West Virginia is a state of staggering natural beauty. Here, mountainous terrain, vast forests and clean rivers offer travelers unparalleled opportunities for outdoor adventure, or perhaps just a bit of solace in a busy world.
We should know. The Nature Conservancy has been protecting some of the state’s finest public and private natural areas for 50 years. In that time, many of our most beloved projects areas have become your favorite places to visit.
Explore West Virginia’s top ten outdoor destinations, brought to you in part by The Nature Conservancy:
1. Bear Rocks
With stunted red spruce, ancient bogs and forlorn boulders, The Nature Conservancy’s Bear Rocks Preserve offers enchanting trails and amazing overlooks from which to bird watch and take photographs. Learn more and plan your visit.
2. New River Gorge
The New River boasts white waters that have sliced deep into the Appalachian Mountains to create a spectacular canyon, crowned by lush forest. Whitewater rafting is the main draw here, but visitors can also camp, fish, rock climb, mountain bike and—for the very adventuresome—base-jump off the New River Gorge bridge. Learn more and plan your visit.
3. Gauley Canyon
The Gauley River and its canyon are one of the crown jewels of the Central Appalachians. Here, sprawling forests and a network of waterways support diverse plants and animals while providing unparalleled water-based recreational opportunities like whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Learn more and plan your visit.
4. Brush Creek
The Nature Conservancy’s Brush Creek Preserve is a popular destination that’s scenic in all seasons. In spring, visitors will enjoy wildflowers and migratory birds along the trail that leads to the mouth of Brush Creek. Adjacent to the preserve is Brush Creek Falls, the largest waterfall in southern West Virginia. Learn more and plan your visit.
5. Cheat Mountain
Exceptionally high, Cheat Mountain supports the most extensive spruce forests south of the Adirondacks. Travelers to the area will find ideal trout fishing, but the main attractions are the scenic excursion trains that take passengers up old railway lines built to haul lumber to the mill. Learn more and plan your visit.
6. Pike Knob
Those seeking seclusion will enjoy the out-of-the-way destination of The Nature Conservancy’s Pike Knob Preserve and its mountaintop pasture, Nelson Sods. Hikers up for the four-to-five hour round-trip hike will be rewarded with stunning views, unusual plant communities and chance encounters with wildlife like the golden eagle. Learn more and plan your visit.
7. Ohio River Islands
The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge consists of nearly 3,500 acres of land and underwater habitat on 22 islands and three mainland properties along 362 miles of the Ohio River. Island adventurers are drawn to top-notch hunting, fishing and boating opportunities. Learn more and plan your visit.
8. Cranesville Swamp
One of the coolest and soggiest spots in West Virginia, The Nature Conservancy’s Cranesville Swamp Preserve showcases moisture-loving plants that travelers can experience from numerous trails, including a boardwalk. Pack binoculars to ensure a glimpse of one of the more than 100 bird species found there. Learn more and plan your visit.
9. Dolly Sods
Perched atop the Allegheny Front, Dolly Sods features extensive heathlands of blueberry, huckleberry, azalea and laurel. Large, flat rocks and amazing vistas greet visitors of Dolly Sods Wilderness, who will find exotic hiking, camping and wildlife-watching opportunities within a landscape more typically found in southern Canada. Learn more and plan your visit.
10. Canaan Valley
Canaan Valley boats a wetland complex that’s home to 580 plant species, as well as the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander and West Virginia northern flying squirrel. The Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge offers hunting and fishing opportunities, as well as more than 30 miles of trails. Learn more and plan your visit.