6 world-class National Park hiking trails in WV
Delve deep into Southern West Virginia’s natural beauty following our well-maintained and adventurous trails.
There are options to suit any level of hiker, whether you’re a novice or an all-out aficionada:
1. Traverse an ‘Endless Wall’ of exhilarating views
The Endless Wall Trail was recently voted the “Best National Park Hike” by USA Today, and for good reason. This 2.4-mile moderate trail leads hikers through a variety of landscapes— rich forests, dense rhododendron patches and a beautiful pass over the crystal clear Fern Creek. The pinnacle of the trail is a point that zig zags along the “Endless Wall,” a series of cliffs that frame the upper gorge.
You’ll approach one breathtaking view after another, with plenty of opportunities to take a break and peer down at the New River nearly 1,000 feet below. You can sometimes hear the voices of whitewater rafters as they smash into and glide over world-class rapids below. Scoot close enough to the edge, and you might get a glimpse of a climber, carefully choosing which crevice to place his or her chalked hands in next.
Because the trail is heavily trafficked by climbers, you may come across some ladders that scale down the sandstone cliffs. They’re a neat challenge if you’re looking for a fun detour.
2. Discover an abandoned town down 821 steps
Step back in time on the Kaymoor Trail, which runs parallel to the gorgeous New River, following old roads and dormant railroad lines.
Hikers will uncover the trail’s namesake, Kaymoor Mine, which was operational for decades but has been abandoned since 1963. The buildings and mine openings are still there, and markers will tell you more about the mine’s history.
If you’re looking for bigger challenge, you can choose to descend the strenuous Kaymoor Miners Trail via 821 steps. Walk the route thousands of miners did more than a century ago. The course they wore back in the day falls more than 800 vertical feet from the rim of the gorge. These 821 wooden steps will lead you to additional remains of the Kaymoor Mine, including the coal processing plant and the miner community of Kaymoor.
3. Get a postcard-worthy snapshot
The 1.6-mile Long Point Trail in the New River Gorge is a park favorite, and it’s great for everyone— kids, grown ups and dogs alike! Its generally flat geography is ideal for newbies or worn out hikers, with only one steep section near the climax of the trail. Enjoy the lush rhododendron patches along the way.
Cross through fields and forests and pop out at the popular rock outcrop known as “Long Point,” where nature will provide you with the ultimate New River Gorge Bridge snapshot. The jutting rock puts you in the most perfect position to take in a 360-degree panorama of the gorge. Be careful; the steep outcropping does not have any railings or fences.
4. Discover history away from it all
The relaxed, nearly 10-mile Bluestone Turnpike Trail follows the winding Bluestone River via an old road used by troops during the Civil War, and later by local residents.
The trail takes hikers to a land far from civilization, leaving them to discover the remains of human existence left behind, protected by the shale and sandstone walls of the deep canyon.
Many Native Americans used this land because of its abundant natural resources. One of the most notable stops along the trail is the lost town of Lilly, one of the first settlements in the area in the 1700s. Only scattered foundations of structures provide hikers with a clue of what once existed there.
5. Discover the other Long Point Trail
One of the most popular hiking trails at Summersville Lake is Long Point Trail (lesser-known than the Gorge’s trail, but just as grand), a nearly 2-mile hike through a forested area that ends with a spectacular view. The well-maintained path lazily winds through a forest of hardwoods with little elevation gain. At the turning point, a tall cliff overlooks the beautiful blue waters of West Virginia’s largest lake.
Spend some time on the beautiful rock outcropping to take in the lake’s 28,000 acres of water and 60 miles of sandstone shoreline, a beautiful sight no matter the season.
Other popular hikes around the lake include Salmon Run, which passes a wooden bridge, historic cemetery and several homesteads, and Muddlety Trail, which winds through wild orchids and several historic sites, including the Starbuck Textile Mill and Campbell Power Plant.
6. Trek to a 400-year-old tree
The Pierson Hollow Trail at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is narrow and short (a little more than half a mile), but easy to moderate in intensity.
It winds through a stand of old growth oak trees, a rare ecological sight in this region. Recently, the park was recognized as part of the Old Growth Forest Network— one of only 4 dedicated forests in the state. The trees are between 250 and 300 years old, with the oldest tree reported to be a whopping 400 years old!
What’s your favorite hike in the National Parks of Southern WV?