West Virginia is probably not at the top of your travel list. But if you enjoy visiting destinations that are steeped in authentic culture and naturally beautiful, this state has so much to offer! My artwork has been heavily inspired by hikes around my state. In this short guide, I’ll share my favorite hiking spots that I’ve learned about after a lifetime of living and exploring here.
I’ve linked each trail name to the corresponding map on the All Trails website, which includes driving directions to get to each trailhead.
This guide is intended for out-of-staters, but locals might find something new in here too! And stay tuned for a compilation of my favorite unique cultural festivals and events in West Virginia.
01. DOLLY SODS WILDERNESS - Monongahela National Forest
Dolly Sods is great for a day hike or a 1-3 night backpacking trip! It has a super unique ecosystem that resembles Canada, with wild cranberries and balsam fir forests. There’s a traditional campground called Red Creek Campground, but you can also camp for free at any number of sites within the wilderness area.
The weather in Dolly Sods is more severe than other nearby places. You WILL get wet and muddy, even if it hasn’t rained for a while. Don’t even try to fight it. Once you embrace the mud, you’ll have more fun. :)
Something else to note is that Dolly Sods is really unique to this region, and locals really, really love it. Please respect it by staying on the trail at all times (it’s easy to crush the delicate lichens and mosses that are right off the trails), packing out ALL garbage (including apple cores, banana peels, etc.), and putting out all campfires completely.
Bear Rocks Trail to Raven Ridge Trail and Dobbin Grade Trail Loop (easy). This 6.5 mile loop located in the northern section of the wilderness area is a nice day hike introduction to Dolly Sods. Add Beaver View Trail into your loop to make it a little bit longer and see some freaking awesome beaver dams!
Red Creek Trailhead is located on the southern end of the wilderness area. Once you get on Red Creek Trail, you can link up with a variety of different trails to create your own loop, depending on how far you’d like to hike. The southern end of Dolly Sods is less reminiscent of Canada and doesn’t have the stunning views of the northern part. However, it is a lovely forested area with an abundance of nice campsites and lots of fun creek crossings.
Roaring Plains Loop is not technically within Dolly Sods Wilderness, but it is located just south. I did this loop as a day hike after camping near the Red Creek Trailhead, and it was pretty darn tiring (15.6 miles total)! But it was a good challenge. I recommend this loop for those who have already hiked the trails within Dolly Sods but still want to enjoy more of the region.
02. BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK - Monongahela National Forest
Blackwater Falls State Park is a beautiful, underrated park that’s not far from Dolly Sods. While most visitors just go to the main waterfall and turn around, you’re really missing out unless you hit up some of the other sections of the park. This park is especially great if you want to experience majestic waterfalls and epic views without hiking into the backcountry. None of the trails are very long, but there are lots of nice loops and out & back trails that lead to some great sights!
Lindy Point Trail (easy with AMAZING views at the end). There isn’t an obvious sign that marks the trailhead, so just start your hike at the small parking lot on Canaan Loop Road right after the Blackwater Falls sledding hill. Great place to spot black bears! I’ve seen three right in this little area.
Elakala Trail to Balanced Rock Trail (easy). Elakala Falls is my favorite waterfall in the park because it is less traveled and you can hang out and munch a snack on the rocks right below it, unlike the iconic Blackwater Falls.
Pase Point Trail (moderately difficult trail with great views from a rock outcropping at the end!). Bring a snack to celebrate this view!
Hiking in the New River Gorge is stunning in all seasons, though I’ve spent the most time there in late winter/early spring. If you hike in the off-seasons, the trails will be pretty much all yours!
Long Point Trail (easy with great views along the way!). This out & back trail offers a great view of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge.
Endless Wall Trail offers views for DAYS. This loop trail skirts along the edge of the gorge so there are multiple places to take breaks and soak up the views. Lots of rock climbing in this area. This seems to be the most popular trail in the park because it’s so accessible.
Grandview Rim Loop Trail is further south within the park. It also offers views of the gorge and river. For me, the coolest parts of this trail are the Turkey Spur Overlook and the Castle Rock Trail portion of the loop which features beautiful, castle-like rock formations.
PLUS! If you’re planning a trip through West Virginia in the summertime, make sure to stop at nearby Summersville Lake and get your swimming on! Okay, so there isn’t too much hiking to be done here (other than Long Point Trail which offers nice views of the lake). But this lake is magical, friends. It’s the largest lake in West Virginia (28,000 acres to be exact), and the water is so clean that people scuba dive there. The most popular (for good reason) swimming area is called Pirate’s Cove because there’s a lovely waterfall that flows into it and it feels like you’re in the Bahamas. GPS coordinates for Pirate’s Cove are 38.24313, -80.8486.
04. APPALACHIAN TRAIL from Harpers Ferry, WV
Did you know that the Appalachian Trail runs through West Virginia for a short distance (28 miles)? It’s a nice stretch of trail AND you can check out the small, historic town of Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown's Raid and Civil War battles. You get the best of both worlds… history and nature. There are all kinds of cool museums (and ice cream shops!) in town.
If you head to Harpers Ferry and park near the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, you can hop on the trail and go either north or south. I really enjoyed leaving from Harpers Ferry and hiking north on the A.T., past Weverton Cliffs (nice views of the river!) to the super fancy Ed Garvey Shelter, where I stayed for the night before heading back in the morning.
05. SENECA ROCKS - Monongahela National Forest
Seneca Rocks is an exposed cliff that stands out from the rest of the mountain range. I’ve done two nice hikes in the immediate area and I’d recommend both of them! This is a destination for rock climbers, and if you hike up to the top of Seneca Rocks Trail on a nice day, you might spot some climbers in action. There’s also a great visitor’s center at the base of Seneca.
North Fork Mountain Trail (difficult trail). It’s an out & back trail that totals 17.7 miles, so if you should plan on a backpacking trip if you want to see the bulk of the trail. I backpacked this trail in the summer, and we found lots of fun things like wild blueberries and chanterelles. We hiked from the south to the north, but you can begin from either entrance. One thing to keep in mind is that you won’t get any beautiful views of Seneca Rocks from this trail - it actually looks pretty puny from this distance and elevation!
Seneca Rocks Trail (moderate). This is a fun, short (3.2 mile) trail that allows you to go right up the side of Seneca Rocks. You can even go out onto the rocks at the very top, although it gets a bit perilous. Be prepared for lots of switchbacks and lots of other humans! P.S. bring your swimsuit and jump in the river at the base of the rocks!
QUICK PSA: When hiking around West Virginia, please be mindful of spreading invasives like Japanese Stiltgrass. This plant can be spread when seeds get stuck in bike tires or hiking socks and shoes and carried to new areas. Please wash your bike tires, socks, and shoes before entering a new natural area. Also, reduce the spread of invasive plants and seeds by staying on trails and keeping your pets on their leashes. Thanks for helping us keep the state beautiful. :)