Saturday, April 3, 2021

7 Amazing, Must-See Views in West Virginia

"I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush 
of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. 
I thought, 'This is what it is to be happy.' " 
        -- Sylvia Plath

Seeing the beauty of nature is good for the soul -- and West Virginia has more than its fair share of beautiful forests and scenic views. After a decade or more of visiting the state, here are suggestions for seven must-see scenic vistas that capture the essences of wild, wonderful, West Virginia.

Not all the views are readily available by your vehicle -- for some, you'll have to hike and in one case, take a scenic train ride. But each view is worth the effort you put into getting there!

Spruce Knob 




At 4,863 feet above sea level, Spruce Knob is West Virginia's highest point, and the highest peak in the Allegheny Mountains, and for this reason, is worth checking out. You'll enjoy a winding (but paved) drive to get up to Spruce Knob.

The summit is accessible both via trails and a paved Forest Service road, and is crowned with a stone lookout tower amid a mixture of boulder fields, meadows and trees.



Getting there: Paved access is from U.S. Route 33/West Virginia Route 28 about 2 miles south of Riverton. Briery Gap Road (County Route 33/4), Forest Roads 112 and 104 have been paved to provide a hard-surfaced road to the summit. Please note: Forest Roads 104 and 112 are not maintained in the winter. Impassable conditions can be expected any time from mid-October to mid-April.



Table Rock

The hike out to Table Rock, through the backcountry of Canaan Mountain, is short -- just 2.4 miles there and back -- but beautiful, through a hardwood forest of beech, black cherry, maple and yellow birch and then through thick rhododendron thickets before emerging onto the rock outcrop itself.



The drive to get there will take as long as the hike itself -- but that's okay, it's a beautiful 9.5 mile drive through the Monongahela National Forest and is worthy of the drive itself.

The rock outcrop looks over the Dry Fork and Cheat River valleys, and on a clear day, it feels as if you can see forever.

For more details about this hike, click here.




Getting there: From Davis, WV, travel south on WV Route 32 for just over 3 miles to Canaan Loop Road. Turn right onto Canaan Loop Road. Within a few feet, the road becomes gravel and narrows even further once past the few houses. Travel about 9.5 miles along Canaan Loop Road to the trail head on the left, which is marked.



Olsen Tower




Olsen Tower is perched at the top of Backbone Mountain, just 20 minutes outside of Davis and Thomas (and Canaan Valley) and provides 360 degree views of both Blackwater Canyon and the Cheat River valley  If you're not up to climbing the 300 plus steps up Olsen Tower, then you can see almost the same view at the Fred Long Centennial park, an overlook along Rt 219 along the way to the turn off for Olsen Tower.



A roadside park, Centennial Park offers dramatic views from the summit across the Cheat River valley. The mountain has also been mapped as "North Ridge" and "The Devil's Backbone." There's also a shaded picnic bench.



We showed up at Olsen Tower, with the plan to climb those steps and see the 360 view -- but a rain squall rolled in and then the steps were wet and slippery. So we bailed. My son and his girlfriend climbed up two days later and confirmed, the view is magnificent!

Getting there: GPS it! I was doubtful, but followed the directions and got there easily -- both to the tower and to the overlook park. The forest road is well maintained and easily passable by all vehicles. 


Bald Knob 




Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park offers scenic train rides to the top of Bald Knob. It also transports passengers back in time to relive an era when steam-driven locomotives played an essential role in local industry.



For the full 4 ½ hour trip (there and back) to Bald Knob, you will leave Whittaker Station and proceed to Oats Run for the engines to take on additional water at a spring. The train then climbs up the mountain, finally reaching Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. The overlook at Bald Knob provides a spectacular view at an altitude of 4,700 feet.



Getting there: 242 Main Street, Cass, WV 24927


Lindy Point

Located in Blackwater Falls State Park, Lindy Point provides awesome views of the Blackwater River gorge. If you look for it, you can see Olsens Tower on the hillside opposite. Only a short walk -- you can't even call it a hike -- you'll appreciate the views and the rock outcropping.



