Mining for Hidden Gems in West Virginia

Searching for a different kind of gem in the Wild and Wonderful state.

By: Scott Kaiser + Save to a List

West Virginia gets a bad rap for lopping off the tops of their mountains and, sadly, it's not without good reason. However, as I've ventured into the "Wild and Wonderful" state on weekend excursions over the past 7 years, I've discovered if you search hard enough and look in the right places, you can find some truly amazing gems in West Virginia. Here are a few of my favorite spots I discovered in 2016 and a few places I'm eager to explore in the next year.

Spruce Knob

The highest point in West Virginia at 4,368 feet is also the headwaters of the Nation's River. A lookout tower at the top with 360-degree views is maybe one of the prettiest spots in the Mid-Atlantic. The legend says a surveying error left the mountain untouched for logging and mining. Eventually scooped up by the Forest Service, the mountain is now part of Monongahela National Forest. After watching a sunset from the tower this past summer, I'm convinced the surveyor in question knew exactly what he was doing.

Spruce Knob Lake Campground

Just down the dirt road from Spruce Knob lies the perfect summer getaway. When the oppressive Washington, D.C., heat and humidity finally destroys your soul, head for the mountains. They are calling with a mountain lake, bald eagles circling overhead, and cooler temps.

Seneca Rocks

A spectacular rock formation with world class climbing. What more could you ask for? I hope to spend more time exploring the rocks this year. They are impressive!

Dolly Sods Wilderness

Everyone raves about Dolly Sods. I look forward to getting out there for a long backpacking weekend this spring. Its big draw are the alpine meadows which are hard to come by in the east, where you can walk through the same type of forest for seemingly forever.

New River Gorge

With world class whitewater, a vertigo inducing bridge, and a base jumping festival in the fall, this place has been on the top of my list since the first time I drove through on my way to Kentucky seven years ago. I even rode along the New River in Amtrak's Louisville Cardinal. I hope this is the year I stop and stay awhile.

Maryland Heights

Okay, so not technically in West Virginia. You are actually hiking on the Maryland side of the Potomac River but the views of Harpers Ferry from the top are unreal. Sunsets are A+ and at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, I'm going to give credit to West Virginia.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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