If you’re planning to visit West Virginia, then your must-see list most likely already includes popular attractions like the New River Gorge National River, Blackwater Falls State Park, and Seneca Caverns. However, there is a vast variety of lesser-known points of interest in this humble state that are just as mesmerizing. Step outside the box and experience a few places that usually only the locals know about. After settling into your West Virginia vacation rental, venture out to see these fantastic hidden gems.
1. Beartown State Park, Marlinton
Beartown is a 110-acre state park located near Hillsboro. It’s known for its unusual rock formations, massive boulders, overhanging cliffs and deep crevasses. Located on the eastern summit of Droop Mountain in northern Greenbrier County and a small portion of Pocahontas County, the park’s main attraction is a half-mile boardwalk which gives you a great view of everything the park has to offer. The park is open April to October, and off-season access is available by appointment. If all of the vacation rentals in Marlinton are booked up, check in nearby Hillsboro or Snowshoe.
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2. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Rock
The skeletal remains of this abandoned amusement park were built on an actual American Indian burial ground. The amusement park stands on the site of the Clay family massacre, which saw local Native Americans kidnap and kill members of a settling family. It opened in 1926 but closed later in 1966 after two children died on the park grounds. Come explore the land on your own or take a “Haunted Tour” of the park on or around Halloween.
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3. Foxfire KOA Campground, Milton
This KOA is on the western edge of the state and offers the best camping in West Virginia. Drop in for an overnight stay or plan your vacation for several days. Bring your RV or the smallest pup tent; this KOA can accommodate any camping unit. You can also stay in one of their rustic and deluxe cabins. Use this KOA as your base camp to enjoy local attractions such as the Blenko Glass Company or take an excursion to the Mountain Lakes region.
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This small town of about 5,000 people offers an artsy main street with art galleries, antique shops, dining and boutiques. The Huffington Post even named it one of America’s 15 Coolest Small Towns. Stroll up and down the historic streets of Buckhannon and you’ll find out what West Virginia hospitality really means.
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5. Nuttalburg, Fayetteville
Once an old mining facility, this West Virginia river gorge is a great hiking spot. The mine was closed in 1928 and sealed in 1958, but the towering remains of the long conveyor and processing facility still remain. What’s left of the old, brick coke ovens and railroad tracks are still visible but are slowly being overtaken by foliage. The ruins are now protected and cared for by the National Park Service, so hopefully the remains of this mine won’t completely disappear underneath the lush greenery.
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6. The West Virginia Wildlife Center, Upshur County
This is a great place to see the animals that are native to West Virginia without all the guilt that we sometimes feel at a zoo. The wildlife center is home to 29 different species of mammals, birds, and reptiles that are all kept in spacious chain-link enclosures within an actual West Virginian forest. Dedicated to presenting visitors a realistic and factual understanding of the state’s wildlife, the animals can be viewed along a 1.25 mile wheelchair-accessible interpretative trail.
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7. Stonewall Jackson Lake, Walkersville
This hidden gem in Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park offers 82 miles of shoreline. With so many recreation opportunities, you’ll never want to leave this beautiful spot. Activities range from boating to golf, and the resort has amenities for all ages. Other accommodations include a lodge, cottages, and campgrounds, and there are also three restaurants available.
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8. Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Weston
This creepy abandoned asylum is a popular spot for ghost hunters. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum operated from 1864 to 1994 and is famous for its looming structure. Much of the asylum remains closed off to the general public due to reports of paranormal activity, but a tour group holds nightly ghost hunts for anyone interested in the supernatural. The over-night ghost hunt tour costs around $100 per person and has limited slots available.
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9. Pietro’s Castle, Morgantown
This Morgantown landmark is being renovated by the Calvary Chapel Church and was recently opened to the public. It took five years for Italian immigrant and stonemason, Thoney Pietro, to complete the 3,400-square-foot castle that served as his home. It cost him about $200,000 to build back then, which equates to $3 million in today’s dollars! Pastor Shawn Frasher of Calvery Chapel Church saw a lot of potential in the building and has been restoring it to hold prayer meetings and Bible study.
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Once a booming coal depot in the early 20th century, Thurmond was only connected to the outside world by a single rail line. In 1935, Thurmond’s only bank collapsed and the once boomtown quickly turned into a ghost town. The National Bank of Thurmond and several other well-preserved structures such as a hotel still remain along the town’s main street. One of the town’s most prominent structures is a coal drop machine towering above the train tracks. To get to Thurmond, you drive over miles of scenic roads that twist along with the New River and then finally cross over the river using the single-lane bridge.
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