If you’re not a fan of nature, West Virginia might not be the state for you – although there’s still plenty to enjoy aside from the outdoors. Here’s how to spend seven days in the “Mountain State.”
Day 1 – Make it to Morgantown
We’ll start our trip in the college town of Morgantown, WV, home of West Virginia University. In order to get there, I suggest flying into Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) in Pennsylvania, and renting a car for a drop-off at Charleston’s West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW). Pittsburgh International Airport is less than 90 minutes north of Morgantown and offers passengers more flight options than flying directly into the small Morgantown Municipal Airport (MGW). By entering Pennsylvania first, you’ll enjoy knocking two states off your bucket list at once.
Day 2 – Explore Morgantown
On your first full day in Morgantown, spend the day exploring the charming college town with plenty of eateries, a bustling Farmer’s Market, and no shortage of sporting events at West Virginia University. If you’re looking to enjoy a family day in the sunshine, enjoy some fresh air at scenic Dorsey’s Knob Park and Disc Golf Course.
Day 3 – Tour the West Virginia Penitentiary
Although it’s a bit of a drive, with another passing through Pennsylvania highly recommended as the best driving route, the West Virginia Penitentiary is 1.5 hours northwest of Morgantown in Moundsville, WV. This penitentiary was in operation from 1897 to 1995, and now offers guided historical day tours and exhilarating paranormal twilight tours for those looking to thrill-seek in a gothic prison. During the Halloween season, visitors flock to the penitentiary’s numerous haunted house attractions. To book a tour and read more about the West Virginia Penitentiary, visit www.wvpentours.com.
Day 4 – Pricketts Fort State Park
Less than 30 minutes south of Morgantown is Pricketts Fort State Park, which is a perfect blend of nature and history for family members and solo travelers of all ages. Enjoy the historical re-enactments of colonial life and watch actors engage in activities such as basketry, blacksmithing, and pottery. Those less interested in the park’s historical features can find trails for hiking and biking, as well as opportunities for fishing (with the proper licensing). My advice is to check out of your Morgantown accommodation in the early morning, spend a few hours at Pricketts Fort State Park, then make the long drive south to Charleston, WV, to get a good nights’ rest before the following day’s activities in a new National Park.
Day 5 – New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
In 2021, West Virginia’s New River Gorge National River was redesignated by Congress as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Home to an iconic bridge most frequently seen by visitors on postcards, New River Gorge National Park offers scenic drives, hiking, whitewater rafting, and more. Depending on traffic and weather conditions, the heart of the park sits around 60 miles southeast of Charleston, with numerous stops for waterfall viewing along the drive to the New River Gorge Bridge. If you’re feeling brave, you can book a guided walk along the catwalk that spans across the 3,000-foot bridge. For available dates, times, and pricing, visit www.bridgewalk.com to learn more.
Day 6 – Point Pleasant
Spooky movie enthusiasts can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, which is approximately an hour northwest of Charleston and houses props from the famous film The Mothman Prophecies. Learn about the local legend before taking a stroll along the Point Pleasant Riverfront Park, which follows the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers. Across the Ohio River sits the city of Gallipolis, Ohio, connected by the Kanauga Railroad Bridge. Although Point Pleasant is far from a large metropolis, visitors will find quaint shops, restaurants, and pretty sights for a nice day trip from Charleston.
Not interested in learning about the legend of the Mothman? In the capital city of Charleston, learn more about West Virginia’s state history at the West Virginia State Museum and the West Virginia Veterans Memorial. In the nearby Kanawha State Forest, hikers can walk along part of the Mary Draper Ingles Trail, which follows the 1755 escape route of Shawnee captive Mary Draper Ingles, who was accompanied by an elderly Dutch woman for hundreds of miles along the Kanawha, Ohio, and New Rivers.
Day 7 – Depart Charleston
Wake up early to catch a Belgian waffle breakfast platter or fresh frittata at Charleston’s CoCo’s before catching your flight home from CRW. Don’t forget to leave yourself plenty of time to drop-off your rental car and make it through TSA for a stress-free flight home.