Road Trips from Washington D.C.: Potomac Highlands

The Potomac Highlands, located in the eastern portion of West Virginia, provides roughly 2,722 square miles of breathtaking mountain views and rich forest scenery. The rugged landscapes, winding scenic roadways and family-owned businesses are some of the key traits that make this region so special.

The Potomac Highland Region is also home to both the highest and the lowest points in the state; the highest being Spruce Knob, standing at an astonishing 4,863 feet high, and the lowest being the Potomac River where it meets the border of the state of Virginia. Due to the rugged terrain and the beautiful scenic highways of this region, road trips are the perfect way to get the most out of this beautiful piece of Almost Heaven.

Day One – Canaan Valley Resort State Park & Blackwater Falls

Begin your adventure at Canaan Valley Resort State Park, a place that offers both relaxation and recreation. This resort is complete with 160 luxurious rooms, 23 cabins, 34 campsites, a championship golf course, indoor and outdoor pools, 47 ski slopes, walking trails, spa, fitness center and shopping venues.

Blackwater Falls State Park, a year-round attraction that has been a state favorite since it was first established in 1937. Located in Tucker County and nestled into the beautiful wildlife of the Allegheny Mountains, the park is named after its cascading 57-foot waterfall, Blackwater Falls, which is one of the most photographed locations in West Virginia. With 20 miles of forest-covered hiking trails and the longest sled run on the East Coast, this park is a perfect destination to enjoy a picture-perfect trip full of adventure in the mountains. The park also features a lodge restaurant called The Smokehouse, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner all-year-round.

Just a five-minute drive from Blackwater Falls is the town of Davis, which is home to iconic food spots like Siriannis Cafe and Mountain State Brewing Company. Just a short drive away in Thomas you’ll find the famous Purple Fiddle, TipTop Coffee, Farm Up Table and many quaint shops.

Located on the edge of the beautiful Monongahela National Forest, Elkins is a place filled with good food, rich history and ample recreational pursuits. A must-see place for art lovers, the Randolph County Community Arts Center, which is located inside a historic church building that was built in 1928, is dedicated to celebrating the works of local established and emerging artists. Another local art shop, Artists at Work, is a one-stop shop featuring some of the best artists in the region. This shop provides an up-close look at the works of 23 local artists and designers, including jewelry, pottery, baskets and watercolor paintings.

If walking around gathering inspiration from some of the finest Appalachian art pieces works up an appetite, you can stop at 1863 Grill for some comfort food that has been the staple of the city for over 50 years. You can’t leave without trying their famous cinnamon rolls and their tasty baked steak dinner. It is suggested to check the website or call ahead before visiting as the hours may differ.

If you’re in the mood for some all-American cuisine instead, head over to C.J. Maggie’s for some great options with great quality ingredients. A homey atmosphere with food made fresh every single morning, C.J. Maggie’s is just the place to go for burgers, steaks, pizzas and pasta dishes.

Day Two – Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

For day two, enjoy 100,000 serene acres of the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. You can take in some of the most picturesque views of the rolling hills in the surrounding area.

Spruce Knob is another must-visit destination for anyone who loves killer views. West Virginia’s highest point, the Spruce Knob Observation Tower creates the perfect hangout spot for catching some of the Mountain State’s most stunning sunsets. The tower is nearly 5,000 feet high and provides a 360-degree panoramic view. You can also hike or bike nearly 75 miles of spruce-lined trails – where you can find other overlooks of the landscape surrounding you.

Seneca Rocks is one of the Mountain State’s most well-known landmarks – ascending nearly 900 feet to create a rock climber’s playground. Experience the view of a lifetime by hiking, mountain biking or even horseback riding on the 1.3-mile commute to the top. If you would like a view without breaking a sweat, Seneca Rocks Discovery Center also boasts a magnificent view of Seneca Rocks. The Via Ferrata at NROCKS Outdoor Adventures is a one-of-a-kind experience, offering a mile of fixed-anchor, professionally-guided rock climbing.

For a quick cup of caffeine or a savory snack, The Grove Cafe & Bakery in Petersburg will have lattes, cappuccinos, cold brews, classic hot coffee and breakfast sandwich combos waiting for you. You can find some delicious homemade comfort food at The Gateway Restaurant in Riverton – just under a 15-minute drive from the majestic Seneca Rocks. Rest your head at Smoke Hole Caverns as lodging options include family lodging units, cozy cottages, RV parking and private log cabins.

Day Three – Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and Green Bank

To kick off your third day at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park and enjoy the rich history of this 11-mile-long railroad. This quaint little town is home to some of the state’s most popular attractions. With one of the country’s only authentic operating museums of lumbar railroading, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park takes you back in time to the days when locomotives were a primary source of transportation.

The park’s most well-liked attraction is the train ride up the side of a mountain to see the breathtaking view that overlooks Bald Knob, the third-highest point in the state of West Virginia. There are two options for the ride, a 2-hour or 4-hour ride. The 4-hour ride comes with historic commentary of the area and a box lunch. Guest reviews recommend bringing a seat cushion to sit on during the ride as the seats are very hard, and a jacket or coat is good to take along if you’re going during the fall or winter months. The park also features a gift shop with an old-fashioned soda fountain and a restaurant that is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It’s best to reserve your tickets for the park online before your trip.

Before leaving the park, stop and grab a bite to eat at the family-owned and operated Last Run Restaurant. This old-fashioned restaurant features sandwiches, daily specials, and home-cooked meals.

Just a 10-minute drive from Cass, the Green Bank Observatory is located in the National Radio Quiet Zone in Green Bank. This is the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. Radio, television, cellular and even wifi transmissions can cause serious interference with military intelligence transmission and scientific research, so be prepared for the ultimate digital detox.

To rest your head, opt for one of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park’s company houses. These houses can accommodate anywhere from two to 14 people, and two of them are wheelchair accessible.

Day Four – Berkeley Springs & Cacapon Resort State Park

Your fourth and final day begins with a stunning scenic drive to a must-visit spot in the state’s historic Eastern Panhandle. Just under three hours, the drive from Cass to Berkeley Springs passes through rolling farmland and provides stunning mountain views. Once you arrive in Berkeley Springs, swing by the Fairfax Coffee House for a quick pick-me-up. Serving handmade pastries and delicious drinks, this eclectic stop will put you in perfect proximity to the unique Berkeley Springs State Park.

Located in the center of town, Berkeley Springs State Park has world-renown natural spring waters that have been drawing in guests seeking relief and relaxation for centuries. A favorite retreat of George Washington, this park is a bucket list spot for history lovers. Take a dip in the outdoor springs, constantly flowing at 74°F or opt for a more modern spa treatment.

Following your afternoon of relaxation, head to yet another serene retreat just 15 minutes up the road: Cacapon Resort State Park. Check into a recently renovated room within the lodge to enjoy luxurious amenities and top-tier comfort. After getting comfortable, enjoy all that the resort has to offer – including a championship golf course, full spa, mountain biking trails and more. Savor local flavors at the resort’s restaurant which can fill your appetite for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After a restful night, be sure to check out more of the beautiful 6,000 acres before hitting the road.

With breathtaking scenery, hometown hospitality and rich Appalachian culture, a road trip to the Potomac Highlands region allows you to truly experience Almost Heaven.

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This post was last updated on November 28, 2023