Got any New Year’s resolutions? Find ‘em in all 9 counties!December 19, 2017
Why stop at one resolution? Southern West Virginia has pulse-pounding adventures for the whole year. Resolve to do one (or more) of these activities for 2018!
1. Beckley-Raleigh County
Welcome to the “Hub of Southern West Virginia.” Raleigh County’s convenient roads and interstates make road trips a snap. Prime whitewater rivers and climbing mountains are minutes away. It’s also an easy drive to Fayetteville and Lewisburg.
Raleigh County is more than just a connector, though— much more. It has stylish, innovative restaurants, unusual attractions, and natural beauty. Nowhere else will you find urban entertainment and outdoor scenery so compatible.
With those pointers in mind, Raleigh County makes resolutions so much better than your typical workout.
Here’s what you can do instead:
- Go “rock” climbing. At the Outside In Climbing Gym in Beckley, you can clamber over 18 color-coded routes, 35 feet off the floor! Beginners and experts are welcome. Afterwards, relax at the Chocolate Moose cafe, the on-site coffee shop.
- Hike, fish, explore. Refresh your spirits— and your resolutions— at Little Beaver State Park in Beaver. The 562-acre refuge has more than a dozen trails and a placid 18-acre lake.
2. Fayette County
Outdoor recreation rarely gets as good as this. Home of the New River Gorge, Fayette County boasts outstanding whitewater rafting, hiking, and sandstone climbing. It’s also spectacular. Mountains, rapids, and old-growth forests form the backdrop of any activity, mild or wild.
Do you know what else comes naturally? New Year’s resolutions! If you’ve pledged to push those boundaries, come to Fayette County. It’s easy to keep those promises when you’re having fun.
Try outside-the-box adventures like:
- Bridge Walk. At 876 feet high and 3,030 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge certainly draws the eye. It’s America’s third-highest span— and you can hike the catwalk! Bridge Walk tours are open all year. The views are simply spectacular!
- Hiking and biking. The New River Gorge has numerous trails for casual and serious explorers alike. Historic mines, awe-inspiring overlooks, and lovely waterfalls are just some of the surprises in store for you. Stacked-loop paths up the ante for bikers.
- Escape rooms. Sharpen those critical thinking skills for 2018. Fayetteville’s Epic Escape Game: New River Gorge has interactive mysteries that need solving. Bring a friend and see how many clues you can crack before time’s up!
3. Mercer County
When it comes to off-road driving, this county ranks towards the top. A portion of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, America’s largest ATV network, is located in Mercer County. Its Pocahontas Trail is one of the longest contiguous paths within the system.
Mercer County also has a rich past. Bramwell, a Victorian town, once had more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country. That wealth is still evident today, thanks to the many coal baron mansions on display. Other historic places include Bluefield and Princeton; both are certified artistic communities.
Spice up 2018 with:
- ATV driving. You don’t need to be a pro behind the wheel; Hatfield-McCoy Trails has paths for beginners as well as advanced drivers. ATV-friendly communities also help with guides, rentals, lodging, and supplies.
- On-stage performances. Add some culture to your new year! Princeton’s Chuck Mathena Center has Russian ballet, interactive entertainment, comedians, and singers all year.
4. Monroe County
In this quiet patch of Southern West Virginia, time seems slower. It’s a land of gentle farmland, covered bridges, and grain mills. Hikers on the Appalachian Trailoften ramble through on their way to Georgia or Maine. Historic sites riddle the area, too. There’s Rehoboth Church, which dates to 1784; Alderson Depot, a C&O station; and early 19th-century mineral springs and spas.
Because Monroe County is so well preserved, natural beauty abounds. The dramatic landscape is punctuated with caverns, sandstone formations, and old forests. It’s a worthy setting for those resolutions, too!
Not sure where to start? Check out Hanging Rock Observatory in Union. Located on Peters Mountain, the former fire tower sits almost 2,000 feet above the forest. Birds of prey swoop past during winter and spring. If your timing is right, you can see eagles, falcons, and hawks at eye level!
5. Greenbrier County
This gracious region has attracted guests since colonial times. Not much has changed over the centuries. Greenbrier County still charms visitors with its warm hospitality, fine restaurants, and old-fashioned towns.
