Content Produced in Partnership with Wild, Wonderful West Virginia
Growing up in West Virginia, I spent summers wading in cool, clear rivers, walking along mountain trails under the shady cover of towering trees, and humming along to breezes and birdsong. Nearly 20 years have passed since I last called "Wild, Wonderful" West Virginia home, but few years have went by without a late-summer visit spent taking in the natural splendor of this majestic Mountain State. Whether you're looking to unplug from urban trappings or simply seek an adrenaline rush, here are five distinctly West Virginia adventures to enjoy as the sun sets on another picture-perfect summer.
Go Rafting on the New River
Flowing through canyons in southern West Virginia, the New River is a hub of hair-raising adventures. Chief among them: whitewater rafting. You can take your pick of the river's upper section, with its relatively easy rapids (up to Class III) and its lower section, where you'll run into some of West Virginia's most notorious raging rapids—think big boulders, powerful currents, and undercut rocks. Experienced rafters can run the river on their own, but plenty of licensed tour operators, offer guided rafting trips lasting from several hours to several days. Rafting seasons runs April through October, so there's still plenty of time to hit the river.
Take the Train
Steam-driven locomotives play an important part in West Virginia's logging history, and visitors can climb aboard restored originals for scenic rides throughout the state. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers rail excursions aboard restored original Shay locomotives that chug along West Virginia's famously forested landscape. Settled into their seats aboard refurbished logging flat-cars, passengers enjoy fresh mountain air and verdant views along the original line built in 1901 to transport lumber to the tiny mountain town's mill. Up for an overnight stay? Check into one of the State Park's 20 refurbished company houses, which now serve as cottages and are outfitted with WiFi, fully equipped kitchens, and other vacation-essential amenities.
Towering 900 feet above the North Fork River in Monongahela National Forest, Seneca Rocks is one of the Mountain State's most recognizable landmarks—and a must for visitors with an appetite for adventure. Climbers can scale the rocks' façade—theirs is the only “true peak” on the East Coast that's accessible only by rock climbing—but visitors who are more inclined to keep their feet on the ground can enjoy the ascent, too, via a 1.3-mile-long self-guided trail that takes them along the formation's jagged fins and ends at the top with sweeping, see-forever views.
Blaze a Trail
Seneca Rocks isn't the only reason to visit Monongahela National Forest. There, you can set off on a mountain bike or lace up your hiking boots for a trek along the 25-mile North Fork Mountain Trail, one of only a handful in the world to earn an "Epic" designation from the International Mountain Bicycling Association thanks to its stunning scenery and abundant overlooks. While there's no shortage of jaw-dropping scenery, the trail is known among hikers and bikers for its elevation shifts and lack of water stops, so arrive prepared and with your CamelBak filled to the brim.
Fall for Blackwater
For some soft adventure and Instagram-worthy photo opps, head to Blackwater Falls State Park, where the amber-hued waters of the Blackwater River tumble five stories before twisting and churning along eight miles of canyons. Once you've had your fill of the unique falls—their color comes from the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles—head out for a nature walk, pitch a tent or park your camper at the campground, fish for trout on the Blackwater River, sit down to breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Smokehouse restaurant, or cozy up in the lodge or a cabin for an overnight stay in this wild, wonderful place.