7 Wonderful National Parks in West Virginia (+ Historic Sites)

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With its beautiful mountains and landscapes, it would be a shame to visit West Virginia and not make the most out of its stunning landscapes.

As such, the state is home to many national parks, and it lies along the Appalachian Trail. This post showcases the best national parks in West Virginia, including the state’s national historical sites!

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Whether you enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities or you simply want to get away from the hustle and bustle of your busy life, you certainly won’t regret planning a relaxing trip to West Virginia.

Here are the West Virginia national parks that you should check out during your visit. Let us know if we missed any in the comments!

Best national parks in West Virginia
Best national parks in West Virginia

Best National Parks in West Virginia

Appalachian National Scenic Trail 

Location: Goes through Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Located in the eastern United States, extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, the beautiful Appalachian National Scenic Trail was developed by volunteers and opened as a continuous trail in 1937.

The National Trails System Act of 1968 recognized it as the first National Scenic Trail. Over 99% of the trail’s route is currently protected by federal or state land ownership or rights-of-way.

Appalachian Trail along the Shenandoah River in WV
Appalachian Trail along the Shenandoah River in WV

On the Appalachian Trail, more than 4,000 volunteers offer more than 185,000 hours of service each year.

The trail has a 2,180-mile footpath across the central valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. It is known to be the longest hiking-only trail globally, and it greets thousands of people from all around the country each year.

It is perfect for a weekend and other short-term hikers, and also for enthusiasts who would like to hike the entire length of the Trail. 

The trail crosses through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Shenandoah National Park, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Housatonic River Valley, Green Mountains, and White Mountain National Forest. 

Appalachian Trail going through Harpers Ferry WV
Appalachian Trail going through Harpers Ferry WV

Along the way, there are some “trail towns” where you can catch a breath and camp. It is truly a paradise for hikers. 

Bluestone National Scenic River 

Location: Between Hinton and Athens, West Virginia

Located in southern West Virginia, the most stunning Bluestone National Scenic River has a 10.5-mile section of the Bluestone River, and it was created in 1988 under the Wild and Scenic River Act.

The Appalachian Plateau’s Bluestone River and the rocky gorge provide a wonderfully diversified and scenic landscape. The river is the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful environment with the rustling of wildlife. 

The Bluestone National Scenic River is reachable after passing through the wilderness of 2 bordering state parks.

The best way is to go through the Pipestem State Park, where you can also take an aerial tram to enjoy the perfect views that the park offers.

Bluestone River in West Virginia
Bluestone River in West Virginia

The park offers many activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and fishing. Hikers can enjoy a hike on the Bluestone Turnpike Trail, a 9.5-mile trail that follows the path of an old riverbank road. 

Fishing is one of the most popular activities at the river, where anglers can enjoy a day full of new experiences. Keep in mind that a fishing license in West Virginia is needed. 

Canoeing and kayaking are also offered, but only in the springtime. 

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park 

Location: Near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Located in the District of Columbia and Maryland, the beautiful Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park was developed in 1961 as a national monument to protect the forgotten remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and its original structures.

Located near the border with Maryland and connecting to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the park is packed with activities and scenic places to admire. 

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in WV
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in WV

One of the best things that you can do during your visit stays in a historical lockhouse. If you want to live a day like a lockkeeper, this is the perfect opportunity.

The lockhouse can hold up to eight people, is fully furnished, and promises to be an experience to remember. 

Next, visit the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center located in the heart of the park. It is the perfect place to take a walking tour with a park ranger or enjoy the surroundings alone with a solo phone tour. 

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal - Julie Clopper - Shutterstock
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal – Julie Clopper – Shutterstock

Of course, it would be a shame not to experience Great Falls. The area offers three overlooks of the picturesque waterfalls and Potomac River.

It will take you 5-10 minutes to walk from one to the other, and they are also accessible for people with disabilities and strollers.

There, you can enjoy many activities such as fishing, rock climbing, white water rafting, and canoeing. 

Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Location: Moorefield, West Virginia

Located in the Mid-Atlantic region, separated from the Atlantic Ocean, the largest estuary in the USA, Chesapeake Bay Watershed has more than 150 rivers and streams.

Including 300 species of fish, shellfish, and crab. Many have described the bay as a national treasure with outstanding environmental, economic, and recreational value.

