Roll, Ride or Relax: 3 Distinct West Virginia Getaways
Looking for inspiration for your next Mountain State getaway? Here are three unique destinations that will remind you why West Virginia is Almost Heaven.
It’s only fitting that a state known as “Almost Heaven” would be home to a place known as “Trails Heaven.” In this case, heaven is the Hatfield McCoy Trails, which includes more than 600 miles of professionally managed trails that wind through the hills and hollows of southern West Virginia. The trail system is open 365 days a year for ATVs, dirt bikes and utility vehicles, and provides an exhilarating experience in the remote and beautiful backcountry.
Each of the seven trail systems within the Hatfield-McCoy system has its own distinct personality — from the scenic views of Pinnacle Creek, to the twisting, challenging turns of Bearwallow in Logan County to the Pocahontas Trails in Mercer County. The trails connect to ATV-friendly towns where riders can rest up and refuel both their vehicles and their bellies. You’ll also find plenty of lodging that caters specifically to ATV riders — from campgrounds and cabins, to hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Start your visit at the Hatfield McCoy Trails Welcome Center on U.S. 119, south of Charleston. The welcome center carries trail permits, souvenirs, maps, brochures and information on lodging, dining and entertainment in the area. (Riders must obtain a user permit, which can be purchased online or at select trailheads or authorized retail locations in the area.)
Southern West Virginia is rich in history, and its scenery is unbeatable. It’s home to the New River Gorge National River and the National Coal Heritage Area, both of which offer a wide array of activities. Nearby state parks, including Twin Falls and Chief Logan, offer lodging, dining and recreational activities. Set up home base near one of the trail heads and take advantage of the numerous recreational opportunities in the area between riding the trails. Area attractions include the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia, Matewan Depot Museum and Historic Bramwell.
If you want to go all out, plan your Hatfield and McCoy Trails adventure around National Trailfest. Entertainment at the annual event in Gilbert includes ATV, SxS and dirt bike drags and mud pit action, costume contests, parades, live music, fireworks and more.
Ride the rails
What better way to see the remote West Virginia wilderness than by rail? Trains can go where cars can’t, offering breathtaking views of remote backcountry and unspoiled wilderness. Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad offers four scenic trains, several themed and seasonal train rides, and even an overnight stay in an authentic caboose.
Cass Scenic Railroad is based out of the historic logging town of Cass. Board an antique Shay locomotive for a leisurely ascent up Cheat Mountain to the logging camp at Whittaker Station, or ride all the way up to the Bald Knob overlook, which offers breathtaking views of two states from an elevation of 4,842 feet.
The New Tygart Flyer departs from Elkins and climbs along the Shavers Fork to the High Falls of Cheat. Trip highlights include an S curve tunnel, a high bridge and miles of scenic mountain views.
The Cheat Mountain Salamander offers two trips: a shorter trip that departs from Cheat Bridge, and a full-day excursion leaving from Elkins. Highlights include the High Falls of Cheat and the abandoned town of Spruce, which was once the highest and coldest town east of the Mississippi, and accessible only by rail.
The Durbin Rocket departs from the Durbin Depot and steams along the scenic Greenbrier River through the Monongahela National Forest. The two-hour trip, with open cars for sightseeing, is ideal for families with younger children.
Themed rides and dinner trains offer a unique twist on the train ride. The Mountain Explorer Dinner Train includes a four-course meal prepared en route to the High Falls of Cheat, while the seasonal Polar Express transports children and their families on a fairytale ride to the North Pole to visit Santa.
You can even sleep on a train. The Durbin Rocket, departing from either Cass or Durbin, tows the Castaway Caboose to a remote location alongside the Greenbrier River and departs, leaving its “castaways” to a quiet day or two in the woods. The restored Wabash Railroad Caboose comfortably sleeps up to four adults. Amenities include shower and restroom facilities, a kitchen and TV/DVD combo. There’s no cell service here, but there’s plenty of opportunity for swimming, fishing and playing in the woods. Being cast away has never been more fun!
Visiting Capon Springs & Farms is like attending one big, happy reunion. This secluded mountain retreat is known for its family atmosphere. Guests are encouraged to interact with and get to know one another, and many repeat visitors will soon find they have made lifelong friends.
Located two hours from the D.C. area, the all-inclusive resort is surrounded by 4,700 acres of wilderness and presents an ideal opportunity to unplug and relax. The resort exudes an old-fashioned atmosphere reminiscent of the movie “Dirty Dancing.” Fourteen cottages are set around the historic main house, where guests can sit a spell on the porch and watch the kids play in the yard. Meals are served at the same time three times a day and everyone eats together, just like a family. In the evening, guests gather around a bonfire to chat, tell stories and sing.
There are no TVs or phones in the rooms, but you’ll still find plenty to do here. The resort has a nine-hole regulation golf course and a nine-hole, par 3 prep course. Two half-acre fishing ponds are stocked regularly, and six hiking trails wind through the woods. Burn off some energy with games like badminton, tennis and, Frisbee golf, or enjoy a more relaxing game of croquet or shuffleboard. Team activities include the popular Caponchase Adventure, a code-cracking treasure hunt. And on rainy days there are plenty of cards, board games and books to keep you occupied.
But the star attraction is the spring water that gives it its name. Capon Springs bottles its own drinking water from a cool mountain spring on the property. The adjacent Hygeia Bath House & Spa offers heated spring water baths among a variety of services. The resort’s historic swimming pool is one of only a few spring-fed pools in the country, and its chemical-free water makes for a brisk, refreshing dip in the morning.
With all the amenities and recreational opportunities at Capon Springs, the warm, friendly atmosphere here is just the icing on the cake. As resort co-founder Lou Austin used to say, “Once you’ve made your first trip to Capon, you are considered an old friend.”
Will you be rolling, riding or relaxing?
This post was last updated on July 30, 2020