Lindy Point is also a good place, if you've a mind to sit awhile, to bird watch. Several years ago, we saw a beautiful golden eagle soaring over the canyon.

Try going to the observation deck for a sunrise! Otherwise, this is an excellent short hike anytime of the year, but particularly in mid-summer when the rhododendron are in bloom, or during fall to catch the incredible autumn leaf colors!


Getting there: From Davis, head north on WV Rt 32, and turn left onto Blackwater Falls Road. At 1.2 miles, turn left onto Blackwater Lodge Road. Continue on Blackwater Lodge Road for about a mile, passing Blackwater Lodge, and continuing until the road becomes a gravel road / Canaan Loop Road. Just over 1.5 miles after the road becomes a gravel road, you'll see the trail head and parking for about 4 cars for the Lindy Point trailhead.



Bear Rocks






Catching the sunrise from Bear Rocks, in the Dolly Sods National Wilderness Area, is a family tradition, and each vacation in Canaan Valley will catch us getting up at 3:30 a.m. and starting the hour-plus drive down Laneville Road (with its multiple hairpin curves) and up FR 19 and FR 75 to reach Bear Rocks.



Bear Rocks, on the eastern edge of the plateau that includes the Dolly Sods Wilderness, is a remarkably scenic, windswept summit atop one of West Virginia's highest mountains. It is perched on a ridge of sandstone cliffs and is a rock outcropping with a 2,000 to 3,000-foot drop below. A distinctive feature of the area are stunted red spruce trees with flag-formed limbs pointing to the east – a result of the almost constant and often high-velocity winds.



If you go on a weekend, prepare to be joined by a multitude of like-minded folks, but if you go on a weekday, you're unlikely to encounter more than one or two others. One morning we got there VERY early, and heard bears growling and yawning as they foraged for their breakfasts, reminding us of how Bear Rocks got its name.



Getting there: Set your GPS for 2nd Ave in Davis, WV. Then, fill your tank with gas and head south on WV Rt 32/Appalachian Highway. After Canaan Valley State Park and Resort on your right, you'll head up a hill and then start down it again. On the left is Laneville Road. Take that left, and follow Laneville as it twists and winds through the mountainside. This is not driving for the faint of heart -- Laneville Road is narrow and has some hairpin curves as it curves along the contour of the mountainside and the locals  -- and other vacationers -- drive fast. As you look over the side, the flimsy guardrail is not reassuring. No worries -- if your vehicle tumbles over, chances are a couple of trees will stop it before it goes all the way down.

Laneville Road will deposit you at the base of Dolly Sods at Forest Road 19. Follow FR 19 up the mountain. About 3/4 of the way up on the right, opposite the Rohrbaugh Plains trail head, there's a picnic area and portapotties. This is the last opportunity to use the facilities with any semblance of dignity, so don't hesitate.

At the top of the mountain you have a choice: turn left onto FR 75 or head back down the other side of the mountain. Turn left! That'll take you along a relatively straight road along the ridge. You'll pass some trail heads on either side. To the right fairly early on, there's a lovely overlook (short walk out to the rocks). Definitely worth seeing -- and as the sign indicates, take your camera!


Cranny Crow Overlook




Just the name of Lost River State Park invites exploration, but a beautiful hike up the mountain will reveal this incredible view to you. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shelter at the overlook!



It's a popular hike for the park, with its commanding views of the surrounding countryside from 3,200 feet, and although Alltrails claims it's "moderately trafficked," we only encountered one other couple, on their way down as we were beginning our climb up the 954 elevation gain, which means that not only did it feel as if we were the only two people and a dog on the mountain -- we probably were!



Getting there: 321 Park Dr, Mathias, WV 26812-8088


What are your suggestions? I'm sure there are other must-see vistas in West Virginia -- I just haven't gotten to them yet!






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