As full-time RV’ers we travel and see a lot. This is part of our Opting Out of Normal series where we explore the “Off the Beaten Path” of every state. We love the big popular stuff like everyone else, but there is just something incredible about discovering something unique, different and maybe a little “off the beaten path”. We certainly can’t explore them all, but we’d love you to include your favorites below too. Each series will include at least 1 epic boondocking area, some complete with pictures and all with GPS coordinates.
When our youngest daughter was accepted into the forensic program at WVU in Morgantown, we were excited to see and explore WV. We hadn’t been there before, and So we found ourselves venturing to WV a lot to visit. WOW! What an amazing, beautiful state to explore!! Fall in WV is spectacular.
What did we notice a lot of? Abandoned towns, jails, theme parks, schools etc. If you’re into exploring abandoned places, this is your Mecca. Did you also know that the Worlds Largest Teapot can be found in WV. This is not something I went to see, but maybe if I were driving near Chester, I might stop for a picture.
Fayetteville, WV – I’m not sure if this is really something to go out of your way to see, but it is very impressive!! Built in 1977 and ranking among Earth’s finest mega-bridges, the New River Gorge Bridge can be challenging enough to motorists’ bravery simply when driving across. But one day each year it takes thrill-seeking to a whole new level when base jumpers from all over the world cling to its girders and fling themselves off in a massive festival made special for its legality, of all things. The views over the gorge are amazing!
While you’re in Fayetteville, check out Nuttallburg. Hikers can still stroll beneath the long conveyor of this abandoned mining facility hidden in a West Virginia river gorge. First established in 1870, the Nuttalberg Coal Mining Complex and its attendant ghost town have been abandoned since the early 20th century, but determined hikers can still visit the remains of the operation which are sitting in a lush West Virginia river gorge.
Berkeley Springs Castle – Samuel Taylor Suit was many things: a successful whiskey distiller; an honorary Kentucky colonel; and a wealthy, well-connected landowner, businessman and politician. He was also unlucky in love. Samuel Suit’s first wife died in childbirth, and his second wife divorced him after 20 years of marriage that proved to be socially advantageous but otherwise deeply contentious. When he fell in love a third time, it was with Rosa Pelham, daughter of a Congressman from Alabama and 29 years his junior. The couple married, and Samuel built his new bride a castle. Access to this castle is not allowed, but you can certainly see it easily from the road.
Fun Places in West Virginia to Explore as a Family
If you’re in the area of Berkeley Springs, to do a drive by of the castle above, and you are curious about where George Washington took a bath — Check out George Washington’s Bathtub.
A popular, busy place is Seneca Rocks. But have you heard of Nelson Rocks? Located in the North Folk Valley of Pendleton County, WV. This is just an amazing sight to see. Would I cross that bridge? NOPE! But it is such a sight to see. Nelson Rocks, in the North Fork Valley of West Virginia, is located just 10 miles south of Seneca Rocks. This unique rock formation is comprised of two razorback “Fin” ridge-lines of Quartzite rock. When you make it to the bridge, definitely take a minute to have a drink of water. This is the part of the trip where most people discover they have a fear of heights. Ha! The bridge spans roughly 150 ft across and takes you over the gap and valley floor located 200+ ft below. If you are afraid of heights and have made it this far, I applaud you! Take the bridge slowly. Each wooden plank is roughly a foot apart and will require you to look down as you make each step. You are clipped into the steel cable, but the bridge swings if you move too fast.
Curious Rock – Spencer, WV – Natural formation or Native American totem? Local legends imply that it could be either, or perhaps both. Onlookers say this large, 20 ft rock formation looks like a “God” sitting on the mountain top. After a 2 hour hike, this unexplained tower appears to have an altar for worship, or simply a sitting area for visitors. The large cap stone precariously sitting atop the stone column almost looks like a hat. While there are local mysteries regarding the formation’s origins, geologists actually have a name for this type of rock: a “Table Rock” formation, not unlike the Jug Rock formation in Indiana (which I mention in my blog here) or the Turnip Rock formation in Michigan (which I mention in my blog here).