If your time is limited, visit Lewisburg’s historic district. Brick antebellum homes, interspersed with cheerful gardens and boutiques, color the narrow streets. The venerable city doesn’t lack for entertainment, either. Look forward to imaginative cuisine and attractions— the kind that veer from the ordinary.
Here’s how you can spice up 2018:
- Authentic Appalachian spirits. Get handcrafted bourbon, gin, whiskey, and vodka at Smooth Ambler Distillery in Maxwelton. You can also tour the facility and try samples in the cozy tasting room. Mountain cider and mead. At Hawk Knob in Lewisburg, heirloom ingredients enhance every drink. Specialties include classic, elderberry-infused, and wild-fermented ciders, plus honey mead and melomels. Greenbrier brews. These aren’t your typical beers. Maxwelton’s Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co. gets its inspiration from quirky West Virginia legends: Mothman, Devil Anse, and a local ghost, among others. Pale ales and stouts are specialties.
- Historic performances. Only 4 continuously operating Carnegie Halls exist in the world. Lewisburg has one of them. Visit the 1902 performance hall for year-round concerts, plays, workshops, and more!
- Caving. Lewisburg’s Lost World Caverns is a spellbinding treat for old and young alike. Go on a leisurely walk and see enormous chambers and odd rock formations, or take a Wild Cave Tour— a 4-hour trek with mysterious crannies and passageways.
6. Nicholas County
Civil War history and exotic landscapes add plenty of drama to this northern county. Summersville Lake, West Virginia’s largest impoundment, is one of Nicholas County’s most striking features. Hailed by many as the “Little Bahamas of the East,” its aquamarine depths fill 60 miles of shoreline. That’s plenty of room for adventure. In fact, scuba diving and stand-up paddleboarding are especially popular.
Make 2018 special with:
- Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park. History and scenery combine at this dramatic 156-acre refuge, where Union soldiers defeated Confederate forces in 1861. The park has stellar views, too; set above the Gauley River, it overlooks wild rapids and waves.
- Lakeside recreation. Rain or shine, winter or spring, Summersville Lake deserves a visit. The breathtaking shores are worth a hike any time! Fishing and boating are worthy resolutions, too.
7. Wyoming County
With its wild mountains and valleys, this county has lots of rugged personality. You can hop on an ATV and disappear into the woods; climb Castle Rock, a sandstone formation; or look for mining ruins.
One of Wyoming County’s best attractions, though, is Twin Falls State Park. Located near Mullens, the tranquil retreat is a great place to escape for the day or weekend. In fact, you might want to set your New Year’s resolutions right here! The park has more than 25 miles of trails and an 18-hole golf course, which is open all year. Make time for Pioneer Farm, too; it’s a recreated homestead with animals and crops.
8. McDowell County
At one time, this region supplied most of the world’s coal. One of McDowell County’s most prolific mines was located in Coalwood, the childhood home of author Homer Hickam. His memoir, “Rocket Boys,” made the region famous.
McDowell County’s current draw is outdoor recreation. Much of the county is covered with forest— a lure for hikers and ATV drivers. If your New Year’s resolution involves tranquility or exploration, McDowell County is the place for it! On a similar note, you might want to search for the “Luther Elkins Petroglyph.” These ancient rock carvings are found near the town of Oceana. They’re well worth a hike! However, please look but don’t touch.
9. Summers County
This southern region captures the imagination with its romantic parklands. Enormous cascades— some of the New River’s biggest— pour through the wide canyons. Diverse forests grow thickly along the mountains, too: hickory, hemlock, oak, and dogwood, among many others. Not surprisingly, Summers Countyattracts lots of animals. It’s not unusual to spot deer, bear, turkeys, and bald eagles.
Everybody needs beauty. Why not start 2018 with an awe-inspiring trip? You won’t go wrong with Sandstone Falls, the New River’s widest cascade at 1,500 feet. It’s one of West Virginia’s most photographed subjects. An overlook on State Route 20 gives you a long-distance view (the thunderous noise is really impressive). To get closer, continue on County Route 26. You’ll see signs for the boardwalk. The short hike leads to dramatic bridges and an observation platform. It’s one of the best views in the New River Gorge!
Happy New Year! Which adventure are you going to try for 2018?
June 8, 2018 Relive the Gilded Age in Bramwell