West Virginia wasn’t named the Mountain State without reason. As you travel through the state, you can expect to see Mountain landscapes, beautiful scenery, and incredible outdoor adventures and activities.
The country roads of West Virginia will provide you with the perfect foundation for a relaxing and enjoyable getaway. A road trip through West Virginia makes for a great adventure for anyone, including couples, friend trips, and family vacations.
In order to ensure that you have a road trip worthwhile, we have put together a list of some of the best scenic drives in the state of West Virginia. West Virginia is home to America’s newest national park, 35 state parks, 9 state forests, and countless other outdoor adventures such as hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, and so much more.
There is a lot to cover as you travel through the state, so we have narrowed our list down to our top five scenic drives that any road-tripper will be sure to love!
Top 5 Scenic Drives in West Virginia
1. Scenic Drives in West Virginia: Highland Scenic Byway
- Distance: 43 miles
- Time needed: 1 Day
If you’re looking for a great day trip, a drive along the Highland Scenic Byway will surely check all the boxes for an incredible road trip. This byway is approximately 43 miles and extends from Richwood to US Route 219.
During your drive, there are a number of beautiful sights to enjoy, including Summit Lake, the Falls of Hills Creek, and the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Additionally, there are four established scenic overlooks that will give you a breathtaking view of the Allegheny Mountains. These overlooks include Big Spruce, Little Laurel, Red Lick, and Williams River.
When to go: The best time to embark on this road trip is between the months of May-September when temperatures are warmer, and the weather conditions are safer. The roads on this route are not maintained in the Winter months making the traveling conditions incredibly dangerous.
- Pro Tip: Traveling during the months of November through April are highly discouraged due to dangerous road conditions and the roads being nearly impossible to drive on during winter storms.
2. Scenic Drives in West Virginia: New River Gorge National Park
- Distance: 83 miles
- Time needed: 1 Day
New River Gorge National Park is the newest addition to National Parks in the United States, originally being established in 1978 but recently redesignated in 2020. This scenic drive stretches 83 miles along the New River and the gorge.
There are several great stops along the drive through New River Gorge National Park. Simply driving along the trail is beautiful enough and will take approximately 2.5-3 hours if driven straight through, but if you’d like to make it a longer day trip, here are a few scenic stops along the way:
Canyon Rim Visitor Center
The Canyon Rim Visitor Center is a great jumping-off point to your road trip. Here you can enjoy exhibits explaining the history of the River Gorge National Park and access a number of walkways that will lead you to one of the four scenic overlooks we mentioned previously.
Kaymoor Mine Area
The Kaymoor Coal Mine closed back in 1962, but the area is still accessible, and visiting the abandoned mine is a truly cool experience. The Kaymoor Miners trail is approximately 1 mile each way and will take you right into the coal mine site. This makes for a quick and simple stop along your drive.
Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall on the New River, spanning 1,500 feet wide. The falls mark the transition from the New River to the Gauley River and finally flowing into the Kanawha River. Pro tip: The river drops as deep as up to 25 feet in some areas, so be sure to always wear a life jacket when walking along or around the river.
When to go: Because being near the water can make the temperatures much colder, it is recommended that you visit this trail during the warmer months of the year, including April through October.
- Unlike many US National Parks, New River Gorge is completely free to enter! There are only primitive campsites available, so nowhere to hook up your RV but great for an overnight nature escape
3. Scenic Drives in West Virginia: Coal Heritage Trail
- Distance: 187 miles
- Time needed: 2 Days
The Coal Heritage Trail is part of the National Coal Heritage Area and crosses through 13 counties spanning 187 miles displaying the history of the coal miner’s historic coalfields. In the 1880s, coal became the largest source of energy, and this time period became known as the “coal boom”.
As you travel along the Coal Heritage Trail, you will see the history of the coal boom and see how coal miners lived, including homes, company stores, railroad yards, and more.
If you were to drive this trail straight through, it would take about 4.5 hours to drive, but with added stops and enjoying the sights, you can break this trail down into a two-day history-filled road trip. The trail starts on Route 52 in Bluefield and travels through Welch moving to Route 15 into Ansted.
Pro Tip: The Coal Mining industry plays a huge role in how the world operates today. If you are interested in learning more about coal mining, be sure to talk with some of the locals, and they will be able to share more in-depth details.
When to go: This trail is open all year round and is beautiful to visit at any time throughout the year. Of course, during the winter months, it is best to bundle up and wear plenty of layers to ensure you stay warm, especially if you embark on any walking trails.
4. Scenic Drives in West Virginia: Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike
- Distance: 180 miles
- Time needed: 2 Days
The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2005. This turnpike is roughly 180 miles and goes along the West Virginia border cutting through Virginia, West Virginia, and all the way to the Ohio River. The history, scenery, and nature that you will take in along the byway will make for a one-of-a-kind adventure.
As you travel along the byway, there are a number of fun outdoor activities and beautiful scenery that you will be able to enjoy. The Byway features a number of historical locations, including those from the Civil War. Some of the most popular points of interest along the way include:
Rich Mountain Battlefield
In July of 1861, during the Civil War, there was a battle at Rich Mountain where the Union troops scored a victory for the control of western Virginia, leading to West Virginia officially becoming a state just two years later. Today, you can visit the site and take in the history of the battle. In addition to the historical sites and exhibits, there are plenty of festivals and gatherings at the site.
Audra State Park
Audra State Park has become a widely popular family-friendly destination. There are a number of outdoor activities across the property, including hiking and biking trails, swimming and boating, fishing, and excellent campground locations.
Buffalo Lake is located in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest. The water in Buffalo Lake is absolutely beautiful, and it has become a popular spot for fishermen.
When to go: Because this byway is primarily outdoor-focused, it may be best to visit during the warmer months of the year. These areas are open year-round, but of course, during the winter months, when temperatures are low, it may make your trip a little less enjoyable.
5. Scenic Drives in West Virginia: Farm Heritage Byway
- Distance: 59 miles
- Time needed: 1 Day
We don’t know what it is but we are always thoroughly impressed by Farmland areas. The Farm Heritage byway will provide you with beautiful views of the Monroe County Farm Heritage lands.
The route has multiple geographical points that will make your drive worth spending the time traveling this byway. Some of these focal points include Indian Creek and the Sweet Springs Valley, and Peters Mountain. These farmlands have been in place since the late 1700s, and many of the houses, farms, and buildings show the history of how the farmland has evolved throughout the years, remaining as close to its original construction as possible.
When to go: This byway is available for travel year round, but of course, because it is primarily farmland focused, you will get the most of your experience visiting during the months that farming is in full function.
The Spring and Summer months are typically when farmers are putting in the most work. They are planting their crops and harvesting them, while in the Fall-early winter months is when they reap the rewards of their hard work.
Other Tips for Driving through West Virginia
- West Virginia is the mountain state and on many of these scenic drives, you will be driving in and around mountains. It is important that you drive safely and keep in mind that there may be one-lane roads, winding curves, and tight turns along your drive.
- Traveling in the mountains can be dangerous, particularly if you are traveling during months that may have inclement weather. A great way to make sure that your family stays safe and prepared is to ensure that you have an emergency road trip kit in your car at all times.
- Never forget an important road trip item again! Before hitting the road download our family road trip checklist to get you and your car prepared for the journey ahead
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