Posted by: Samuel Gabel, Public Affairs Section Assistant
The only state located entirely within the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is known for mountain views, winding mountain roads, coal mining, and top-notch outdoor recreation. Lovers of the outdoors can find great places for rock climbing, white water rafting, hiking, driving, or riding.
Generations of great climbers have practiced their craft on majestic Seneca Rocks which stretches like a giant rock fin above the rough countryside. The rocks offer a variety of routes of varying difficulty. The rock face was once used as a training ground for the U.S. Army mountain troops.
West Virginia offers some impressive white water rafting opportunities in the shape of the Gauley and New Rivers. Considered one of the premiere runs in the world, the Gauley River snakes through miles of gorges and valleys roaring over class five (and above) rapids. The New River (actually thought by geologists to be among the oldest rivers in the world) has rapids ranging from class three to five. Along the river, one can see both natural beauty and historical relics of West Virginia’s mining and railroad history.
The New River Gorge Bridge attracts BASE Jumpers the world over, who gather every third Saturday in October to risk life and limb in death defying leaps from the bridge. After their feet leave the bridge, jumpers have only a few seconds to pull their parachute cords and avert disaster. Many prefer to watch rather than jump. The local geography offers a number of vantage points for spectators. For those who prefer to ascend cliffs rather than jump off them, New River Gorge also rates with Seneca Rocks as one of the eastern United States’ premiere locations for rock climbing.
Thankfully, one doesn’t necessarily have to be the extreme sports type to enjoy West Virginia. The state boasts numerous scenic hiking/walking trails, which are a good deal less hair-raising than BASE jumping or class five rapids. Another relaxing pursuit popular among many West Virginians is fishing. There are a variety of fish to be caught including bass and bluegill. In fact, it was in streams of West Virginia that my great-grandfather became a skilled fly fisherman.
There are ways to enjoy the state’s natural beauty even from the comfort of one’s vehicle. The winding and scenic roads famously referenced by musician John Denver attract numerous motorcycle enthusiasts from far and wide. One particularly beautiful drive for motorcyclists and auto drivers alike is Highland Scenic Highway. The route winds through 43 miles of unspoiled wilderness and beautiful vistas.
If one has a preference for more old fashioned means of transportation there are a number of scenic railroad tours to be found. Some of these, such as Cass Scenic Railroad, use century-old steam engines. The Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad offers opportunities to catch a glimpse of the United States’ national symbol, the bald eagle, in its natural habitat.
Whether you want a place to find heart racing thrills, or a place to unwind in the midst of natural beauty and friendly locals, West Virginia is that place.