Location: WEST VIRGINIA
Distance: 239 miles
Driver: Deb Simon
Guide, Hard Rock Climbing; Medical Trainer, Vertical Medicine Resources
“My husband Bryan and I have traveled all over the U.S. and climbed all over the world and, from my standpoint at least, I think West Virginia is the best place in the world. The rock quality is the best, too, and the people of West Virginia are just really amazing souls. I’m honored to be able to call West Virginia home, and I think you’ll love it, too.”
Day 1 | 0 miles | Princeton
Set off at the southernmost end of the state near Pipestem Resort State Park. Climbers looking to warm up with some bouldering and crowd-free crags should check out the climbing area at Bozoo, which is located on Shanklin’s Ferry Campground. The rock here is comprised of bullet hard patina, and even in the dead of summer, this shaded crag keeps impressively cool. Though there are a few sport and trad routes here, really it’s the 2.5 miles of boulders that most climbers come for. Overlooking the New River, this quiet bouldering oasis is a pretty sweet (and cheap) spot to post up for the night, too—it’s only $9 per night for groups of six or less—but if you forgot to bring food, you may need to press on to Fayetteville, as this crag is pretty far from any restaurants or grocery stores.
Day 2 | 75.9 miles | Princeton — Fayetteville
Rise and shine early to beat the heat (and the crowds) at the New River Gorge. Though by no means an off-the-beaten path climbing destination, the climbing in the area is vast and diverse enough that you can find ways to avoid long lines at the crag. Your best bet is to ask the awesome folks at Waterstone Outdoors. If you don’t have a guidebook, you can buy one here and also pick the brains of the many climbers on staff. The two guiding services in town, Hardrock Climbing and New River Mountain Guides, are also great resources and offer the whole gamut of customized climbing trips.
Some of Deb’s favorite moderate trad routes in the New are Fantasy (5.8) and Black and Tan (5.10a) over at Endless Wall. For sport climbing, drive a little farther out of town to the Lower Meadow or Summersville Lake. The latter can get pretty crowded in the summer (and with good reason—who can pass up lakeside climbing on a hot day?) but some of the harder classics like Under the Milky Way (5.11d) tend to be less overrun compared to the moderate suite. Fortunately, even on a weekend you can find peaceful climbing at the Lower Meadow, which requires a good 10-minute hike in to reach. Some of the New’s classic routes are located here, like Doug Reed’s Toxic Hueco (5.11d) and Lynn Hill’s Greatest Show on Earth (5.13a, trad).
After a hard day of climbing, head into Fayetteville for either gourmet pizza at Pies & Pints or stick-to-your-ribs sandwiches at Secret Sandwich Society. Most of the waiters and waitresses at any restaurant in the Ville are climbers, paddlers, and raft guides, so you can pretty much bank on your server having the lowdown on beta. Live tunes over at The Grove (located above Secret) are always a blast, and if you want to keep the party rollin’ after the show, pick up a six-pack of local beer from Studio B and head over to the New River Gorge American Alpine Club Campground ($20 per night for AAC members, $24 for Access Fund members, $30 for non-members). There’s always a campfire going at one of the big fire pits here, and it’s an easy place to pick up a climbing partner for the next day if you’re flying solo.
Day 3 | 163 miles | Fayetteville — Seneca
It’s a long haul up through the entire state to Seneca, but if you came to climb West Virginia’s best, you’d be stupid not to make the drive up to the most iconic rock feature in the East. This mammoth flake of white Tuscarora quartzite juts out of the Monongahela National Forest like the back plates on a Stegosaurus. The summits here are exposed and out-of-this-world incredible, providing 360-degree views of practically undeveloped forest.
If you’re new to town (or to climbing), pick up a guide with Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides, located inside The Gendarme climbing shop before setting out. Old Mans and Old Ladies is an easy 5.2 multipitch route that will make even newbies hooked on Seneca. Triple S (5.8) is Deb’s favorite though, so if you’re only in town for a day, find out why for yourself (spoiler alert: you better like stemming). Once you’re back on the ground, pay a visit to Harper’s Olde General Store & Front Porch Restaurant, where you can load back up on the calories and admire that beautiful hunk of rock you just climbed.