City Hiking Guides

Best Hikes in West Virginia for Every Skill Level

POSTED ON April 3, 2024 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

West Virginia, often referred to as the “Mountain State,” offers an awe-inspiring canvas of natural beauty that beckons many hikers from across the globe.

Nestled within the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is home to some of the best hikes in West Virginia. These hiking trails not only challenge adventurers but also reward them with the best views the state has to offer.

Whether you’re a seasoned explorer looking for your next conquest or a newbie gearing up for your first-ever hike in West Virginia, the diversity and breathtaking beauty of these trails promise an unforgettable experience.

From the rugged terrain that tests your endurance to serene walks through lush forests, West Virginia provides a perfect playground for every skill level. Prepare to be enchanted by the rich tapestry of flora and fauna, cascading waterfalls, and panoramic mountain vistas that define the quintessential hiking experience in the Mountain State.

Beginner Trails

For many hikers, discovering the best hikes in West Virginia starts with the trails that welcome beginners. These pathways offer more than just a simple walk; they are a favorite hike for those who admire gorgeous views without the necessity of advanced technical skills.

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely trek or a perfect place to start your hiking hobby, West Virginia’s beginner trails are an exceptional choice.

Red Cardinal Trail at Valley Falls State Park

Valley Falls State Park

  • Location: Valley Falls State Park, Fairmont, WV
  • Distance: 1 mile (1.6 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Around 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Loop

Nestled in the expansive 1,145-acre (1.79 sq. mi.) Valley Falls State Park in Fairmont, WV, the Red Cardinal Trail presents an easy loop perfect for hikers of all ages and skill levels. This trail is one of eight available pathways that together offer roughly 18 miles (about 29 km) of hiking adventures. The Red Cardinal, in particular, is renowned for its accessibility and gentle terrain, making it an ideal choice for a leisurely hike that doesn’t skimp on scenic views.

This trail is highlighted by its mesmerizing views of the park’s picturesque waterfalls, which serve as a stunning backdrop for a day out in nature. Hikers can enjoy gentle riverside walks, perfect for calming the mind and observing local wildlife. Besides the natural beauty, the trail is located within a state park that offers ample amenities, including picnic areas and facilities.

Gentle Trail in Blackwater Falls State Park

Gentle Trail in Blackwater Falls State Park

  • Location: Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis, WV
  • Distance: 0.25 mile (about 400 meters)
  • Hiking Duration: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Out and Back
  • Download the park map.

Blackwater Falls State Park is a treasure trove for outdoor enthusiasts. The Gentle Trail stands out as a perfect entry-level experience, a brief yet rewarding trek that leads adventurers to an exceptional vantage point.

Embarking on this easy, short, paved path begins at a conveniently located parking area across from the maintenance site, guiding visitors on an immersive path that culminates at a well-designed observation deck.

This trail is a gateway to the park’s most celebrated attractions, Blackwater Falls. The observation deck at the trail’s end offers an incredible view of this natural marvel, framed by the broader scenic splendor of Blackwater Canyon.

North Bend Rail Trail

Part of the North Bend Rail Trail near Ellenboro, West Virginia.

  • Location: North-central to western West Virginia
  • Distance: 72 miles (116 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Variable (multiple access points for shorter walks)
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The North Bend Rail Trail is a historic rail trail stretching 72 miles (116 km) across the picturesque landscapes of north-central and western West Virginia. Blending easy-to-moderate hiking and biking opportunities, the trail is renowned for its scenic beauty, featuring rural landscapes, small towns, and a rich tapestry of natural splendor. This trail is not just a path but a gateway to exploring the heart of Appalachia, dotted with tunnels and bridges that tell tales of a bygone era.

This trail is part of the expansive 6,800-mile (10,900) American Discovery Trail and boasts an impressive array of sights, including 36 bridges and 10 tunnels, with the “haunted” Silver Run Tunnel (location) and a 2,297-foot (700 meter) tunnel as its crown jewels.

Travelers are treated to a diverse visual feast, ranging from shaded tree canopies and rock cuts to expansive farmland, making the North Bend Rail Trail one of the most celebrated recreational paths through the Appalachians.

