The Magical Towns of the Monongahela National Forest
The Monongahela National Forest is a wilderness area encompassing nearly one million acres in West Virginia. It allows its visitors to experience amazing outdoor recreation activities while taking in the pristine natural beauty of one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the United States. The Mon Forest Towns partnership was established to unite the small mountain towns that span the length of the forest, enhancing the quality of life of visitors and residents and maintaining the environment’s health. This collective highlights the best the Monongahela National Forest and its communities have to offer.
Thomas & Davis
This pair of charming small towns are less than three miles apart from each other and one is rarely mentioned without the other. Despite being located in the rugged, mountainous terrain of eastern West Virginia, these sister towns have a vibrant energy and are host to numerous beloved restaurants, unique boutiques and art galleries.
Thomas may be most recognized by its picturesque main street. Historic brick buildings that look out of a frontier town, now filled with bright and lively local businesses all overlooking the nearby river and mountainside. Stroll through the former coal town and stop in one of the several antique shops or browse the work of local artists. When it’s meal time, you may have a difficult time choosing from the mouth-watering options. The Purple Fiddle is a casual dining option with live music from nationally-touring acts multiple nights a week, Farm Up Table features elevated, classic southern dishes using local ingredients, Picnic offers a selection of flavorful and photogenic Mexican plates and Riverfront Wood Fired Pizza’s menu is full of creative handmade pizzas baked in a brick oven.
Davis offers its own selection of unique gift shops and iconic eateries. Hellbender’s Burritos, named after the giant salamander native to West Virginia, offers a collection of creatively stuffed jumbo burritos. Sirianni’s Pizza Café is known to have some the best pizza in the Mountain State. After dinner enjoy a handcrafted beer at Stumptown Ales, a local brewery.
You could easily spend your time in Thomas and Davis exploring all of the homegrown businesses, but the area is also full of beautiful scenery and overflowing with outdoor recreation opportunities. The towns are surrounded by miles of biking and hiking trails and beautiful mountain waterways. Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Dolly Sods Wilderness provide some of the best opportunities to experience untamed natural beauty in West Virginia. However, the towns are synonymous with the gorgeous Blackwater Falls State Park, located just minutes away.
Franklin is the closest Mon Forest Town to two of West Virginia’s most iconic landmarks. Spruce Knob is the highest point in the Mountain State at an elevation of 4,863 feet. Relish in the incredible sweeping views from atop the Spruce Knob Observation Tower, or take them in from any one of the many overlooks off of the area’s 75 miles of trails. Seneca Rocks is also nearby for you to enjoy the views looking up from the base of the awe-inspiring rock formation or you can make the trek to the summit and feel like a real mountaineer.
Franklin also offers unique recreational activities that would be hard to find elsewhere in the state. Visit Smoke Hole Caverns to tour the cave and view the spectacular mineral formations that are millions of years old. For something sure to get your adrenaline going, try your hand at rock climbing. At NROCKS Outdoor Adventures, you can ascend 1,085 feet along a fixed-anchor, professionally guided path on a towering rock fin formation.
When its time to relax or enjoy a meal, Franklin has you covered. AGK Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria provides generous portions of your Italian favorites. For a hearty Appalachian meal, head to the Korner Shop Café and enjoy homestyle cooking in a diner setting. For dessert, walk next door to Moe Fatz for over-the-top interpretations of classic ice cream dishes. Sip on locally made moonshine at Dry Run Spirits Distillery and then stay in a rustic but luxurious cabin surrounded by blissful scenery at Loafer’s Glory Resort & Event Venue.
Durbin is a historic railroad town, and the Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad still operates from the depot located here. Choose from several scenic trips that wind you through the mountains and along the streams of the Monongahela National Forest while riding in an authentic 1920s-era train car being pulled by a steam locomotive. Durbin is also home to the headwaters of the Greenbrier River, which means excellent fishing opportunities can be found as well.
Less than a 20-minute drive from this small town is the Green Bank Observatory, the largest fully-steerable telescope in the world. Make the trip and take a guided tour of the facility and learn about the fascinating field of radio astronomy, then return at night to view some of the clearest night skies in the United States.
Marlinton is in a great location within the Monongahela National Forest and the surrounding area is abundant with opportunities for adventure. Take advantage of the exhilarating activities available atop Snowshoe Mountain. Learn about Civil War history at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park. Walk through an ancient rock formation at Beartown State Park. Explore the many recreational opportunities offered within Watoga State Park, West Virginia’s largest, or enjoy fishing, floating or swimming in the calm, but beautiful Greenbrier River that flows directly through this Mon Forest Town.
Richwood acts as a southern gateway into the Monongahela National Forest. Located on WV Route 39, this cozy small town borders the National Forest and is a short drive from several of its most spectacular features. The Falls of Hills Creek, a series of three mesmerizing waterfalls along a descending path is a must stop on the West Virginia Waterfall Trail. Experience the sweeping views the boardwalk provides through the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, the largest area of bogs in West Virginia and the most southern point in North America, where many unique species can be found. You also don’t need to get far from town to enjoy some of the best trout fishing in the state in the Cranberry and Cherry Rivers.
Richwood also has several excellent dining options. Fuel up at Rosewood Florist and Coffeehouse with a cup of coffee made from freshly roasted local beans. Cb’s Hole in the Wall and The Oakford Diner offer hearty, homestyle specials that are a perfect way to end a day of outdoor adventure. The Four Seasons Lodge is a classic Richwood inn that will provide a comforting stay while exploring the Monongahela National Forest.
White Sulphur Springs
White Sulphur Springs is a quaint small town located in Greenbrier County, with unique opportunities for outdoor lovers or those seeking a luxurious getaway. The Greenbrier River Trail, a 78-mile rail trail that runs all the way to Cass Scenic Railroad State Park, starts in nearby Caldwell, WV, and is a great way to experience a large portion of the Monongahela National Forest. The Greenbrier Resort, aka America’s Resort, offers guests several fine dining options, various shopping opportunities, an on-site casino, five picturesque golf courses to choose from and a great place to relax and unwind in the mountains.
The town itself is a vibrant community and its main street is full of enticing storefronts. Choose from a variety of restaurants for a delicious meal or specialty shops for a West Virginia-inspired gift, such as Barnwood Living, a showroom for handmade and restored woodworking pieces.
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This post was last updated on June 9, 2023