When it comes to stunning landscapes and unique experiences, West Virginia offers it all. This mountainous state is known for its breathtaking natural beauty, charming towns, and rich history. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when planning a visit. In this article, we will guide you through the “Don’ts” of visiting West Virginia, ensuring that you have an unforgettable and safe trip.
Don’t confuse West Virginia with Western Virginia
First and foremost, it is crucial to understand that West Virginia and Western Virginia are two different states. In 1863, West Virginia separated from Virginia and joined the union. While both areas share similar topography, the vibe, people, and atmosphere are distinct. So, remember not to mistake one for the other when planning your trip.
The Heart and Soul – The Appalachian Mountains
When you think of West Virginia, the Appalachian Mountains immediately come to mind. These majestic mountains are the heart and soul of the state, lending it the nickname “The Mountain State.” It is essential not to mispronounce “Appalachian” when you are here, as the locals take great pride in their mountains.
Embrace the Mountains
Embrace the beauty of the mountains and make them an integral part of your West Virginia adventure. Whether you’re enjoying scenic drives, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking, or visiting state parks, the mountains will surround you. The Highland Scenic Highway is a must-do drive that offers breathtaking views of gorges, valleys, and mountain peaks. If you visit during the fall season, you will witness a mesmerizing display of foliage that will leave you in awe.
Safety in the Mountains
Driving through the mountains of West Virginia requires a specific set of skills and caution. The winding roads, sharp curves, and steep inclines demand attention and respect. Take heed of the warning signs for curves and reduce your speed accordingly, as failing to do so can be dangerous. Additionally, be mindful of trucks on the highway, as they struggle with the hilly terrain. Maintaining a safe distance and adhering to speed limits is essential to ensure a safe journey.
Bridges – The Hidden Gems of West Virginia
Don’t miss out on the chance to appreciate the unique and remarkable bridges that West Virginia has to offer. Unlike the standard cement bridges found elsewhere, West Virginia boasts beautifully crafted ironwork bridges that add charm to the landscape. One notable bridge is the New River Gorge Bridge, which can be spotted on postcards throughout the state.
Dress for Adventure
A visit to West Virginia means immersing yourself in outdoor activities and exploring its many trails, waterfalls, and mountains. To ensure a comfortable and safe experience, be sure to bring a good pair of sturdy shoes or hiking boots. The terrain can be slippery, with loose gravel and rugged paths. Proper footwear will protect you from potential injuries and allow you to fully enjoy your hiking or biking adventures. Additionally, pack layers of clothing, as temperatures can vary greatly throughout the day, especially if you are exploring higher elevations.
While exploring the wilderness and hiking trails, be prepared for limited cell service. The mountainous terrain can hinder signals from reaching your devices, leaving you without service in certain areas. Downloading maps and other necessary information beforehand is advisable, especially if you plan to venture into remote areas. Having a backup plan and prioritizing your safety is crucial when exploring off-the-beaten-path locations.
Indulge in Local Delicacies
No trip to West Virginia would be complete without indulging in some of its delicious local treats. Two must-try delicacies are the pepperoni rolls and the unique take on hot dogs. Pepperoni rolls consist of soft white bread stuffed with pepperoni and cheese. Think of it as an elevated, homemade, and mouthwatering version of a hot pocket. You can savor them hot or cold and enjoy them as a quick snack on the go. As for the hot dogs, they are served with a chili sauce (without beans) and topped with coleslaw, offering a unique and flavorful combination. Coleslaw, in fact, is not just a side dish but also a condiment to add some extra crunch and tang to your meals.
Contrary to popular belief, visiting West Virginia will not break the bank. This state is well-known for its affordability, making it an excellent destination for budget-conscious travelers. Accommodation, including national chain hotels, is reasonably priced, with rates that are often 20 to 40 percent lower compared to other locations. Dining out is equally affordable, with a plethora of family-owned restaurants and local establishments offering delicious meals at wallet-friendly prices. Exploring charming small towns that once thrived during the coal industry’s heyday is a fantastic way to get a taste of West Virginia’s unique charm.
Harper’s Ferry – A Must-Visit Destination
One place that should not be missed on your West Virginia itinerary is Harper’s Ferry. This historic town is located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, creating a picturesque setting that feels straight out of a Hallmark movie. With its scenic bridges, old town charm, and stunning churches, Harper’s Ferry will enchant you with its timeless beauty. While it may require a bit of a drive if you are coming from Washington, D.C., it is undoubtedly worth the visit.
Respect the Coal Industry
Lastly, it is crucial to acknowledge the significance of the coal industry in West Virginia’s history and economy. The coal industry played a vital role in the state’s development, employing generations of families. Although the industry’s presence has diminished over the years, it is essential to respect and understand its impact on the local community. For many West Virginians, the coal industry is interwoven with their heritage and cultural identity. Being mindful of this and engaging in respectful conversations about the industry will foster a deeper appreciation for the people and the state.
West Virginia offers a wealth of natural wonders, cultural treasures, and unique experiences for travelers seeking an escape into the beauty of nature. By following these “Don’ts” of visiting West Virginia, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. From embracing the mountains to trying local delicacies and exploring charming towns, this state will captivate you with its authenticity and breathtaking landscapes. So, pack your bags, put on your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure in the Mountain State.