The following article is a paid collaboration with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.
We’re going to let you in on a little secret— deep in West Virginia, there’s a prime destination for art galleries, microbreweries and some of the most challenging climbing, backpacking and mountain biking trails in the country (and no, we aren’t talking about the New River Gorge).
Head down the winding, aptly named Appalachian Highway to the towns of Davis and Thomas.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the *_5-story waterfalls on the Blackwater River *_that tumble down 8 miles through the gorge. Try one of the 17 hiking trails, which range from .25 to just more than 1.5 miles. Take the Blackwater Falls Boardwalk trail (.25 miles) for the best view of the falls, or take advantage of the programs at the nature center with a guided hike or paddle, or even just a talk from a naturalist.
Fall is a great time to visit and see the leaves change from vibrant greens to electric reds and yellows. In the winter, you can cross-country ski or sled here.
Dolly Sods Wilderness
The incredible Dolly Sods Wilderness is truly one-of-a-kind. Explore the diverse landscape on the highest plateau east of the Mississippi River, with features you would expect to find in southern Canada. Dolly Sods covers 17,341 acres of the Monongahela National Forest, with 47 miles of trails.
Bike or hike your way through everything from laurel-filled shaded wilderness with waterfalls to wide open spaces with jaw-dropping views of white crag outcroppings to sub-arctic bogs. Be prepared to ford a stream (or 6!) along the way.
North Fork Mountain Trail
For more of an outback adventure, check out the nearby 24.7-mile North Fork Mountain Trail. Take the trail from south to north, and even if you are a faster hiker, give yourself a couple days to spend some time enjoying the stunning views that the trail is known for. Be sure to bring plenty of water, because there aren’t many options to refill along the way.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park
Whether you spent the past few days hiking or climbing, treat your body to some much-needed rest and relaxation at the Canaan Valley Resort State Park. Choose from one of the 160 modern rooms in the lodge, 23 cabins or 34 campsites as your homebase to recharge your batteries. After a good night's sleep, you'll feel powered up enough to hit the trails again the next day.
Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob
Head to the iconic Seneca Rocks to find your next climbing project, and hand jam your way up one of the single- or multi-pitch vertical cracks. The area has about 280 routes to choose from, mostly trad, but a few solid sport climbs, too.
Spruce Knob, part of the Seneca Rocks-Spruce Knob National Recreation Area, isn’t as developed, but if you’re an experienced climber, you can jump on any of the boulders in the meadow and put up your own problem.
When it gets too dark to climb, visit the Spruce Knob Mountain Center for an incredible look at the stars. You can use the telescopes of the Back Ridge Observatory to view distant galaxies, or just bring a blanket and lie under the open sky to see deep into the celestial landscape in this designated dark-sky area.
Art and Eats
With so many adventure options in this area, you will surely want to plan a low-key day into your itinerary, and the town of Thomas happens to have a number of great art galleries. The White Room Art Gallery celebrates the irreverent and creative spirit of the community, showcasing both 2- and 3-D artwork. Past work has included miniature and reimagined trash receptacles and inflatable toys, metal and rock sculptures, and traditional oil paintings and artwork from the local community.
Meanwhile, Buxton & Landstreet Gallery & Studios has regional fire art and artisans from Appalachia, and is a great spot to both meet artists and cultivate your own artistic spirit. Take a class in everything from textiles to stained glass to photography.
Thomas also has a host of quirky bars, including the Mountain State Brewing Company, a local microbrewery with a cozy atmosphere. If you want more substantial food, stop by the Purple Fiddle for excellent outside seating, a good beer selection and delicious sandwiches and desserts to the tune of live mountain music. For a homestyle breakfast or lunch, Flying Pigs Breakfast & Lunchery is the go-to spot for locals, with staple favorites like pancakes, omelets or a BLT— and all at reasonable prices.
If you’re heading back to Davis, stop by Hellbender Burritos for pulled-pork tacos and pillow-sized burritos, Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe for pizza or pasta, or Sawmill Restaurant for down-home cooking. You can also book a room at the Alpine Lodge (attached to Sawmill Restaurant), a Davis staple since the 70s.
Originally written for West Virginia .