Huckleberry Trail

Huckleberry Trail

  • Location: Connects the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Virginia
  • Distance: 15 miles (24 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Variable
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Huckleberry Trail, while not located in West Virginia but nearby in Virginia, is a significant paved path that extends from Blacksburg to Christiansburg. This purpose-built trail serves as a crucial link within a larger 60-mile (96 km) network of both paved and natural surface trails, encompassing the Coal Mining Heritage Park, McDonald Hollow Trail Network, Gateway Trail, and the extensive Poverty Creek Trail System. It stands as a spine, supporting and integrating various local trail systems into a cohesive recreational and transportation corridor.

Rich in scenic beauty and cultural history, the trail offers users a unique opportunity to explore the heart of the Appalachian region. The Coal Mining Heritage Park, located along the trail, provides insights into the area’s coal mining past, while the connectivity to other trail systems like the Poverty Creek Trail System allows for more extensive hikes and exploration.

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Moderate Trails

For those ready to take their hikes up a notch, West Virginia’s moderate trails offer the perfect path to do so. These trails allow hikers to explore the Eastern Panhandle and beyond, featuring some of the state’s best-known landmarks along the way.

Whether you’re looking for a more challenging walk or aiming to check off some of the top hikes on your bucket list, these trails promise adventure and scenic beauty at every turn.

Seneca Rocks Trail

Tech Adventures at Seneca Rocks and Nelson Rocks Via Ferrata

  • Location: Seneca Rocks, WV
  • Distance: approximately 3.6 miles (6 km) round trip
  • Hiking Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back

The Seneca Rocks Trail leads adventurers through the Monongahela National Forest to the South Peak of Seneca Rocks, a striking quartzite crag that towers above the North Fork River. Recognized as one of West Virginia’s most iconic landmarks, this trail offers an unforgettable hike culminating in an observation platform at the summit that provides a panoramic view of the rugged landscape. Well-maintained with several switchbacks, the path ensures a steady, albeit moderate, climb suitable for most hikers seeking to engage with the state’s natural splendor.

Seneca Rocks is a veritable hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts and rock climbers, famed for its towering presence and scenic allure. The observation platform’s vantage point reveals breathtaking views of the famous rocks and the surrounding forest.

Bear Rocks Preserve Trail in Dolly Sods Wilderness

Bear Rocks Preserve Trail in Dolly Sods Wilderness

  • Location: Dolly Sods Wilderness, Maysville, WV
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (3.9 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: out and back
  • Direction

The Bear Rocks Trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area offers hikers a moderate trek that is rich in natural beauty and geological wonders. This trail is set within a stunning high-altitude plateau on the Allegheny Plateau, providing unique vistas of the Eastern U.S. Its path meanders through a landscape adorned with remarkable rock formations and an array of flora that is not commonly found at these elevations elsewhere in West Virginia. The trailhead located near the Red Creek Campground serves as the perfect starting point for an immersive nature experience.

What makes this trail truly stand out are the breathtaking views it offers, spanning rolling hills, verdant valleys, and the rugged terrain of the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

For those seeking to extend their adventure, Bear Rocks Trail intersects with the Dobbin Grade Trail and Raven Ridge Trail, enabling visitors to explore further into the heart of this majestic wilderness. This intersection provides varied hiking experiences and connects hikers to more extensive networks of trails.

Endless Wall Trail

overlook view from the Endless Wall trail

  • Location: New River Gorge National River, Edmond, WV
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (3.8 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Loop

The Endless Wall Trail is a well-used loop trail in the New River Gorge National River area near Edmond, WV. Known for its striking cliff-top views, this trail offers hikers a unique vantage point overlooking the New River Gorge Bridge, enveloped by dense woodland. The trail begins and can be accessed from either the Nuttall Trailhead or Fern Creek Trailhead, with the path guiding hikers along the cliff line to Diamond Point overlook (location), where one can experience some of the most breathtaking vistas of the river gorge.

Favored not only for its scenic beauty, the Endless Wall Trail also boasts renowned rock climbing spots along its route, making it a popular destination for adventure seekers. Approximately a quarter mile from the trailheads, hikers find themselves at breathtaking overlooks yielding incredible views of the gorge. This loop trail encapsulates the essence of West Virginia’s natural allure, providing an unforgettable outdoor experience for hikers and climbers alike.

