The art on these barns is unique, but that’s not all you’ll see

If you want to explore the Mountain State’s most scenic landscapes, just trace the trails of one of Appalachia’s most iconic handcrafts.

Quilting has been passed down from generation to generation in West Virginia, and now it’s a way to share this unique culture with you. The Mountain State’s heritage quilt trails will lead you through pastoral countryside and rural history, all accented by the bright colors and simple patterns of this artistic tradition.

The square patterns on the barns and buildings of these trails aren’t stitched— they’re painted. Some of the patterns have been used for centuries. Others are completely new, created to showcase an area’s unique flair.

Here are the Mountain State’s top quilt trails:

1. Mason County Quilt Trail

Mason County’s quilts begin with a walking trail in Point Pleasant, then branches out into 4 distinct driving journeys, each with its own traditional theme:

  • Freedom Way- Historically, the patterns on this trail were used as a safety signal to escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad.
  • The Northern Bend- This route celebrates the Ohio River.
  • The Agricultural Route- This drive highlights agriculture and farming.
  • The West Virginia Ladies Route- This route pays homage to the original quilt-keepers, the rural women of early Appalachia.
If you go

Along the Way
The Mason County Welcome Center is one of the trail stops, so pick up a map and get some tips before you begin. Stop into the West Virginia State Farm Museum to explore the blacksmith shop, trails, log cabins and other exhibits. You can take home some of the country flavor with a stop into an Amish farm along the route.

Standout Quilt Squares
The Double Star, which projects a 3-D effect.

How to Explore
Get a Mason County Visitor Guide to get a full map of the trails.

 

2. Monroe County Quilt Trail

The community has adopted this heritage project so completely, new squares pop up along the hillsides without any notice. That means there’s no set route, but the tenderly manicured farmlands make the drive in any direction stunning and tranquil. This unique region is completely enveloped in pastoral beauty, and untouched by modern bustle. One thing you won’t find? Fast food joints, or even stop lights. There are none in the entire county.

If you go

Along the Way
Cook’s Old Mill, a nationally recognized historic site, sits along the trail outside of Greenville. You can stop into the historic grounds for a picnic. Stock your pantry with fresh goods from the Cheese N More Store’s Amish deli. If you have some time to hike, trek out to the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory for an overlook of the mountains at the eagles’ level.

Standout Quilt Squares
The Airplane square is affixed to a barn by a local landing strip in the countryside. Farmer’s Fancy is a bright, beloved local favorite. 2 squares that sit beside each other depict pride for rivaling universities.

How to Explore
Download the i-Treks app to lead you through the stops with GPS, and share the stories behind each one. If you’re driving by, it will read the descriptions to you aloud, or if you want to stop, it will give you tips about where to park. Some of the smaller, backroad barns and quilt squares aren’t on the app, but you can discover them online (or with a little off-the-beaten-path exploring).

 

3. Roane County Quilt Trail

Did you know the woman who invented the concept of the quilt trail, and founded the National Heritage Quilt trail, was born and raised in Roane County? This trail runs right through the roots of the tradition. Explore more than 40 of the state’s brightest squares, each of which has its own personal connection to the land and the people it’s linked to.

If you go

Along the Way
Enjoy this scenic route on a trip to town for the Black Walnut Festival, a 4-day event with parades, carnivals, mountain flavor, a flea market, livestock shows, nut-themed games and contests and even a quilt show for those who want to further explore the craft.

Standout Quilt Squares
One unique square is dedicated to the mother of the woman who invented the quilt trail concept, by an old friend who read about it in a book and decided to honor her memory in her hometown.

How to Explore
A map is forthcoming, but for now, there’s a list of trail barns online.

 

4. Hampshire County Quilt Trail

The Hampshire County Quilt Trail winds through the Potomac Highlands, with quilt clusters around the town centers and some strewn way out into the countryside farmlands.

If you go

Along the Way
There’s plenty of exploring to do in Romney, where you can find family-owned shops like Anderson’s Corner for antique jewelry or B Belle’s Boutique for home goods. Stop in for an old-time concert at The Bottling Works cultural center. One rural quilt stop is Church View Farm, which sells its fresh heirloom produce on-site.

Standout Quilt Squares
A brightly-painted American Flag design showcases local patriotism. Many of the patterns feature lively star-like patterns, making the squares on this route particularly bold and unique.

