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  • Aerial view of Harpers Ferry
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    Starting Point: Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, West Virginia

  • Driving the Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia as summer transitions to fall
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    A Drive on the Highland Scenic Highway, West Virginia

  • Looking up at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
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    Mountain High: New River Gorge

  • Couple dining in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
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    Capital Appeal in Charleston

  • Small waterfall on Laurel Creek near Beckley, West Virginia
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    Grand Views and Recreation in Beckley

  • The stunning façade and exterior landscape of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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    Historic Luxury at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs

  • Gorgeous sunset views at Shenandoah National Park
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    A Perfect Send-off: Shenandoah National Park

Mountain biking in West Virginia
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Almost Heaven: National Parks and Aerial Adventures in West Virginia and Virginia

  • Route distance:
    1233km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Fresh air, green trees, blue skies and a break from the daily grind

Are you dreaming of an escape to the great outdoors, paired with exciting adventures and awe-inspiring heights? This itinerary is a week of no worries, no pressure and nothing to do except reclaim your sense of discovery. West Virginia’s and Virginia's outdoors are lush, green and often untouched, embodying some of the most beautiful areas of the ancient Appalachian Mountains.

01
Aerial view of Harpers Ferry
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Starting Point: Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, West Virginia

Harpers Ferry is an hour from Dulles International Airport (IAD), where you can pick up a rental car to start your journey. Sitting at the junction of thee states – West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland – Harpers Ferry is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and preserved historical sites contained within Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Step back more than 150 years as you visit the site of a failed slave uprising at John Brown’s Fort, take a picture near Jefferson Rock where Thomas Jefferson looked out over the Potomac River in 1783, and explore historic structures such as the 1775 Harper House and the ruins of the 1851 St. John’s Episcopal Church. Take a ranger-guided hike or explore 32 kilometers of scenic trails on your own – Harpers Ferry marks the midway point along the Appalachian Trail. Be sure to get a selfie at The Point, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers converge and three U.S. states meet. In adjacent Shepherdstown, local outfitters offer an array of outdoor activities: ropes courses, zipline canopy tours, whitewater rafting and tubing, aerial adventure parks, mountain biking and more. Camp overnight or splurge on cozy accommodations – you have a long, lovely drive ahead of you.  

140 km
1.75 hours by car
02
Driving the Highland Scenic Highway in West Virginia as summer transitions to fall
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A Drive on the Highland Scenic Highway, West Virginia

You can opt to do mostly freeway driving on Interstate 81 through Virginia, cutting across the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest back into West Virginia, or stay on local routes through West Virginia, taking in the vast expanses of rolling green mountains. Your destination is the Highland Scenic Highway, a winding, 69-kilometer road through the Monongahela National Forest that is guaranteed to put your camera to work. There are four scenic overlooks along the way that provide absolutely breathtaking mountain views, particularly as the autumn leaves turn the landscape into a dazzling array of jewel tones. (Note that the Highway 150 portion – the first leg of the Highland in the east – is not maintained in winter; if you’re traveling between November and March, you’ll need to skip this portion.)  Along the way, there are campgrounds, picnic areas, hiking trails and spots for fishing. Don’t miss a hike to the viewing decks at the Falls of Hills Creek, made up of three progressively larger waterfalls that culminate in a 19-meter cascade.

100 km
1.25 hours by car
03
Looking up at the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia
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Mountain High: New River Gorge

Hopefully you’ve rested up on your drive, because up next is a can’t-miss, thrill-packed experience. The New River Gorge National River is a protected waterway stretching for 85 kilometers through a stunning, pristine mountain gorge. Begin at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center for informative exhibits and videos. Step outside for a jaw-dropping view of the surroundings, and hike the trail partway down into the gorge for a glimpse at the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the most photographed landmarks in the state. Take the guided Bridge Walk Tour on the catwalk that runs just under this engineering marvel. At 267 meters high and 924 meters long, it’s a true bucket-list adventure. If you happen to be visiting in October, don’t miss the annual Bridge Day to watch BASE jumpers take the heart-stopping plunge off the bridge. It’s also the only day of the year that traffic is shut down to pedestrians. Some of the best whitewater rafting in the USA is right here on the New River. The outfitters that work here are top-notch and offer not only rafting, but paddle boarding, horseback riding, bouldering, rappelling, hiking and snowshoeing in the winter.