Long Point Trail

Railroad Bridge in the New River Gorge, West Virginia.

  • Location: Near Fayetteville, West Virginia
  • Distance: 3.2 miles (5.15 km) round trip
  • Hiking Duration: 2–3 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back

The Long Point Trail, nestled in the beautiful region of New River Gorge National Park & Preserve near Fayetteville, West Virginia, is a hike that offers some of the most stunning views of the New River Gorge Bridge. The trail is rated as moderate, making it accessible for hikers of various skill levels. A notable feature of this trail is the panoramic views it affords hikers, especially at the turn-around point, Long Point, where the expanse of the New River Gorge Bridge stretches impressively below.

Open to both hikers and bikers, the Long Point Trail encourages adventurers to explore the beauty of West Virginia’s landscapes. While mountain bikes are welcome on most of the trail, they are not permitted on the last 0.2 miles (320 meters), ensuring that all visitors can enjoy the tranquility of the final viewpoint. The trail, which begins at a designated parking area, provides a rewarding outdoor experience, culminating in breathtaking views that make the hike well worth the effort.

Fern Creek Trailhead

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

  • Location: Near Edmond, WV
  • Distance: 2.4 miles (3.8 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 2–3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy-to-Moderate
  • Trail Type: Loop

The Fern Creek Trailhead, situated in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, near the quaint town of Edmond, WV, marks the beginning of an enchanting loop trail. Renowned for its manageable difficulty level, this trail caters to a wide array of outdoor enthusiasts, from casual walkers to more earnest hikers looking to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of West Virginia. Fern Creek itself offers a serene backdrop to the trail, punctuated by the lush foliage and the melodious sound of flowing water that accompanies hikers throughout their journey.

The highlight of the trail is undoubtedly the majestic view from Diamond Point, a renowned overlook that offers hikers panoramic vistas of the rugged landscape. This spot serves as a reward for those who traverse the easy-to-moderate path, providing a stunning viewpoint from which to appreciate the beauty of the area.

Coopers Rock State Forest Hiking Trails

Coopers Rock State Forest

  • Location: Bruceton Mills, WV
  • Size: 12,747 acres (19.9 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 21
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Nearly 50 miles (80 km)
  • Download the map of Coopers Rock hiking trails

Cooper Rock State Forest is renowned for its extensive network of trails that cater to hikers and bikers with varying levels of skill and endurance. These trails encompass the forest’s rugged and scenic terrain, ranging from easy walks to more challenging, steep treks. The diversity of the trails ensures that every visitor, regardless of their experience level, can find a route that matches their abilities.

One of the most celebrated features of Coopers Rock State Forest is its proximity to the Cheat River, which provides stunning riverside vistas and opportunities for water-based recreation. Among the 21 trails, there are 10 moderate and 11 easy trails, ensuring that beginners and seasoned hikers alike can enjoy exploring the natural beauty of the area.

Challenging Trails

For those seeking a thrilling hike in the rugged terrain of the Appalachian Mountains, challenging trails in West Virginia offer an unbeatable opportunity. These paths beckon adventurers to explore the untamed eastern part of the state, providing experiences that push the limits of even seasoned hikers.

Embarking on these hikes leads to breathtaking vistas and a profound sense of accomplishment.

North Fork Mountain Trail

Whispering Spruce Trail, Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, Monongahela National Forest, Pendleton County, West Virginia

  • Location: Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and Monongahela National Forest, WV
  • Distance: 24.7 miles (40 km)
  • Hiking Duration: can take a whole day or two
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The North Fork Mountain Trail (NFMT) is a cherished path through the picturesque landscapes of the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and Monongahela National Forest. It’s recognized for its challenging terrain, which offers seasoned hikers a rewarding experience. This trail has garnered acclaim as one of the best in West Virginia, thanks to its stunning natural beauty and the sense of accomplishment it provides to those who traverse its length.

One of the trail’s most iconic sights is Chimney Top, offering unparalleled views that are a highlight for many hikers.

