5 near-forgotten ghost towns to explore in WV

Head to the National Park to explore surreal abandoned mining towns, full of rich history and rusted, towering equipment reclaimed by the forest.

If you look at any online list of West Virginia ghost towns, you’ll see that most (more than 60) are located along a dozen-mile stretch of the New River Gorge.  Not only was the gorge once a hotbed of rich coal veins and easy access to a railroad for transport downstream, but its current national park status has ensured that many of the old ruins of coal towns are preserved for visitors.

If you like exploring around old, ivy-covered houses and feeling the cool air of a mine shaft as you walk by it on a hot summer day, check out these five old mining towns within the New River Gorge.

1. Winona

There are still some people living in this small town along Keeney’s Creek, a tributary to the New River Gorge; there’s even a still-active church here.  But, Winona also has plenty of old structures that are worth taking a look at– notably an old pool hall.  Fun historical fact: Carter Woodson, one of the innovators of the Black History movement, got his start teaching at the Winona school around the turn of the century.

2. Kaymoor

A visit to this restored mining and townsite is memorable hike. It’s not accessible by car, but you can descend 821 stairs to get to the old mines (many Fayetteville locals like to run up and down these stairs as routine exercise).  Probably the coolest thing about Kaymoor is all the historic signs that are still hanging, exhibiting safety warnings for long-gone miners.  

The main mining complex is about 400 feet into the gorge, but if you’re still feeling fit, you can keep going another 400 down to the railroad level, where there are a few more ruins.  Make sure you save energy for the long trudge back up to the car!

3. Thurmond

This town is not wholly a “ghost town,” at least not in the sense of all the other places on this list.  Actually, it still has five or six residents, depending on who you ask, and river rafters frequently come through for its easy access to the river’s put-ins and takeouts.  There are intriguing old buildings and railroad structures to see.  Although it is no longer standing, you can also cross the river to the old site of the Dunglen hotel and casino as well.

Coke ovens in abandoned Nuttallburg, WV

4. Nuttallburg

If you only visit one mining town in the New River Gorge, this is the one to hit.  After a scenic drive into the gorge, you will be able to wander around various building foundations, all marked with informative signs, while the New River roars through Double Z rapid below.  If you can, definitely take the steep hike up the hillside to the old mine complex.

5. Sewell

This site is a bit off the beaten path; you’ll have to ask rangers at Babcock State Park for detailed directions, and you may need a 4×4 vehicle.  However, the scattered remains of coke ovens, which were used to render coal down into a more hot-burning, pure form, as well as the nearby spring, are worth the trip.

Which ghost towns have you explored?

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This post was last updated on March 15, 2022