A break-up often leaves two parties battling over who gets what. But in 1862, when it split with the rest of Virginia, West Virginia somehow managed to gain possession of the state’s most breathtaking outdoor spaces without a fight. Today, these mountains and rivers supply visitors with a seemingly endless amount of things to do in West Virginia, from fishing, to hiking, to white-water rafting.
Any guide to the West Virginia wilderness might start with New River Gorge , where 53 miles of free-flowing river rush into some of the nation’s most challenging white-water rapids. Easier rapids lie at the upper part of the river, while the lower half tends to attract those with more experience. In spring and fall, the New River also becomes a prime destination for fishing, as its waters are home to walleye, carp, and both small- and- largemouth bass.
Monongahela National Forest covers more than 919,000 acres, and its lush foliage, gentle streams, and diverse wildlife make it a haven for hikers. The Appalachian Mountains also ripple through West Virginia. Many access the Appalachian Trail from the quaint town of Harper’s Ferry––where abolitionist John Brown staged his famous raid on the federal arsenal in 1859, and where, in 1862 Stonewall Jackson forced the surrender of 12,000 Union troops.
When snow falls in West Virginia, snowboarders and skiers flock to the mountains. At Snowshoe Mountain, where more than 60 trails challenge athletes of all skill levels, snow-making machines fill in when the usual 180 inches of snow don’t fall. Those sore after their outdoor excursion may want to make their way northwest to Berkeley Springs Historic State Park, which houses its own mineral spa and Roman-style baths. The town is also known for its large population of massage therapists, who outnumber its lawyers three-to-one.