7 Thrilling Outdoor Adventures in West Virginia
West Virginia is a place where both outdoor enthusiasts and those who want to simply play like a kid again can find a little joy. With more than 1,000 named mountains, 35 state parks, nine state forests, and three rail trails, there is plenty to see and do among Mother Nature. To help you narrow it down, here are seven epic outdoor adventures travelers must try on their next visit to "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia."
In 1977, construction was completed on the New River Gorge Bridge, helping to connect two communities and reducing their drive time from a grueling 40 minutes through a narrow mountain road to under 60 seconds. However, the bridge isn't just functional — it's beautiful, too. As the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third-highest bridge in the United States, the New River Gorge Bridge quickly became a tourist spot in its own right and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource in 2013. Now, travelers can take a guided three-hour tour of the catwalk beneath the bridge to see it in all its glory. Guests are fastened to the bridge via a safety cable as they walk the 3,030-foot length of the bridge before being shuttled back. Guests can take all the time they'd like and as many photos as they wish along the way. Tickets start at $72 per person.
It's not called "The Mountain State" for nothing: West Virginia has more than 4,000 climbing routes that are fit for climbers of all skill levels. As the experts in the crowd will likely already know where to go, we're giving a special shout-out to the beginners. According to West Virginia Tourism, two of the best spots for newbies are New River Gorge National Park in the south and Seneca Rocks in the east. Both offer unique landscapes and routes but are also equally manageable for those just starting out. To really get the most out of the climbs, make sure to get a guide who can help you improve your skills along the way. See the exact routes West Virginia Tourism recommends here.
West Virginia is home to dozens of named rivers, all offering a variety of conditions ideal for those looking to battle the water with a bit of whitewater rafting. While there are a number of outfitters willing to take visitors to unique spots, those looking for the complete package should once again head to New River Gorge for a stay with Adventures on the Gorge. The company offers family rafting, aerial adventure courses, overnight options, and multi-day rafting with lodging at its own resort. Check out all the options here.
Want to really become one with nature? Take up falconry on a visit to West Virginia. Greenbrier Outfitters offers lessons for beginners, intermediates, and experts. In the beginner lesson, visitors will head to the company's private bird chambers where they will interact with the trained birds, which include owls, falcons, and hawks. The lesson includes a flying demonstration, a history lesson on the sport, and learning the techniques from their professional guides (And yes, don't worry, you too get to hold a hawk.) See booking options here.
Not all of West Virginia's exciting outdoor experiences take place at ground level. For something different, try your hand at caving in West Virginia at the Lost World Caverns. About 120 feet below the Earth's surface sits the cavern that's filled with exciting things to see, including stalactites and stalagmites stretching out from every corner. It's an experience that is prime for all ages and takes about 45 minutes to walk through. Guests can go on a self-guided tour or head in with a guide to learn more about what they are looking at along the way. See tour options here.
For something a bit more low-key but still ridiculously fun for the entire family, visitors can test their mapping skills with a bit of geocaching. If you're unaware of what "geocaching" is, it's when a person leaves a tiny treasure somewhere — literally anywhere — and leaves GPS coordinates for others to find it. Anyone who finds a treasure is asked to leave something behind for the next hunter. (Note: A permit is required before placing a cache in any area managed by West Virginia State Parks). Hunt down all available coordinates throughout West Virginia on geocaching.com.
With all the outdoor areas to explore, lakes dotting the map, and rivers running through every corner of the state, it's no surprise fishing is a popular outdoor activity for visitors. Again, there are more places and outfitters to fish with throughout the state than we can possibly name here, but West Virginia Tourism lists the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers as ever popular destinations for fishing due to the "healthy" populations of tiger muskie, largemouth bass, and walleye. Bring your rods or fly fishing equipment on your own, or book a tour so you can reel in dinner during your stay. See more places to perfect your cast here.