98 km
1 hour by car
04
Couple dining in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
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Capital Appeal in Charleston

Head northwest along Route 60, known as the Midland Trail, which parallels the Kanawha River and train tracks through historic coal-mining towns. The road will lead you directly into the capital city of Charleston, perfect for a change of pace from your outdoor wanderings. Learn about the state’s history at the West Virginia State Museum, see regional art displays at the Culture Center and tour the gold-domed state capitol building (all are free). Spend an afternoon and evening strolling the shops and eateries on historic Capitol Street. When you’re ready to get back to nature, Kanawha State Park has nine mountain biking trails, 40 kilometers of hiking trails, pond fishing and picnic areas. It’s a pleasant oasis just outside the city center. Your next destination will have you heading back south, giving you a chance to experience some more of the state’s epic outdoors.

93 km
1 hour by car
05
Small waterfall on Laurel Creek near Beckley, West Virginia
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Grand Views and Recreation in Beckley

Take Interstate 64 for a convenient drive into Beckley, a small city with a coal-mining history located in the southern curve of the state. Start with a visit to the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine (open April - November), a fascinating museum detailing the history of coal mining in West Virginia. You’ll see historical buildings and tour a real, abandoned underground coal mine. Next, head into the appropriately named Grandview portion of the New River Gorge, known for its springtime rhododendron blooms and unbelievable vistas. Take pictures of the long-range views of the river from the main overlook and take your pick from various hiking trails. Popular treks include the 2.6-kilometer scenic Grandview Rim Trail and the Castle Rock Trail, where you’ll meet with spectacular rocky cliff faces. Go ATV riding at Burning Rock Adventure Park, or head up to ACE Adventure Resort for all manner of adventure: whitewater rafting, rappelling, zip lining, mountain biking, kayaking and even a waterpark and activities for kids. Stay the night in a cabin, cottage or campground to rest up for your next excursion.

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171 km
1.5 hours by car
06
The stunning façade and exterior landscape of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
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Historic Luxury at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs

The town of White Sulphur Springs is known for one big thing: The Greenbrier. This National Historic Landmark resort has a history dating back more than 235 years, when people were drawn to the healing mineral springs. Today, it’s a luxury resort where you can pamper yourself with a spa day, a round of golf, upscale dining and a day of gaming at the casino. But, if you’re still itching for the outdoors, the Greenbrier won’t disappoint. You can go zip lining through the tree canopy, maneuver the alpine climbing tower or challenge yourself on the aerial adventure course. Back on the ground, try your hand at archery or falconry, or go horseback riding, hiking, off-roading or sport shooting. If water is what you’re after, there’s whitewater rafting, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing and kayaking. And here’s a fascinating bit of Greenbrier trivia: The property was a top-secret Congressional relocation shelter during the Cold War. You can take a tour of the now-declassified bunker.

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92 km
1 hour by car
07
Gorgeous sunset views at Shenandoah National Park
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A Perfect Send-off: Shenandoah National Park

Picturesque and popular, Shenandoah National Park was the first national park in the southeastern region of the USA. To get here, drive on Interstate 64/81, which, despite being a freeway, is quite scenic heading into Virginia. Exit the freeway right onto Skyline Drive, the park’s 169-kilometer, north-south artery. The drive itself is the stuff of road trip dreams, with 75 scenic overlooks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley. Have your camera handy at all times. Hiking is abundant here; there are more than 800 kilometers of trails of varying difficulty and natural features. Look for wildflowers, waterfalls, swimming holes, beautiful overlooks and wildlife. Enjoy fishing in the streams, bicycling on Skyline Drive, rock climbing, horseback riding and backcountry camping. Best of all, everything branches off Skyline Drive, making it easy to get directions and navigate to the park’s many attractions. Skyline Drive will take you all the way to the northern exit of the park at Front Royal, where you’ll head east for the hour-long drive back to Dulles International.

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