An insider’s guide to the most off-the-beaten-path trails in the Mountain State
There is no shortage of wilderness in the Mountain State, so there are plenty of secluded hikes to get away from it all— if you know where to look.
We’ve whittled down to some of the best of the best. These top treks will take you on a real off-the-beaten-path escape:
1. Kaymoor Trail
Uncover classic West Virginia waterfalls and the old Kaymoor Mine along the 8.6-mile Kaymoor Trail. It’s is a hidden beauty that meanders along old roadways and railway lines, wedged between Fayetteville and Cunard and running parallel to the New River Gorge National River.
The mine has been abandoned since 1963, and there are other mining structures in the area, too. You can start the trail at either the north or the south, but the southern approach is easier to get to and has more parking.
2. Cheat River Water Trail
Described as “Northern West Virginia’s Aquatic Playground,” the Cheat River Water Trail is made for boaters, kayakers, canoeists and river-floaters of all kinds. The waterway has 9 access points, so your toughest decision is which part to explore. The trail is just shorter than 40 miles of calm to slightly ripply waters and seemingly endless scenic views through valleys, pastures and forested mountain landscapes.
For more of a challenge, try the CRWT segment from Hendricks to CJ’s Pizza— an intermediate run. Besides the more obvious essentials like a watercraft of some kind, you’ll also need sunscreen and enough food and water to last you all day. You’ll need a license if you want to fish.
3. Hawk’s Nest Trail
Hawk’s Nest Trail is an easy, 1.8- mile out-and-back hike— and a particularly good choice if you’ve got a group with a variety of ages or abilities. When the tram is running, you can hike out and catch a ride back for a super low-impact journey.
Beginning at the nature center in the Hawks Nest State Park, you’ll head over bridges, and past waterfalls and old coal mine remains. You can hike or bike the gravel and dirt trail.
4. The Dolly Sods Wilderness
Clocking in at elevations of more than 4,000 feet at certain points on the highest plateau east of the Mississippi, the trails and jaw-dropping views at Dolly Sods will never disappoint.
The Forks of Red Creek, one of the most unique and beautiful hiking areas on the East Coast, is a popular local spot because of its waterfalls and swimming holes. The 10.6-mile round-trip trail starts at the Blackbird Knob Trail. This trail has a sampling of just about everything Dolly Sods has to offer— spruce forests, creek crossings, boggy meadows and scenic views. There are plenty of spots to camp along the way, and the colors are hard to beat in the fall. The all-day hike takes some effort, but the views are worth it.
Another option is the less strenuous Big Stonecoal Trail that winds for 4.3 miles through pine forests along natural springs and creeks. You’ll find it in the northern part of Dolly Sods at a junction with the Breathed Mountain and Blackbird Knob trails. There is plenty of camping along this trail, too.
Because this little slice of paradise is a wilderness rather than a manicured park, the trails aren’t blazed, and they can be hard to find unless you’re a local, have a hawk’s eye for sparse trail signs or really know what you’re looking for.
This post was last updated on March 1, 2022