One if by land, two if by train, mountain bike, or canoe.

By Zoe Denenberg
March 08, 2021
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West Virginia is home to plenty of hidden gems worth exploring, staying true to its state motto: "Wild, wonderful." From its age-old rivers to well-trodden hiking trails, West Virginia has made a name for itself as an outdoorsman's paradise, and Elkins is the perfect place to pitch your tent. Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, Elkins is no stranger to small-town charm (or spectacular fall color). Whether your choice mode of transportation is hiking, mountain biking, or cross-country skiing, the West Virginia wilderness has something for everyone to explore.

The mountain town proudly regards itself as "the gateway to the Monongahela National Forest." Located in eastern West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains, Monongahela National Forest spans 919,000 acres of land—according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, it also happens to be one of the most ecologically diverse areas in the nation.

When it comes to hiking, you have plenty of options at this national forest, which boasts a whole network of trails. Six hundred miles of coldwater streams—in addition to four man-made lakes—make the Monongahela National Forest an ideal destination for trout fishing year-round. In the warmer months, the forest's waterways are a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing.

Don't miss Seneca Rocks, one of West Virginia's most popular natural landmarks and rock climbing destinations. Afterwards, drive over to Spruce Knob, also known as the highest point in West Virginia— walk the Whispering Spruce Trail for spectacular views, and get a wide-panning vista from the observation tower.

Not into hiking, but still want a little outdoors excitement? Cruise down the Highland Scenic Highway, a stretch of elevated backcountry road offering stunning views at four scenic overlooks. This destination is particularly remarkable in the autumn months, when the Allegheny Highlands burst into a brilliant show of fall color. Pro tip: Park the car and venture just three quarters of a mile off the highway to see three waterfalls at the Falls of Hills Creek.

Rally the whole family and gear up for a Mountain Rail Adventure. Starting this summer, you'll be able to ride on the historic Cass Scenic Railroad in a vintage steam locomotive. Take a four-and-a-half hour journey up to Bald Knob, where the Appalachian Mountain views only become more breathtaking as the train climbs in altitude. This activity is fantastic for the whole family; kids and adults alike will marvel at the scenery and are sure to remember this unforgettable ride in a historic train car.

When it's time to refuel, Elkins is home to a number of casual eateries perfect for a pit stop. At Byrd's House of Donuts, they're frying up delectable donuts fresh every day; try the honey-dipped German Chocolate donut and, in the fall, it's impossible to resist a classic Maple Ring. If you're in search of an outstanding burger, swing by Scottie's or C.J. Maggie's. The small town's crown jewel, however, is the Forks Inn Restaurant, located at the quaint lodge atop Kelly Mountain. Come for an elevated three-course meal, then stay for a botanical drink at the bar (you'll find us sipping on a Dandelion Martini).