Potomac Highlands

Overview

Introduction

The Potomac Highlands area, about 150 mi/240 km northeast of Charleston, is one of West Virginia's most popular destinations—and with good reason. It has a lovely mountain setting that allows year-round recreation (skiing in the winter; golf, hiking, biking, rock climbing and white-water rafting in the summer).

The highlands incorporate the Canaan Valley (pronounced kah-NANE) as well as two national forests and other public lands.

Snowshoe Mountain Resort near Slatyfork is the state's largest ski resort and enjoys the best snow conditions in the Mid-Atlantic. It also has an excellent golf course, The Raven; a small lake; an alpine village with shops and restaurants; and activities such as sporting clays, fishing, and ATV excursions.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park has a lodge and other overnight accommodations and contains ski slopes, hiking trails and facilities for swimming and tennis. We recommend it highly. Canaan Valley is the state's oldest ski resort. It's very much oriented to families and offers cross-country ski trails and an ice-skating rink in addition to the downhill slopes. The resort has an 850-ft/260-m vertical drop and a maximum run of 6,000 ft/1,830 m.

Nearby is Blackwater Falls State Park, set in a rocky, grass-covered gorge. The falls are named for their lovely "black" color—though they're actually closer to dark brown. The water picks up the color from leaves as it flows through the area: This "forest tea" is completely natural.

The very impressive Monongahela National Forest and George Washington National Forest both contain wilderness areas and rivers for recreational use. Among the options are hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, rafting and scenic drives. Rock climbing at Seneca Rocks in the Monongahela Forest is one of the area's big attractions. The rocks are a striking natural feature (up to 900 ft/275 m tall) and are a world-class rock-climbing site that draws climbers from around the globe.

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center in French Creek is a small state zoo, but we think you'll remember your visit. An array of the state's indigenous wildlife live in the zoo, which was carved out of a section of forest and is ringed by a 1.5-mile/2.4-kilometer walking trail. What we especially liked was the large amount of space the bison, elk, foxes and other animals had to roam.

For breathtaking views—and a chance to spot bald eagles and osprey—take the Potomac Eagle Excursion Train out of Romney for a 3.5-hour round-trip ride through the South Branch Trough of the Potomac River. The diesel-powered train offers sightseeing and dinner tours.

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