West Virginia didn’t earn the moniker ‘Wild and Wonderful’ for nothing. This state is home to some of the most rugged terrain and unruly whitewater East of the Mississippi. It’s an adventure-lover’s haven, a rock climber’s wonderland, and a preferred destination for backpackers, mountain bikers, and paddlers of all stripes. If you’ve never been, do yourself a favor and check out the Wild and Wonderful landscape of West ‘By God’ Virginia as soon as possible. And be sure to hit one or more of these adventures while you’re there.
1. Hike the Endless Wall
Back in April, this hike was named the top national park trail in the country in a USA Today readers choice poll, and it’s easy to see why. The trail traverses thick forests of hemlock before approaching the edge of the New River Gorge, a stunning canyon formed by one of the oldest rivers on the continent. The New River can be seen along much of the hike as it carves a path some 1,000 feet below. This trail was established by the local climbing community in the 1980s, before the New River Gorge was added as national park unit.
2. Paddle the Cheat, Big Sandy, or Gauley Rivers.
West Virginia is notorious for its abundance of world-class paddling options. If you’re up to the challenge, the Cheat, Big Sandy, and Gauley Rivers are all worth a spot on your list. The Cheat offers class V options in the the Cheat River Canyon and class III rapids in the narrows. The Gauley is fueled by a 2,800 cfs release every fall. The Upper Gauley is home to some heart-thumping Class IV’s while the lower section features class III and IV’s with spectacular holes and play waves. Of course, the New River is another great option that provides paddlers with a surreal viewpoint from deep within the aforementioned gorge.
3. Mountain Bike High Falls near Grady, West Virginia.
This 11.9 mile out-and-back is made from an old railgrade. It’s suitable for beginners and intermediate level mountain bikers, but it’s a must for even the most experienced riders. The waterfall this ride leads to is located on the Cheat River and has been referred to as the East-coast’s mini-Niagra.
4. Backpack in the Cranberry Wilderness
Located in Pocahontas and Webster Counties, the Cranberry Wilderness encompasses more than 47,000 acres of the Monogahela National Forest. It is widely regarded as one of the wildest places East of the Mississippi River, an ideal place to get off the grid and temporarily abandon the technology-fueled madness of modern society. Learn more here.