The highway winds north from Charlotte, the familiar exit and mileage signs flying by. Fast food and local diners populate every off-ramp road like beacons in the darkness to the weary traveler with a gnawing in their stomachs.
The exits get a little farther apart, driving further north. The roadside greenery is a little denser, and Interstate 77 climbs in elevation and winds through the breathtakingly gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains.
Welcome to West Virginia! It’s the spiritual soul of Appalachia, the home of the Mountaineers, coal country, and the heart of the Rust Belt.
Few states embody the spirit of their constituents, like West Virginia. It’s a place of independence, rugged determinism, and open-hearted help-your-neighbor-ness. It also offers a veritable playground for nature lovers.
Admitted to the Union in 1863, a critical border position during the American Civil War, West Virginia is one of those places that feels its age, even in these modern times.
Huntington and Charleston are their own modern, mid-size metropolises, of course, but the slower pace and deliberate nature of life in the state make it feel timeless.
Added to this phenomenon is that a quick drive outside one of these bustling cities and towns can land the adventure seeker deep in the heart of untouched nature. One can understand why outdoors enthusiasts from miles around flock to the Mountain State’s outdoor spaces.
Below are some can’t-miss spots in the West Virginia State Park system:
Pinnacle Rock State Park: A minor natural oddity in the wilderness draws hikers, campers, anglers, and those just looking for a cool photo to this site off Route 52 near Bramwell. It was established in 1938 as a small parcel of land surrounding the more than 3,000-foot-tall sandstone spire known as Pinnacle Rock. The area grew over the years to include more than 400 acres today, including the nearby Jimmy Lewis Lake, a popular spot for fishermen. Walk the trails, wet a fishing line, camp out under the stars, or hike to the top of the namesake rock for a stunning panoramic view of the West Virginia wilderness.
Holly River State Park: With more than 8,000 acres of dense, lush forest, Holly River is West Virginia’s second-largest state park and boasts some of the most diverse, interesting, and unique plants and wildlife in the region. Encircled by mountains reaching nearly 3,000 feet, the valley is a magical and peaceful oasis. Camping, horseback riding, and swimming are all popular activities here; however, the main draw is the various hiking trails and the chance to commune peacefully under a canopy of deep forest. This park is a must-visit for the wild at heart!
Blackwater Falls State Park: A truly spectacular ecological wonder awaits visitors to this destination tucked into the Allegheny Mountains in Tucker County. Blackwater Falls is a 57-foot cascade of ever so slightly colored natural water, muddied by the fallen leaves and pine needles from the surrounding forests. Visitors can hike up to the falls or one of the other park attractions, like Lindy or Pendleton Point, year-round. This park is also among the most photographed places in the state. One bonus perk is the winter fun, boasting the longest sledding magic carpet on the East Coast. So don’t forget that sled when the snow falls.