6 places to get really, really off the grid
Ditch the laptop and cell phone at home and recharge YOUR batteries instead at one of these off-the-grid places in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
1. Green Bank
The pastoral community of Green Bank is in the National Radio Quiet Zone, where interference to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) is limited. You won’t find any cell towers here, so don’t expect to pick up a signal.
This disconnect is exactly what people seek when they come to Green Bank to relax and rejuvenate their bodies and minds. Take guided tours of the telescopes to get a close-up look at the awe-inspiring Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (the world’s largest moving telescope!) or try the StarLab planetarium at the NRAO Green Bank Science Center.
Nearby: Cast away for the night on the Durbin Rocket’s Castaway Caboose. The fully furnished caboose has modern conveniences, but your sole company will be the rushing waters of the Greenbrier River and the wildlife that might wander through your camp. When the train returns to bring you back to civilization, you might not want to leave.
2. Kumbrabow State Forest
At 3,000 to 4,000 feet above sea level atop Rich Mountain, Kumbrabow is the state’s highest forest. Recreate life in the early 20th century in a pioneer cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Each rustic cabin has a stone fireplace, woodburning stove, gas lights and a gas refrigerator.
There is no running water, but you can draw water from a nearby well. Kumbrabow’s remote but beautiful woods are ideal for hiking, picnicking, hunting and fishing.
You can leave your phone at home, but don’t forget your camera: you’ll spot plenty of wildlife here, from white-tailed deer to black bear.
Nearby: The isolated mountain community of Helvetia was settled in the 1800s by Swiss immigrants, and today it maintains its old-world traditions and folkways. Drop in at the Hutte Restaurant to enjoy an authentic Swiss meal!
3. Cheat River
Just south of Morgantown, the Cheat River has some of the most remote and rugged beauty in the state. Thanks to the surrounding Allegheny Mountains, the banks of this river are primarily forestland, with very few settlements.
You’ll find less traffic on this river as well. You can enlist a whitewater outfitter to tackle wild rapids through the Cheat Canyon and Cheat Narrows, or enjoy a quiet float trip on the Upper Cheat River Water Trail to the south. Pack a lunch and plan for a day in this spectacular wilderness.
Nearby: Cathedral State Park is home to one of the last virgin hemlock stands in the Appalachian highlands. Enjoy a quiet stroll among rhododendrons, ferns and ancient hemlocks that reach heights up to 90 feet.
You might never guess the sleepy little town of Bramwell was once home to the most millionaires per capita in the U.S.
That was during the coal mining boom at the turn of the 20th century. Today the town’s population hovers around 350, which makes it the perfect place to escape for a weekend to enjoy some R&R in the fresh mountain air.
You won’t find any hotels in this tiny town, but there are cozy several bed & breakfasts, as well as The Corner Shop–an old-fashioned soda fountain and burger joint.
Nearby: Stop for a picnic and a hike at Pinnacle Rock State Park. You can also spend hours– or even days–exploring the wooded hills and hollows on the Hatfield-McCoy Trails network. As the southern gateway to the trails, the area has plenty of ATV-friendly lodging
5. Calhoun County Park
Stargazers will find much to love about Calhoun County Park near Grantsville. Because of the park’s isolated, rural area, it has earned a reputation as one of the darkest places on the East Coast.
The park’s darkness, combined with unobstructed views, easy accessibility and electricity, attracts astronomers from near and far who come to see the constellations with stunning clarity.
If you come to stargaze, bring some comfortable chairs, a camera and a pair of binoculars (if you don’t have a telescope).
Nearby: One of West Virginia’s hidden gems, Cedar Creek State Park has 14 miles of hiking trails and a fully restored 1-room schoolhouse on property.
6. Lost River
What better place to get lost than Lost River? This unincorporated community, named after a river that gets “lost” underground, is only 2 hours from Washington D.C., but its surrounding mountains and farmland make it the perfect place to escape for a relaxing weekend.
There are several cozy inns and bed and breakfasts in the area. You can stay in the historic CCC cabins at Lost River State Park, where you’ll find miles of trails to explore on foot or horseback. (Don’t miss the breathtaking view from Cranny Crow overlook!)
Nearby: The Nature Conservancy has guided tours of Ice Mountain, nicknamed “Nature’s Refrigerator” because of the mountain’s ice vents that release cool air even during the hottest summer months. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound at South Branch Wildlife Management Area along the South Branch Potomac River.
This post was last updated on July 24, 2020