Six national parks dot the landscape of West Virginia. These parks, designated by the federal government, are scenic or historically significant areas in West Virginia that are created to preserve the natural beauty and wildlife of the region. The National Historic Park Harpers Ferry is a quaint, heritage community at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. A second National Historic Park, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, serves to preserve America’s early transportation history. And the nearby Appalachian Trail, designated a National Scenic Trail, is a 2,180+ mile long hiking trail that cuts through West Virginia.
The Gauley River, 25 miles of whitewater with several class V+ rapids, has been designated as a National Recreation Area, and the neighboring New River Gorge, a National River, is one of the oldest rivers on the continent and full of rugged rapids that flow north through deep canyons. Further south, the Bluestone National Scenic River flows through an ancient gorge in Athens, Pipestem and Hinton.
Two National Heritage Areas have been distinguished in West Virginia: The 5,300-square-mile National Coal Heritage Area in the southern part of the state that was shaped by the history of coal deposits and the Wheeling National Heritage Area, which displays Victorian architecture, waterfront development and serves as the birthplace of the state during the Civil War.
Located in the North-Central highlands of West Virginia, the Monongahela National Forest combines breathtaking vistas, calming country roads and cliffside waterfalls to create a special retreat nestled in the Allegheny Mountains. Established in 1920, the Monongahela National Forest covers nearly 1 million acres and is one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the country – with elevations ranging from just under 1,000 feet up to the highest point in the state at 4,863 feet above sea level. Some of the state’s most unique points are located within the Monongahela National Forest: the Tuscarora quartzite fins of Seneca Rocks, the ridge of North Fork Mountain, the high-altitude plateau of Dolly Sods Wilderness, the bog wetlands of Cranberry Glades and the highest point in the state, Spruce Knob. The Monongahela National Forest provides timber, water, minerals and recreational opportunities with 23 campgrounds and 800-plus miles of trails with numerous lakes and rivers; the remote landscape is an ideal place for hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, boating, tubing and rock climbing.
Dozens of state parks line the mountains of West Virginia, offering four-season recreation, affordable accommodations and memories for a lifetime. These state parks showcase the serene beauty of the Mountain State with endless opportunities to explore the trails, scenic overlooks, deep valleys and sprawling meadows. From hiking and geocaching to scenic train rides and snow sports, state parks are the perfect spot for romantic getaways, affordable family fun and solo travels. Book your overnight stay now at a variety of cabins, lodges or camping sites at parks around the state.
Fresh, crystal-clear mountain lakes make the perfect backdrop for swimming, skiing, boating, stand-up paddleboarding, tubing, kayaking, canoeing and scuba diving. With nearly 20 lakes spanning the state, there’s no shortage of family fun on the water. From the spectacular cliffs in Summersville Lake to the 10-mile long Tygart Lake, visitors can enjoy a day in the sun or lakeside relaxation – all in Almost Heaven.
Featured Road Trip
Take the ultimate road trip through West Virginia’s parks and public lands – stopping through national parks, national forests, lakes and state parks along the way.
Start your day with a homemade pastry at a quaint little bakery in Harpers Ferry: A Step in Time Bake Shop. Then, head to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park to get a taste of history with exhibits, museums and picturesque streets. Learn about John Brown’s attack on slavery, visit the wax museum and hike around the historic grounds.
For lunch, grab some West Virginia creole cuisine at Bisou Bistro at The Canal House before an afternoon of adventure. Hop on over to the Appalachian Trail, designated a National Scenic Trail, to get a shot from the famous Jefferson Rock, the spot where Thomas Jefferson once stood and proclaimed the view worthy of the voyage across the Atlantic.
Head south to the Lost River Grill for classic comfort food like homemade meatloaf, hand-cut steaks and their famous cream pies. Then, settle in for the evening at Lost River State Park via cozy cabin lodging or outdoor camping under the stars.
Wake up early to start your day lakeside at Jennings Randolph Lake. Spend the morning fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking, and eagle-watching over 4,500 acres of land and water. After a busy morning, head to the quaint towns of Davis for lunch at Hellbender Burritos, known for giant, creative meal-size burritos.
Then, head to Canaan Valley Resort State Park, where you can enjoy skiing, hiking, or a round of golf. After a busy afternoon, settle down at one of the multiple on-site restaurants restaurants like The Hickory Room, which features traditional holiday buffets.
Finally, head to your second state park of the day: Blackwater Falls State Park. Make sure to get the iconic shot of the falls and hike around to nearby Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook for some of the most photographed spots in the state. Spend the night at Blackwater Lodge, which features an indoor pool, sitting room with a cozy fireplace and an on-site game room for the kids.
The final day of the road trip starts with a traditional breakfast at Bright Morning Inn & Restaurant in downtown Davis. Then, spend the day heading down through the Monongahela National Forest, starting with Dolly Sods Wilderness. Spend some time hiking Bear Rocks Preserve and exploring the unique ecosystem.
Then, grab lunch at Front Porch Restaurant and check out Harper’s Olde General Store to visit one of the oldest continuously operated business in the state. Then, take the 3.4 mile moderate hike up to Seneca Rocks to see sweeping views of the mountains cliffside.
Fill your belly at Gateway Restaurant for dinner. This little diner in the mountains serves up classic comfort food in a homey atmosphere. To round out your day in the Monongahela National Forest, visit the highest point at Spruce Knob. Drive to the top for an overlook, or spend some time hiking the area for a more adventurous evening. Set up camp at the Spruce Knob Lake Campground for a peaceful night under the stars.