How to explore
A map is available online.

 

5. Putnam County Quilt Trail

This trail is small but growing, with each new square being carefully considered as part of the fabric of the area. So far, each quilt on the Putnam County Quilt Trail tells a story about the land its sits upon. The area is deeply steeped in Native American history, abolitionist culture and political significance, and that background is the highlight of many of the squares.

If you go

Along the Way
When you’re done exploring, head to the Arts and Thoughts Studio to create your own Appalachian craftwork: a colorful piece of pottery. The Wine Valley is a perfect stop for lunch, listed as one of “101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia” for their tasty desserts and tapas.

Standout Quilt Squares
Eleanor Town Hall features a quilt in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt. The town was created by a New Deal Project by President Franklin Roosevelt and named for his wife, who used to visit often in the 30s. Crossed Canoes represents the native American history in Buffalo, WV. The Arrowhead quilt pattern was chosen because arrowheads were commonly found on the farm, sometimes even tomahawks. There is also a possible burial mound on the property, which the owners leave undisturbed.

How to explore
Contact the Putnam County CVB for a guide.

 

6. Old Central City Quilt Trail

A change of pace from the pastoral county quilt trails, Old Central City’s quilt trail takes you on a historic urban adventure through the Antique Capital of the Tri-State. The heritage quilts are a natural fit for the old-fashioned finds you can uncover in the district’s treasure shops. Many of the squares are modeled after the book “West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers: Echoes from the Hills” by Fawn Valentine.

If you go

Along the Way
Old Central City is lined with more than 10 antique stores, where you can discover old treasures. You can also explore the recreated frontier town at the Heritage Farm Museum and Village, or get a gander at the classic cars of the J. Taylor Auto Collection. Stop into the Central City Cafe, featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” for a comfort food lunch like beans and cornbread.

Standout Quilt Squares
The Stained Glass Window pattern was painted by a local artist, and fashioned after her mother’s own quilt pattern.

How to explore
All the squares are in a 4-block section, so the trail is easy to follow from the main street. If you want to learn the quilt’s stories, or even find a similar quilt to take home, ask around at the antique stores.

 

7. Pocahontas County Quilt Trail

Dedicated during West Virginia’s 150th year, the Pocahontas County Quilt Trail celebrates Civil War heritage, the history of the state and the women who found solace (and sometimes defiance) in crafting.

If you go

Along the Way
Pop in to peruse the artisan crafts at the Green Bank Arts Center, one of the trail stops. Nearby, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory create’s the country’s largest ‘quiet zone,’ meaning you can really disconnect with no phone access. You can also hop aboard the Cass Scenic Railroad nearby. Another square will lead you to the birthplace of author Pearl Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Standout Quilt Squares
Several squares were fashioned from symbols that were used along the Underground Railroad. Carpenter’s Wheel indicated a wagon with hidden compartments to hide in. Bow Tie represented a disguise to use to escape. Shoo Fly hung affixed to safe houses. Another historic pattern was the Drunkard’s Path, a protest piece during the prohibition era.

How to explore
There is a map with descriptions of each quilt’s significance on the Pocahontas County Quilt Trail site.

 

8. Lincoln County Quilt Trail

Many of the quilt squares featured along the Lincoln trail route are historic squares from area families, including several unique variations of the classic Dresden Plate pattern. A geocacher has hidden caches for visitors to uncover on public lands near many of the quilt trail stops.

If you go

Along the Way
Quilt stops include the local library, the county fairgrounds and Ranger Community Park.

Standout Quilt Squares
A Water Wheel pattern in Fall Creek pays homage to the river recreation. Its blue wheel design is reminiscent of the old steamboat and grist mill wheels, as well as an 18-foot waterfall that no longer exists, but was once central to the area’s commerce. An intricate quilt on a barn in Sweetland showcases mining history with a miner silhouette pattern. In West Hamlin, one barn is adorned with a set of 2 complementary patterns.

How to explore
You can find brochures around town at local libraries and other public buildings. You can also find geocaches along parts of the trail (all hidden in public property nearby the squares.) Just search the caches in the area for the “Quilt Series.”

 

Which West Virginia quilt trails have you explored? What did you discover along the way?

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This post was last updated on October 18, 2017