Endless Wall Trail at New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in West Virginia (photo courtesy of Visit Southern WV)
Travel | Long Weekends

6 West Virginia Mountain Towns to Visit this Summer

These communities serve as great bases for exploring the wealth of outdoor adventures, rich history and artistic heritage found in the Mountain State.

There are good reasons West Virginia is known as the Mountain State. It is not just the only state contained completely within the Appalachian Mountain region but it also has the highest average elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River. That means plenty of small towns are tucked within the landscape that have been shaped by life among the mountains and all the access to outdoor adventure that comes with it for generations. 

These six mountain towns offer much to see, do and experience — from food and music to shopping and hiking — but each also have their own distinctive destinations and personalities. For those those want to stay a bit closer to home, we have also highlighted a trio of cities along the Ohio River that offer plenty to explore as well. 

A vista in the Grandview portion of New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in West Virginia (photo courtesy of Beckley-Raleigh County Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Browse a market that showcases works by artists from across the state, visit a former coal mine and embrace outdoor adventure outside of town. 

As southern West Virginia’s largest population center, Beckley is a major shopping and entertainment area for the region. To start, Tamarack Marketplace art gallery displays more than 20,000 works by some 2,800 juried artists from all 55 West Virginia counties.

Nearby, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine provides travelers the opportunity to explore a former working mine, complete with the experience of riding in a “man car” that holds 35 people. Veteran miners guide the tours, which last about 35 minutes. (Be sure to bring a light jacket as temperatures in the mine hover around 58 degrees year-round.) Additionally, the Coal Camp, which has a museum and gift shop, offers the chance to step inside a restored coal-camp house, one-room miner’s shanty and school.

People in man car at Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Beckley-Raleigh County Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Just minutes from downtown Beckley, the 613-acre Piney Creek Preserve & Rec Area has two waterfalls on the Piney Creek Trail that are check-in points for the state’s West Virginia Waterfall Trail. Those who want to venture out a little farther should check out the peaceful Grandview area about 12 miles outside of Beckley, which offers sweeping vistas of the New River. Head to the Main Overlook to take in outstanding views of New River Gorge National Park & Preserve from 1,400 feet above the roaring waters. Grandview is also home to Theatre West Virginia, which stages outdoor plays and concerts from June through August.

Part of the Raleigh County Parks and Recreation Authority, Lake Stephens, located about 10 miles west of Beckley, has a park of more than 2,300 acres and a 272-surface-acre mountain lake for boating, fishing, and swimming. There’s a marina, concession stand, beach, water park and splash pad, disc golf course, RV and tent camping, and cabin rentals.

While you’re in Beckley, don’t miss The Chocolate Moose coffee shop. Not only does it offer freshly roasted coffee, hand-scooped ice cream and healthy fruit smoothies, it’s also home to a shaded, 18-hole miniature golf course as well as the Outside-In Gym, which offers bouldering and top-rope climbing.


Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine 

The Chocolate Moose


Lake Stephens 

Piney Creek Preserve & Rec Area

Tamarack Marketplace

Theatre West Virginia

People dancing at a festival at Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins (photo courtesy of Elkins County Tourism)
Take a train ride into the mountains, visit the Monongahela National Forest and explore the heritage festivals tied to this part of the state.  

In Randolph County, you can explore the lush Monongahela National Forest, enjoy museums and historic sites, or immerse yourself in the culture of a small Swiss village.

The dense Monongahela National Forest (or “Mon Forest,” as locals call it) encompasses more than 919,000 acres. There are many opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, mountain and gravel biking, fishing and cross-country skiing.

Head to the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad in Elkins for scenic train excursions through the national forest that include an “S” curve tunnel, a bridge crossing and rolling mountain views. The four-hour, 48-mile trip culminates at the High Falls of Cheat, an 18-foot-high, 150-foot-wide waterfall.

Monongahela National Forest sign in Elkins, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Elkins-Randolph County Tourism)

Originally built in 1893 as a senator’s summer retreat, Graceland Inn in Elkins is poised on the hillside of the campus of Davis & Elkins College and commands a 20-mile scenic view of the surrounding area. This beautifully restored Victorian mansion offers five rooms and fine dining at its Yonder restaurant.

In the summer, plan your trip around the West Virginia Wild and Wonderful Celtic Festival and Highland Games, which offers traditional Scottish feats of strength, dancers and entertainment, a longbow competition, activities for children, Celtic foods, pipe and drum bands, and local crafts. The Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins hosts its Summer Workshops, a three-week festival celebrating arts such as bluegrass, blues and zydeco music; Cajun, Irish and contra dance; and stone, wood and metal working.

Swiss and German settlers founded the Randolph County town of Helvetia, located roughly an hour’s drive southwest of Elkins, in 1869, and the community embraces its Germanic culture. Just before Fat Tuesday each year, the mountain town celebrates the end of winter during Fasnacht. The event encompasses a parade, musicians, artistic masks and square dancing, all of which culminates in the burning of an effigy of Old Man Winter in the evening. Summer travelers can stop in at The Hütte Restaurant to partake in authentic fare such as bratwurst, sauerbraten, and rösti. Be sure to save room for the peach cobbler.

