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Growing up in West Virginia for many of us was a childhood spent outdoors – hiking, fishing, camping, skiing or just having a picnic in one of the 37 state parks. In fact, our mountainous state has more than 470 picturesque trails for every level of hiker, including four miles of the Appalachian Trail through Harpers Ferry Historical National Park. 

My favorite trails are the ones in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Tucker County and New River Gorge National Park in Fayette County.

Canaan Valley’s high elevation and position in the Allegheny Mountains combine to create a cool climate more typical in Maine and Canada, supporting species, like balsam fir, cottongrass, woodcock and fisher usually found far north of here.  It is home to 580 rare species of plants which thrive in these high elevations. A breathtaking panorama of Canaan Valley (the highest valley in the eastern United States) awaits hikers from the top of Bald Knob at 4,308 feet in Canaan Valley State Park.

Dolly Sods Wilderness is atop one of the highest plateaus east of the Mississippi which also has weather typically found much further north in Canada. Some of the 47 hiking trails are trail-to-rail and old logging roads. It’s rocky and wild, with mountain laurels blooming in the summer and awe-inspiring views at Bear Rocks.

Three hours away, you have the New River Gorge National Park. It is incredibly popular with families for white water rafting, rock climbing, camping and hiking. For a 360-degree panorama view of the New River Gorge Bridge take the 3.0 mile hike on the Long Point Trail near Fayetteville. It is moderate level trail, perfect for mountain biking too.

But no matter what trail you take, go prepared for those day hikes. Make sure you have good boots, rain gear (W.V. mountains are notorious for their sudden downpours), enough food and water, trail maps, whistle and pepper spray for our curious black bears. And lastly, never forget your camera in the fall. Our colorful hardwoods, more than 100 species, will take your breath away.