5 things you didn’t know you could discover on WV’s country roads
We all know the song. For folks who have never been to West Virginia, “country roads” is probably one of the first things that comes to mind when they think of the Mountain State.
Well, believe the hype.
We’ve got thousands of miles of country roads, winding up ridges and down hollows, passing through hundreds of quaint Appalachian towns, and leading through enchanted old-growth forests. Some are highways, some are wild, winding backways. But they’re all amazing, and will lead you through and to some of West Virginia’s finest attractions and secrets.
So pack up the car and get ready to road trip! Here are 5 of the coolest things you can find along some of our most iconic country roads.
1. Subarctic Glades
Driving east on Highway 39 from Summersville is an epic journey. You begin by crossing the crystal blue waters of Summersville Lake, passing through historic towns like Richwood (the Ramp Capitol of the World), and traversing the headwaters of the Gauley River’s tributaries before beginning a gradual climb into some of West Virginia’s most remote and beautiful high country.
Once you’ve moved into the boundaries of Monongahela National Forest, the rural houses disappear and there is no sign of development beyond backcountry trailheads and the 2-lane strip of highway you’re following.
After cresting a 3900-foot pass, you descend into the Cranberry River country. Stop at the Forest Service Nature Center, and then take a boardwalk through the Cranberry Glades, an open boggy area with plants and animals that are more reminiscent of the Arctic than Appalachia— even some carnivorous flowers!
If you still want more of this amazing scenery, take the nearby 2-mile round-trip walk to the 3 waterfalls of Hill Creek, or drive up route 150 to some incredible mountaintop viewpoints looking into the Greenbrier Drainage to the east.
2. Moonshine in the holler
Southern West Virginia is coal country, and has been for well over a century. When you take highway 119 south from Charleston, you are entering a key heritage region of the state. There’s a lot down this way: echoes of the Hatfield-McCoy feud of the late 1800s, and the newly opened Mine Wars Museum in Matewan, for example.
For a true taste of West Virginia heritage, take highway 10 off of 119, which will wind you past 2 of West Virginia’s best moonshine distilleries. In the old days, folklore has it that if you left a $5 bill in a certain wooden box off of a certain country road in this region, the next day you’d have a full jar of ‘shine waiting for you!
3. Mystery Hole
Route 60, also known as the Midland Trail, is one of West Virginia’s oldest, most scenic, and iconic travel routes, stretching across Appalachia from Lewisburg to Charleston. There’s a lot to stop and see on this route— waterfalls like Kanawha and Cathedral falls, views of the New River Gorge, Hawks Nest State Park or the historic grist mill at Babcock State Park.
And among these spectacular wonders is a brashly painted sheet-metal hut off the side of the road just outside Ansted. This is the Mystery Hole, a place where regular laws of physics do not apply, and where you can take regularly scheduled “gravity tours.”
We really can’t tell you much more than this, because it is, after all, a mystery. But you need to visit this place.
4. Mining town remnants
If you’re traveling the Midland Trail, this is a must-see side trip, just past the Mystery Hole.
West Virginia has plenty of old mining towns, especially in the New River Gorge. For the most thorough ghost town experience, as well as a very remote backwoods road, take a trip to Nuttallburg, an abandoned community that has recently been restored by the National Park Service.
Begin your journey by turning right off of highway 19 onto the Lansing-Edmond Road, just north of the immense New River Gorge Bridge. The road winds through rolling hills and farmhouses before descending into a thick forest. After you pass through the small community of Winona (and lose cell reception, gasp!), the road gets narrower and windier as it drops into the gorge via Keeney Creek canyon.
By the time you reach Nuttalburg, you’ll feel like you’re truly in another world, just dominated by lush trees, a roaring river and 1000-foot gorge walls on all sides of you. Enjoy!
5. Mothman Museum
Route 2 follows the expansive Ohio River for its entire length along the northwestern border of the state, from the farthest tip of the northern panhandle, all the way to Huntington on the tri-state Kentucky and Ohio border.
But perhaps the most unique attraction is in Point Pleasant. Regional folklore in the area says a huge moth-like figure used to appear before catastrophic events, such as the tragic 1967 collapse of Silver Bridge over the Ohio (check out the Hollywood film The Mothman Prophecies for a truly creepy look at this subject).
There’s an entire museum dedicated to Mothman folklore. Check it out!
How many of West Virginia’s country roads have you driven?
This post was last updated on October 19, 2017