The Mossy Merchant window display in Elkins, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Elkins-Randolph County Tourism)

Augusta Heritage Center

Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad 

Graceland Inn & Yonder 

The Hütte Restaurant

Monongahela National Forest

West Virginia Wild and Wonderful Celtic Festival and Highland Games


People on raft at New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in West Virginia (photo courtesy of West Virginia Department of Tourism)

Visit New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, choose from a variety of outdoor excursions and enjoy great food when your adventures are done for the day. 

Fayetteville offers great local shopping, entertainment venues and a rich mix of recreational activities, but there is also a surprising array of eateries located in this southern West Virginia town of fewer than 2,900 residents.

The Cathedral Cafe offers all-day breakfast and a lineup of lunch options that includes a variety of paninis (just be sure to get there early on the weekends), while The 304 offers great sandwiches, wings, burgers, and other fare. Arrowhead Bike Farm prepares German street food with a twist, creating dishes that are ready to pair with a lineup of various craft beers. There are picnic tables and firepits, a mountain bike shop, camping opportunities and even a pump track for the little ones.

Part of the West Virginia Historic Theatre Trail, the Historic Fayette Theater hosts a variety of performances throughout the year. Travelers can also enjoy live music and participate in trivia nights at Southside Junction Tap House or opt for the from-scratch breakfast menu at Wood Iron Eatery.

Interior of Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Visit Southern WV)

Many of Fayetteville’s boutique stores are walkable in the historic downtown and offer everything from outdoor gear to handcrafted collectibles. Find vintage knickknacks at The Hobbit Hole or take in local artwork at the Love Hope Center for the Arts.

Encompassing more than 72,000 acres, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve presents a swath of recreational opportunities. There are spectacular and spine-tingling catwalk tours beneath the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge, one of the longest single-span arch bridges in the world. The renowned Bridge Day celebration held on the third Saturday in October brings daredevils from around the globe to BASE jump off the bridge.

Local outfitters in the area provide opportunities for whitewater rafting, zip-line and aerial adventures, mountain biking, rock climbing and stand-up paddleboarding. To really get above it all, Wild Blue Adventure Co. offers scenic and stunt flights in a vintage Stearman biplane. 

Aerial view of Fayetteville, West Virginia (photo courtesy of West Virginia Department of Tourism)

Arrowhead Bike Farm 

Cathedral Cafe

Historic Fayette Theater 

The Hobbit Hole 

Love Hope Center for the Arts

New River Gorge National Park & Preserve 

Southside Junction Tap House 

Wild Blue Adventure Co. 

Wood Iron Eatery

The 304

Couple walking in downtown Morgantown, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Ascend Morgantown)
Enjoy a mix of downtown restaurants and breweries, explore Coopers Rock State Forest and delve into history in the nearby community of Arthurdale. 

Situated on the Monongahela River and home to West Virginia University, Morgantown is not only brimming with gold-and-blue school spirit but also vibrant nightlife, well-regarded restaurants and a cornucopia of shopping and art. 

Downtown is a mix of retail businesses, residential units and some 35 restaurants, cafes, clubs and taverns, most of which are located in turn-of-the-century buildings. Highlights include the 83-room historic Hotel Morgan and the equally historic The Metropolitan Theatre. Founded in 1924 and billed as “West Virginia’s most beautiful playhouse,” the venue hosts nationally touring performers and local artists.

When it’s time to eat, The Iron Horse Tavern and Table 9 both offer gastropub fare, while Mountain State Brewing Co. and Morgantown Brewing Co. both have taprooms in town that serve food. Other dining options include the steakhouse Bourbon Prime and the Italian fare of Oliverio’s Ristorante. 

River view of Morgantown, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Ascend Morgantown)

The 400-acre Mylan Park complex in Morgantown contains 14 different indoor and outdoor facilities, including athletic fields and some 180,000 square feet of indoor sport, recreation and event venues. There is an aquatic center, track-and-field complex, cross-country course, community center, event center and RV parking.

For outdoor adventure, head to local favorite Coopers Rock State Forest, which spans nearly 13,000 acres. Located off Interstate 68 and just a short drive northeast of Morgantown, the state forest includes canyon overlooks, historical sites, picnic areas, 50 miles of hiking and biking trails, sandstone cliffs for climbing and bouldering, a trout-filled lake and a nearby river. Be sure to take in the 360-degree views from the Coopers Rock overlook.

If you want to explore history, head to Arthurdale, located about 15 miles southeast of Morgantown. Established in 1933 as the nation’s first New Deal Homestead Community, it provided a new life for many who were suffering during the Great Depression. The New Deal Homestead Museum showcases a forge brimming with original tools, a period service station, the original administration building and a restored homestead. The Craft Shop offers Appalachian crafts and quality gifts.


