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The hills are alive with … AWESOME

By Staff | Mar 31, 2010

The 2010 West Virginia state travel guide is out, so I’ve thumbed through it and made a short list of the Mountain State’s purple mountain majesties you absolutely have to check out this summer.

From the easy half-mile walk around town to the formidable eight-mile trek along Loudoun Heights, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (www.nps.gov/hafe) weaves itself along the landscape and through West Virginia’s history. And nearby C&O Canal National Historical Park and its 184 miles of Potomac River trail (OK, technically in Maryland — but you can look across at West Virginia!) can take you back up the Eastern Panhandle to historic Shepherdstown and beyond.

Lewis County was the early stomping ground of famed Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, and the countryside itself is every bit as indomitable. The county sports two excellent fishing holes — well, they’re a bit more than that. Stonecoal Lake and Stonewall Jackson Lake are stocked with bass, trout, catfish and more, more than a few of which are trophy size. Fish until the sun goes down, then wash off and head over to Weston’s ghoulish Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum for a late night ghost tour. (www.stonewallcountry.com)

The New River Gorge National River (www.nps.gov/neri) snakes its way through the Greenbrier Valley, cutting a timeless path through some of the state’s most daunting mountains. And sure, rafting is a blast, but there are some really great bike trails too. What’s the rush? Peddle along the Thurmond-Minden Trail, a reclaimed railroad line that passes over five railroad trestles and offers breathtaking views of the New River and the old coal town of Thurmond.

Peddlers of pelts were enamored with the Monongahela River’s beaver population, and stories of the natural beauty along the river made it a hotspot for early settlement. Today, the beauty remains and so do the beavers, but visitors are now content to just wave hello as they whoosh down the Mon Water Trail, a 65-mile stretch designated as West Virginia’s first water trail. By kayak or on a slow and steady flat-water tour, be sure to visit and take in some of the most arresting, rough-hewn sights in the state.

Off-road Riding
As fast as you might go, you’ll still need a long, long time to exhaust all 500 miles of southwest West Virginia’s Hatfield-McCoy Trails (www.trailsheaven.com). ATVs, UTVs and dirt bikes are all welcome on trails ranging from the gently rolling to the really rough-and-tumble. You can hike too, but be sure to shout “Vroom vroom!” now and then so you don’t stick out too much.

And to Just Soak Up the Scenery…
If you’ve spent all vacation hiking, biking and rafting and seriously need to sit down for a while, don’t sweat it. At Cass Scenic Railroad State Park (www.cassrailroad.com), ride an ambling early 20th century locomotive as it inches along Bald Knob in Pocahontas County. Sit back and take in the unbroken stretch of forestland. Doze off if you want; the train whistle will drown out your snores.

For more info on West Virginia’s boundless natural and historical treasures, visit www.wvtourism.com or call 1-800-CALL-WVA to request a copy of the 2010 state travel guide.

Contact Mike at letters@graffitiwv.com