Most of our time was spent in the Morgantown area. Whether you have ties to WVU or not, you just gotta check out this university. It’s absolutely gorgeous!! And if you haven’t seen their PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) system it’s the most fun, and unique transit system aside from Disneyland, we’ve ever seen. The first of its kind, and greenlit in the early 1970s as a federally funded transportation pilot project, the Morgantown PRT was designed by Boeing and cost $120 million to construct. In continual usage since 1975, the system consists of a fleet of 71 automated, rubber-wheeled vehicles operating on an 8.7 mile long network of elevated guideways. It features a number of inventive features, including a heating system that pumps chemicals and warm water onto the tracks to clear them of snow in the winter. Unlike similar transit systems, travelers on the Morgantown PRT can travel directly to their final destination, without additional stops along the way. We love going to visit and seeing the PRT running all over the place.
Justin and I like to hike, and last year we hiked to the Henry Clay Iron Furnace. It’s an easy hike, and really a neat part of history. (Yes, Justin likes to investigate inside things like this) These furnaces processed ore into raw pig iron that was necessary to drive the industrial revolution and the growing appetite for steel and iron works that came with it. Iron furnaces were especially prevalent throughout central and western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia (Virginia at the time). It’s about a 3/4 of a mile hike from Coopers Rock.
Speaking of Coopers Rock! WOW! It’s all about the views! Located 13 miles from Morgantown, a few minutes off Interstate 68, the forest has many overlooks of the canyon section of the Cheat River that offer breathtaking views in any season. I think we’ve been there every single time we’ve visited our daughter. And every single time we’ve seen something new. One year we hiked in pouring down rain just to be able to complete one of the many magnificent hikes there. I’ll bet there are 7-10 different hiking trails at Coopers Rock, and each one shows you something different. The overlook area is just a super short walk from the parking lot. So if you aren’t into hiking, make sure you at least take the paved path to the over look. It’s breathtaking! If you love Geocaching, there are quite a lot at Coopers Rock. Don’t know what Geocaching is? Check out our blog here and you’ll be hooked! It’s free fun for big kids and young kids!
Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory Monroe County – The Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory is located in an old forest service fire tower. It’s the perfect spot for viewing hawks, eagles, falcons and osprey, especially during migration season from August through November. Find the observatory about halfway between Waiteville and Gap Mills
Organ Cave – You know we love caves if you’ve been following our other Off the Beaten Path blogs. A visit to Organ Cave is definitely worth the drive. This cave has bats, fossils, rock formations and an interesting Civil War history. Take one of three tours to explore the cave and learn all about this interesting natural wonder. You’ll find it south of I-64 in Greenbrier County.
Blackwater Falls State Park – Another beautiful, amazing state park that is hardly heard of. The waterfall is easy to get to and see, and well worth the trip. FYI, the state park has no cell service, so if someone is meeting you there, make sure all communication is done prior.
- Summerville Dam Site Army Corps Of Engineers GPS: 38.2175, -80.8901
- St. Albans Roadside Park City Park – Only 3 sites – max stay 2 days – Free electric hookups GPS: 38.3884, -81.8249
- Little River dispersed camping Durbin, West Virginia RV size is unlimited GPS: 38.650157, -79.74618 Monongahela National Forest’s Greenbrier Ranger District on FR17
- Gandy Creek dispersed camping Whitmer, West Virginia GPS: 38.76688, -79.57288 About 25 sites, unlimited RV length
- Dolly Sods at Bear Rocks WV – Davis WV GPS: 39.065981, -79.301634 Bear Rocks is spectacularly beautiful with great scenic views
Do you have any Off the Beaten Path places in West Virginia to share? We’d love to hear from you! Remember to Live Simply. Give More. Expect Less.