Spruce Knob to Seneca Creek

Seneca Creek

  • Location: Monongahela National Forest, WV
  • Distance: About 26 miles (41 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 2-3 days
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Spruce Knob to Seneca Creek hike (direction), nestled in the expansive Monongahela National Forest, is renowned for its challenging treks that culminate in some of the most rewarding views of the Allegheny Mountains. The trail begins at the highest point in West Virginia – Spruce Knob, standing at 4,863 feet (1,482 meters) above sea level. Here, an observation tower just beyond the parking area provides hikers with breathtaking vistas atop Spruce Mountain, offering an unrivaled panoramic view of the region’s rugged landscape.

This point-to-point hike is not only coveted for its considerable elevation gain and the highest peak but also for the varied natural attractions along the route, including cascading waterfalls along Seneca Creek and the iconic Chimney Top. The path meanders through dense forests, opens up to sprawling meadows, and passes by tranquil water bodies, making every step of the trail an exploration of West Virginia’s pristine wilderness.

For more information on Spruce Knob and trail guidance, visit Seneca Creek Backcountry.

Kaymoor Trail in New River Gorge National Park

Kaymoor Trail @ New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

  • Location: New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, WV
  • Distance: About 8.6 miles (13.8 km) one way
  • Hiking Duration: Varies, depending on pace and exploration time
  • Difficulty: Challenging-to-moderate
  • Trail Type: Out and back

The Kaymoor Trail in New River Gorge National Park & Preserve stands as a testament to the rich coal mining history that shaped West Virginia. This trail is not just a path for hiking and biking; it’s a historical journey that runs parallel to the middle of the gorge, guiding adventurers through the lush, dense forests before making a steep descent to the ruins of old coal mining operations at Kaymoor. The trail presents multiple elevation changes that offer a physical challenge and an opportunity for introspection about the area’s industrial past.

Beyond its historical significance, the steep descent into the Kaymoor site reveals the remnants of a once-thriving coal mining community, providing a stark contrast to the natural beauty of the gorge.

Hikers and bikers are advised to prepare for the trail’s challenges, but the rewards are unparalleled, with panoramic vistas and a unique historical perspective.

Maryland Heights Trail (Overlook Cliffs)

Maryland Heights Trail (Overlook Cliffs)

  • Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Distance: 4.5–6.5 miles (7.2–10.5 km) round trip
  • Hiking Duration: 3–4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
  • Trail Type: Loop

The Maryland Heights Trail (Overlook Cliffs) is known for its demanding yet satisfying trek that combines historical exploration with breathtaking natural scenery. This trail challenges hikers with its moderate-to-strenuous difficulty level, rewarding adventurers with panoramic views of Harpers Ferry and the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.

Along the trail, hikers encounter historic remnants from the Civil War, adding a deep sense of the past to the natural beauty of the surroundings. The ascent to the overlook cliffs is regarded as particularly rewarding, offering stunning vistas that capture the essence of the Appalachian landscape.

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Harpers Ferry from Maryland Heights

  • Location: Millboro, Virginia
  • Size: 1.8 million acres
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Unidentified
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Over 2,200 miles (3,540 km)

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Millboro, Virginia, sprawl across the Appalachian Mountains, crossing the states of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. These forests are a premier destination for hikers. Among these, the forests boast 325 miles (525 km) of the Appalachian Trail, offering more of this iconic trek than any other national forest in the United States. This myriad of trails navigates through untouched wildernesses, and serene scenic areas and is complemented by designated national recreation trails.

Aside from their extensive trail network, visitors can explore various wilderness areas, each presenting unique vistas and ecosystems. For those interested in more structured experiences, several trails are specially designated as national recreation trails, providing well-maintained paths through some of the forests’ most striking landscapes. An ample parking lot is available, making access convenient for day-trippers and camping enthusiasts.

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Conclusion

For avid backpackers and hikers, West Virginia offers some of the best hikes in the United States. With its numerous rugged routes, ranging from the highest peaks at Spruce Knob to the historical depths of Kaymoor Trail and the scenic overlooks of Maryland Heights, this state promises an unforgettable backpacking adventure.

These hiking trails challenge and provide a deep connection to the natural world and the rich history of West Virginia.

Whether you seek the solitude of untamed wilderness or the thrill of exploring historical sites, the best hikes in West Virginia await to take you on a remarkable journey through some of the most captivating landscapes the Appalachian region offers.

Explore other well-known trails for breathtaking treks in our city hiking guides archive.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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