West Virginia is made up of mountains that disappear into the clouds, and valleys that plunge deep into places where the sun only shines a few hours each day. The raw, powerful beauty of the land promises adventure and outdoor fun, and delivers much, much more.
We’ve explored The Mountain State up one mountainside and down the other, by car and on foot, by raft and on skis. Here are some of our favorite things to see and do throughout the rolling mountain landscapes of the National Parks of Southern West Virginia.
(And just wait until you see THESE photos!!)
Beginners and experts alike can find world-class whitewater rafting. Even kids can paddle the Upper New, while the Lower New offers wild family fun. The Gauley River is a one-of-a-kind adventure—named a Top 10 whitewater river in the world.
It’s a water sport anyone can easily enjoy! SUP is super simple to learn. One lesson, and you’ll be gliding freely across the lake’s calm waters. If you want, you can even try to paddle through the smaller whitewater rapids.
There’s always something happening here! Rangers lead informational hikes, workshops, and camps. Check the calendar for events like Hidden History Weekend, the New River Birding and Nature Festival, Wildflower Weekend, or Bridge Day, where you can watch BASE jumpers parachuting.
With hundreds of trails, you’ll have your choice of length and level. Hike out to scenic overlooks by foot, or hop on horseback. Mountain bike the smooth, easy paths or the winding, obstacle-laden trails. Uncover hidden waterfalls along your journey.
Hunting & Fishing
In this outdoor Almost Heaven, sportsmen can track down plenty of wild game, from deer to turkey and more. Fishermen can lure in prize smallmouth bass and trout from some of the East Coast’s best fishing spots.
Sandstone ridges that line the deep river canyons of Southern West Virginia National Parks create world-class rock climbing and rappelling. Explore hundreds of well-maintained public routes, from easy upward treks to challenging, puzzle-like crags.
Want something entirely unique? Stunt through the skies on a WWII biplane. Walk the underbelly of the New River Gorge Bridge, 876 feet over the canyon. Take a scenic ride on vintage train cars or overhead on the aerial tram.
Birding & Nature
Discover the parks’ diverse plant life—fiery in the fall, flowering in spring. Or, check out the majestic wildlife. The parks are a well-known birding haven, with eagles and rare songbirds soaring above. Foragers uncover delicious treats, from wild onions to gourmet mushrooms.
The National Parks of Southern West Virginia run through the National Coal Heritage Area. You can explore abandoned mining towns, rail depots, and more relics from the boom. Nearby, old company stores and exhibition coal mines offer deeper insights into the industry.
Soar through—or even above—the trees with exciting zipline courses, including the East Coast’s longest zipline. Work your way through unique aerial obstacles, like tunnels, climbing nets, skybridges, and more.
Throughout the now-reclaimed National Parks, logging, mining, and railroads were once bustling. Explore remnants of that industrial past, retrace a Civil War battle site or peek back into old-time living. The Visitors Center can help you uncover the parks’ rich storied past.
When blanketed in snow, The Mountain State becomes a winter playground. Enjoy scenic cross-country skiing in West Virginia National Parks. Take the family to nearby slopes for skiing and snowboarding. Kids love the local snow tubing park!
This year, the National Park Service turns 100, so be sure celebrate this historic centennial! Don’t know where to start? Visit Find Your Park to discover how you can connect with history and culture, enjoy nature, and make new discoveries in local, state, or national parks.
Of course, be sure to check the calendar before your trip, and plan around world-renowned adventure festivals, nature explorations, historic celebrations, and more. Keep close to nature with a cozy cabin in the forests, or head to one of the charming small towns nearby for unique restaurants, quirky shops, and quaint places to tuck in for the night. The locals will happily point you to their favorite hidden spots, too. The point is, when you’re in Southern West Virginia, you essentially never have to be indoors. With so much to do, the only question is—what should you explore first?