer truly spectacular views.
The Fayetteville area is another popular spot for hiking since it provides access to some of the most spectacular overlooks in the park. A few good trail options here include the 0.6-mile out-and-back Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk that’s rated easy and ideal for all skill levels.
Or check out the 1.6-mile Long Point Trail, which delivers a 360-degree panorama view of the New River Gorge Bridge.
7. Seneca Rocks
Although Seneca Rocks is a popular spot for climbers, it also offers a fantastic hiking trail with unparalleled views. The rocks jut out from the mountain to create a magnificent formation that rises around 900 feet above the North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River.
To hike to the observation platforms, you’ll need to take the Seneca Rocks Hiking Trail. You can access the trailhead by either parking at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center or the Sites Homestead picnic area.
Once you use the footbridge to cross the river, you’ll start your ascent on the 2.6-mile round trip trail. Along the way, you’ll gain over 700 feet in elevation using switchbacks and stairs.
Although this trail is steep, hikers of pretty much all skill levels can handle it and there are benches on the trail so you can stop and take a break if necessary. Plus, the view from the top makes all of your effort worth it!
8. Coopers Rock State Forest
Coopers Rock State Forest is a hidden gem for some of the most impressive views in the state. Spend just a few hours exploring the area, and you’ll quickly see why it offers the best hikes in West Virginia.
The 12,747-acre state forest is home to sandstone cliffs, canyon overlooks, historical sites, and 50 miles of hiking trails. Once you get there, make sure you head to the Coopers Rock Overlook for amazing views of the Cheat River Gorge.
After that, take your time to explore any of the 21 trails that wind through the forest. You won’t be disappointed with any of them.
If you like history, be sure to check out the Clay Furnace Trail, which takes you to a huge stone structure that was used to produce iron in the 1800s.
9. Kanawha State Forest
Located just 7 miles from the capital city of Charleston, Kanawha State Forest is a prime destination for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Here you’ll find more than 25 miles of hiking trails with options for all skill levels.
The Overlook Rock Trail is a 1.6 mile loop that starts out steep but then levels off for some nice views from the top of the ridge. Another good option is the 1.8-mile Polly Trail loop, which has some very interesting rock formations at the top.
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Plus, to make nature accessible to everyone, the forest is also home to the Spotted Salamander trail. This paved, level walkway has braille interpretive nature stations along the way that are designed for guests who are visually impaired or have other disabilities.
10. Babcock State Park
If you’re looking for a park that has a little something for every type of hiker, check out Babcock State Park. The park covers 4,127 acres of wooded forests along the New River Gorge and has more than 20 miles of hiking trails that range from easy loops to challenging climbs.
No visit to the park is complete without checking out the Glade Creek Grist Mill, which is a fully functional replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that once stood on the grounds.
Once you’re done there, consider the Island-in-the-Sky Trail. This 0.5-mile trail can range from easy to moderately difficult depending on which way you go. If you start at the Grist Mill, it’s mostly uphill the entire way. However, if you start at the sharp curve on the Park Forest road, it’s mostly level to the high cliff area with beautiful views.
Some of the other popular hikes in the park include the Ridge Top Trail, Skyline Trail, and Triple Creek Trail.
Top 10 Best Hiking Trails in West Virginia
West Virginia is a stunningly beautiful state home to an amazing variety of natural wonders. If you’re interested in exploring this beauty, be sure to add these 10 best hikes in West Virginia to your list!
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