Unfortunately, since the 1970s the water quality in the bay has not been the best since nearly 30% of the watershed is composed of agricultural lands.

Weverton Cliffs - view over the Potomac
Weverton Cliffs – view over the Potomac

The health of the bay improved in 2015, but climate change is also a significant problem that the Bay is facing.

For decades, the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) has worked with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Bay Watershed, as well as many other partners to solve the enormous problems of restoring the Bay and its tributaries.

Gauley River National Recreation Area 

Location: Summersville, West Virginia

The beautiful Gauley River National Recreation Area was established in 1988 to protect the gorges and speedy, winding waters of 25 miles of the Gauley River and five miles of the Meadow River. 

The Gauley River National Recreation Area is known for its whitewater rafting. In fact, the area is known as one of the best spots for whitewater rafting in the country.

Many enthusiasts come to the Gauley every fall season to paddle. The river is divided into two sections: Upper Gauley and Lower Gauley.

Gauley River
Gauley River

The Gauley River National Recreation Area offers 28 miles of rugged terrain, dropping more than 668 feet. There are also over 100 Gauley River rapids, of which 50 are rated Class III and higher.

The season begins the first weekend after Labor Day and continues for six weekends. 

Besides whitewater rafting, the Gauley offers some fantastic natural sceneries and is also an excellent place for hiking, camping, fishing, and climbing. Anglers can enjoy trout fishing.

The river is also stocked with golden, rainbow, and brown trout. Muskie, walleye, and bass can also be caught. 

Hiking near the Gauley River
Hiking near the Gauley River

Climbers are likewise becoming more interested in the cliff-lined coastlines.

Many climbers are developing new routes on the rock walls of Summersville Lake and along the Meadow River because of the proximity to the well-known New River Gorge.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park  

Location: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers in and around Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, the beautiful Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has a history that dates back to at least 8,000 years ago.

The Tuscarora people were the last ones that called the place home in large numbers, but they vanished in the early 18th century.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

The park was initially designated as a National Monument in 1944. In 1963, it was declared a National Historical Park by the U.S Congress. 

From hiking to overlooks and exploring museums, the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has plenty to offer. In the park, visitors will be able to see the center of the 19th-century industry.

It has numerous small museums and exhibits, battlefields, uninhabited hillside houses, and charming streets. If you want to learn about the town’s history, ranger tours are offered.

There is also a wax museum, blacksmith shop, and clocks and jewelry exhibit on site. 

View over Harpers Ferry National Historical Park  
View over Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Hikers can also enjoy 20-mile hike trails. They are suitable for everyone since there are trails for leisurely riverside strolls to four-mile hikes across Civil War battlefields to eight-mile ventures on the tops of mountains. 

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve 

Location: Glen Jean, West Virginia

The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a unit of the US National Park Service, whose mission is to protect and preserve the New River Gorge in the Appalachian Mountains of southern West Virginia.

It was established in 1978 as a national river and redesignated in 2020. The park and preserve stretch for 54 miles from Hinton to Hawks Nest State Park near Ansted. 

It is the perfect place for everyone since it offers a variety of activities, from hiking and climbing to enjoying a peaceful picnic or camping. 

Kayaking on the New River
Kayaking on the New River

Hikers can enjoy numerous trails that are available around the park. Forest trails, breathtaking views, and historic scenery are all available here.

The park offers trails ranging from 1/4 to 7 miles in length, and many of them can be connected with each other if you want to take a longer journey. Difficulty levels also vary from smooth walking to steep, challenging terrain. 

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve also includes 53 miles of the free-flowing New River, beginning at Bluestone Dam and finishing at Hawks Nest Lake. The park has two whitewashes.

The upper one is perfect for long pools and more accessible rapids with views to admire. The lower river also referred to as “the Lower Gorge,” offers one of the biggest rapids ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V. 

Within the park, as well as the nearby Gauley River National Recreation Area, there are various primitive camping places.

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve

All are on well-kept gravel roads, although they’re typically far from service stations, markets, and telephones.

Daredevils can also go rock climbing since New River Gorge offers over 1,400 spots for rock climbing. New River Gorge’s cliffs are built of a highly durable sandstone and range between 30 to 120 feet tall.

Did we miss any amazing national parks in West Virginia? Let us know your favorite historical attractions and West VA national parks in the comments! Thanks!

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