Bourbon Prime 

Coopers Rock State Forest 

Hotel Morgan

The Iron Horse Tavern

The Metropolitan Theatre

New Deal Homestead Museum

Table 9

Oliverio’s Ristorante 

View of Blackwater Falls at West Virginia’s Blackwater Falls State Park (photo courtesy of Tucker County CVB)
Davis & Thomas
Make a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park, explore a portion of the expansive Dolly Sods Wilderness and enjoy the food and drink these twin mountain towns offer.  

Nestled in the heart of Tucker County, the tiny mountain town of Davis (population 588) is perched on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest and provides a perfect gateway to outdoor adventures. Nearby Blackwater Falls State Park is known for its namesake waterfall, a 57-foot beauty that runs with amber, tannin-tinted waters. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, disc golf, a snack bar and a cozy lodge.

Within the Monongahela National Forest, the 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness is known for its unique ecosystem, wide-open spaces and fantastic sunrise views. The Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge is the largest wetland complex in the state at 8,500 acres. Travelers can explore 31 miles of trails for hiking and 23 miles for biking or horseback riding and see nearly 200 species of birds throughout the year. 

Couple walking in downtown Thomas, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Tucker County CVB)

Food finds in Davis include the hearty, West Virginia-inspired burritos at Hellbender Burritos, where the namesake offering, The Hellbender, features shrimp or chicken in a spicy garlic Buffalo sauce with rice and homemade blue cheese dressing. Housed in a former steamship office, Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe churns out piping-hot pies as well as pasta dishes, hoagies and salads. Head to Milo’s Cafe and Restaurant at the Bright Morning Inn to enjoy poke bowls, a half-pound burger, soups and starters.

After a day spent exploring the outdoors, a refreshment at Stumptown Ales in Davis may be in order. Lauded as one of the state’s best breweries, it is known for its hop-centric offerings. Head to the town of Thomas, located 3 miles from Davis, to visit Mountain State Brewing Co., which has the distinction of being one of West Virginia’s oldest distributing microbreweries. It poured its first beers in 2005 and is known for its easy-drinking session ales and wood-fired flatbread pizzas.

Music lovers should not leave Thomas without a visit to the Purple Fiddle, which hosts more than 300 live music performances each year and has a casual, cafe-style restaurant that serves beer and wine. 

Chalk beer menu at Stumptown Ales in Davis, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Tucker County CVB)

Blackwater Falls State Park

Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge

Hellbender Burritos

Sirianni’s Pizza Cafe 

Bright Morning Inn

Stumptown Ales 

Mountain State Brewing Co. 

Purple Fiddle 


Riverside Finds 
These West Virginia cities along the Ohio River offer opportunities for summer exploring. 

Caswell-Smith House in Julia-Ann Square Historic District in Parkersburg (photo courtesy of Visit Greater Parkersburg)Parkersburg
This river town is your access point to Blennerhassett Island State Park. Travelers board a sternwheeler for the trip to the Ohio River island, where they can tour the grounds via horse-drawn wagons and visit the historic mansion. Complete the Greater Parkersburg Historic Mansion Trail by strolling past the 126 19th-century homes in the city’s Julian Ann Square Historic District, before proceeding to the Henderson Hall Plantation in Williamstown, West Virginia, and finishing the route at The Castle in Marietta, Ohio. For little learners, Parkersburg’s Discovery World on Market offers a children’s museum with three floors of interactive exhibits. For more information, visit greaterparkersburg.com.

Ropes course at Heritage Farm adventure park in Huntington, West Virginia (photo courtesy of Cabell-Huntington CVB)Huntington
In “H-Town,” Heritage Farm adventure park gets you moving via zip lines, an aerials course, UTV rides, a bouldering wall and mountain bike park. Meanwhile, the farm’s historic village includes multiple museums, an artisan center, blacksmith shop, gift shop, soda fountain and seasonal Christmas village. You can chow through the Huntington Area Hot Dog Trail to sample dogs from the area’s nine hot dog stands. Lodging includes a variety of bed-and-breakfast options as well as rustic cabins nestled into the hills. Many are close enough to enjoy downtown dining but far enough away to bask in the solitude of star-filled night skies. For more information, go to visithuntingtonwv.org.

Child by Almost Heaven, West Virginia sign in Wheeling (photo courtesy of Wheeling Convention & Visitors Bureau)Wheeling
Once the state capital of West Virginia, this historic town was situated on the National Road and served as a gateway to the west. Delve into its rich history by taking a self-guided tour of West Virginia Independence Hall, visit the Museums of Oglebay Institute to learn about decorative arts or explore an Adena burial mounds at Grave Creek Mound. You can also get active with Grand Vue Park’s 2,300 meters of dual zip lines, enjoy hands-on exhibits and gardens at Oglebay Resort’s Schrader Environmental Center or cruise the Heritage Trail System’s 18-mile riverside rail-trail for plenty of great views. For more information, go to visitwheelingwv.com.