5 shocking mountain views from WV trails

The mountain state has no shortage of steep trails and wild hikes, but finding wide open, breathtaking views can sometimes be a challenge.  In wooded Appalachia, there are often too many trees!

But you’re in luck. These hikes all have amazing vistas that break out of the forest into open meadows or craggy overlooks that will have you singing “The Sound of Music” in no time.

1. Overlook Rock Trail, Kanawha State Forest

Yes, even Charleston, West Virginia’s biggest city, has its own mountain trails and views just a short drive from downtown. The short-but-sweet Overlook Rock trail in Kanawha State Forest has it all in its 1.5-mile one-way route: mossy rocks, thick trees and bubbling streams that are right out of an enchanted forest. Once you emerge out of the forest to the overlook rock, you will be greeted with wide open views into the hills and hollows that surround Charleston. It’s hard to believe that you could be back enjoying dinner and drinks downtown in less than an hour.

2. Long Point Trail, New River Gorge

You may think that Fayette County’s New River Gorge National River is kind of the opposite of soaring “mountain views.” It’s a gorge— a hole in the ground! However, after taking a brisk, 1.6-mile jaunt out to this rocky peninsula between the New River and its tributary Wolf Creek, your breath will certainly be taken away. Hundred-foot sandstone cliffs drop beneath your feet in 3 directions, the rapids of the New River roar below you, and cars speed across the span of the New River Gorge Bridge. It’s a striking contrast between the natural and developed world.

On your return hike, you’ll have the opportunity to connect into a system of dozens more trails that can take you to abandoned mining towns, the Fayetteville Town Park, and more intimate little streams and waterfalls than you’ll know what to do with.

3. High Knob Fire Tower, Brandywine Recreation Area

Located just over the West Virginia/Virginia border in George Washington National Forest, this small, steep area will definitely give you bang for its buck. A lake, developed camping, and the short, wooded Saw Mill Loop Trail are all excellent weekend diversions for the whole family, but they pale in comparison to Brandywine’s Piéce de Résistance– the steep hike up to the High Knob Fire Lookout Tower.

Be prepared for a long uphill trek, because the trail has almost no switchbacks in its 3-mile, 650-foot climb. Once you reach the open meadow on the ridge and climb to the top of the old fire lookout tower, you will be rewarded with amazing vistas for 360 degrees across 2 states, as you take in all of the beauty of the Shenandoah Mountains.

4. Raven Rock Trail, Coopers Rock State Forest

Coopers Rock State Forest is the local outdoor recreation hub for the hip college town of Morgantown, with mountain biking, camping and rock climbing on the rim of the Cheat River Canyon. Although there are heavily developed guardrail viewpoints just a short walk from the Forest’s main visitor area, the best way to take in the views of one of West Virginia’s northernmost gorges is by way of the Raven Rock Trail. From the trailhead, a nice 1.5-mile stroll through the forest (best in the fall) will take you to a craggy rock hundreds of feet above the Cheat River as it meets the flatwater of Cheat Lake.

5. Dolly Sods, Monongahela National Forest

A hike through the meadows and stunted trees of the 17,000-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness Area leads to some of the most remote and stunning views in the Mountain State. The wilderness area holds nearly 50 miles of trails, and hikers often take 2 or 3 days to see everything.

Unlike many of the other hikes in this list, day or multi-day hikes here traverse past many breath-taking viewpoints, rather than just going out-and-back to one specific vista. The 12-mile Dolly Sods North hike will take you through high mountain meadows and streams, and up to the open views of the Rocky Ridge Trail. Or, if you wish to extend into a multi-day adventure, the 21-mile hike to the craggy protrusion of Lion’s Head will give you a panoramic view of rolling hills and wilderness in all directions.

Which amazing sights await you at the end of the West Virginia trail?

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This post was last updated on July 16, 2020