9 hidden outdoors spots only the locals know in WV

West Virginia has lots of popular outdoor spots that draw crowds, but we also have some amazing play spots off-the-beaten-track.

Our knowledgeable locals know how and where to hike, bird watch, swim, fish and golf. Here are some of their favorite spots:

1. Hiking the Kaymoor Mine… and Stairs

These steps are the locals’ favorite cardio workout. The Kaymoor Trail takes you right into the New River Gorge, and down to the ruins of the Kaymoor Mine. History buffs and fitness folks alike will enjoy the trek. Once the most productive mine in the Gorge, the mine site is partially preserved. The staircase descending into the gorge is made up of 896 ‘Kaymoor Stairs’. You’ll go from the rim of the Gorge all the way down to the abandoned town along the banks of the New River. Spend plenty of time exploring at the bottom. The hard work is ascending back up to the top.

2. The Remote Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory

Bird watchers won’t mind the steep 30-minute hike to this forest service fire tower to view fall migratory bird flights from August to November. From the top, you can see over the mountains for miles, and be eye-level with the raptors. With no water, modern bathrooms or other services, this trail is often missed by visitors. Just be sure to pack everything you need to spend a few hours at the top.

3. Trout Fishing Elkhorn Creek

Located along Route 52 in McDowell County, Elkhorn Creek is a trout fisherman’s dream. Accidently stocked by a broken-down DNR hatchery truck in the 1980s, the creek was flooded with rainbow and brown trout to keep the fish alive while the truck was waiting for repairs. Due to the cold water that enters the creek from underground all year, the trout have thrived in this waterway, with fisherman reporting trout as big as 2 feet.

4. Whitewater on the Tygart

Since it’s the newest of the West Virginia rivers to be commercially runnable, it’s often missed by visitors. But locals know that makes it a quiet ride. The Tygart is known for its beauty and scenic waterfalls, so it’s a great place to spend a day paddling.

5. Paddling the Cheat Water Trail

The Cheat River winds past plenty of history and unique attractions, but instead of just driving along its course to see them, you can hop aboard a boat and follow the natural roadway a while. The Cheat Water Trail maps out access points near all the key attractions, from charming small businesses like Black Fork Coffee Roasters to historic stops like the WWII Museum or the tiny town that changed sides 10 times in the Civil War.

6. Coal River “Walhonde” Water Trail

Another well-established boat trail begins not far from the state’s biggest population center of Charleston, making it easy to enjoy the best of both worlds: spend the day paddling the quiet, open wilderness, then return to the city bustle in time for an evening on the town. Once a year, hundreds boaters leisurely paddle the trip together during the 11-mile Tour De Coal. Bring along snacks and drinks, and meet fellow river riders.

7. FootGolf at Pipestem

What do you get when you cross the kicking power of soccer with the polite play of golf? You’ll have to head to Pipestem Resort State Park to figure it out. It’s the only place you can try this new game, which roughly follows golf rules, but swaps the club with your foot.

8. Ansted Trail at Hawks Next

The New River Gorge is packed with hundreds of miles of trail, with hikes like Long Point famous for their sweeping views. But when the locals head out for a walk, they trek the 2-mile Hawk’s Nest Rail Trail. Beginning in Hawk’s Nest State Park, old train tracks lead you gently along the creekside past waterfalls, an old mine site, and scenic rail trestles, all the way to the town of Ansted.

9. RD Bailey Lake

If you want to find a secluded spot to fish or hunt, this rugged lake is a great spot to escape to. Test your skill at the rifle range before you head out to hunt game like squirrel, turkey, raccoon and black bear. Enjoy a day of boating, and wind down at one of their rustic tent camping sites.

What’s your favorite off-the-beaten path spot in West Virginia?

Explore more WV adventures >

This post was last updated on July 17, 2020