Barge going under the Famous Suspension Bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia.

7 Breathtaking Towns to Visit in West Virginia

West Virginia, known as the "Mountain State," is entirely located within the Appalachian Mountain range, making it one of the most mountainous states in the U.S. This geographical trait provides a plethora of scenic vistas and contributes to the state's significant coal mining industry, historically a key element of West Virginia's economy. Its high elevation and dense forests make it a popular destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting.

West Virginia is home to breathtakingly beautiful small towns among its mountains—retreats with close-knit community vibes and natural surroundings. Do not miss visiting these seven top spots.

Harpers Ferry

Overlook with hiker people women couple, colorful orange yellow foliage fall autumn forest with small village town by river in West Virginia
Overlook with hikers in Harper's Ferry, WV. Image credit Andriy Blokhin via Shutterstock.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. It was the site of John Brown's infamous 1859 raid on the Harpers Ferry Armory, an event that aimed to initiate a slave uprising and is often cited as a catalyst for the Civil War. Harpers Ferry also has a rich African American history, housing one of the earliest integrated schools in the United States.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has an array of exhibits, museums, and living history presentations that bring the area's past to life, including its Native American heritage, early industry, and the Civil War. Jefferson Rock is a notable landmark named after Thomas Jefferson who stood there in 1783 and remarked on the view being worth a voyage across the Atlantic. It has vistas of the surrounding rivers and mountains. Finally, The Point, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, overlooks the natural landscape and is a perfect spot for photographers.

White Sulphur Springs

Greenbrier Hotel resort exterior entrance with landscaped flowers, lawn, cars, in West Virginia
Greenbrier Hotel resort exterior entrance. Image credit Andriy Blokhin via Shutterstock.

White Sulphur Springs is a quaint town in Greenbrier County known for its therapeutic mineral springs and mountain setting. The town’s springs have attracted visitors seeking curative properties since the early 19th century. White Sulphur Springs grew significantly around these mineral springs, most notably with the establishment of The Greenbrier. This resort has hosted numerous distinguished guests over its long history, including U.S. Presidents and international dignitaries.

The Greenbrier State Forest is for hiking, camping, and mountain biking amidst dense forests and rugged terrain. This state forest also has picnic areas and scenic overlooks with views of the Allegheny Mountains. The White Sulphur Springs National Fish Hatchery focuses on conserving and restoring aquatic species, particularly the rainbow trout. Educational tours highlight the importance of biodiversity. Additionally, The Greenbrier Historical Society and North House Museum, located in the heart of town, show the local history through artifacts, documents, and exhibits.


Autumn sun rays on fall foliage at Glade Creek grist mill at Babcock State Park near Fayetteville WV
Autumn sun rays on fall foliage at Glade Creek grist mill at Babcock State Park near Fayetteville, WV.

Fayetteville is a small town in southern West Virginia. Its history is deeply connected to the coal and timber industries, which flourished during the 19th and early 20th centuries. With the decline of coal mining, Fayetteville transformed into a hub for outdoor tourism and adventure, thanks to its proximity to one of the oldest rivers in North America. The New River Gorge is known for its deep canyons and expansive vistas.

For those visiting Fayetteville, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a premier destination for rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and hiking, with views and challenging terrain across one of the deepest river gorges in the Appalachian Mountains. The Canyon Rim Visitor Center is a gateway to the park. It has educational displays and a viewing deck for observing the famous New River Gorge Bridge. Fayette Station Road offers a scenic drive that winds down into the heart of the gorge, letting visitors experience the river up close.


Flags fly in front of the Upshur County Court House in Buckhannon West Virginia
Flags fly in front of the Upshur County Court House in Buckhannon. Image credit Steve Heap via Shutterstock.

Buckhannon, West Virginia, is a town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Upshur County. Established in 1816, Buckhannon's history is closely linked to the American frontier and later the development of the local timber and coal industries. The town's setting along the Buckhannon River provides a backdrop to its downtown, which features architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Audra State Park has lush forests, rushing river waters, and campsites. The park is particularly popular for its walking trails, river swimming, and picnicking spots. Buckhannon is perhaps best known for its annual Strawberry Festival, a community event held in May that celebrates the region’s agricultural heritage with parades, strawberry treats, crafts, and live entertainment. It draws visitors and residents together in festive spirit. Artistry on Main is another highlight. It displays local artisans’ works in a cooperative gallery, including glass, pottery, and paintings.


Welcome to Historic Grafton The Birthplace of Mother's Day sign
Welcome to Historic Grafton, The Birthplace of Mother's Day sign. Image credit Daniel L. Locke via Shutterstock.

Grafton, West Virginia, is a historically significant town in Taylor County. Founded in 1856, Grafton originally developed around the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The town is notably recognized in American history as the birthplace of Mother's Day, established in 1908 when Anna Jarvis organized the first observance. Geographically, Grafton is located near the Tygart Valley River, attracting nature enthusiasts.

Tygart Lake State Park is ideal for those looking to enjoy boating, fishing, and hiking. The park features Tygart Lake, a 10-mile-long, 1,750-acre reservoir. The Mother’s Day Shrine is a must-visit for its historical importance; it not only commemorates the creation of Mother's Day but also offers insights into the life of Anna Jarvis and the early 20th-century efforts to honor mothers. Meanwhile, Valley Falls State Park has a series of rugged falls and rapids along the Tygart Valley River for picnicking, hiking, and photography.


Barge going under the Famous Suspension Bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia
Barge going under the Famous Suspension Bridge at Wheeling, West Virginia

Wheeling is along the Ohio River in the northern panhandle of the state. Established in 1769, it became a significant frontier town, pivotal in the westward expansion during the early 19th century. In 1863, after seceding from Virginia during the Civil War, it was the capital of the newly formed state of West Virginia. Wheeling's strategic location made it a key transportation hub on the river and, later, with the railroad's arrival.

The Wheeling Heritage Trail is a multi-use trail that runs along the river through the town and has a paved path for biking, walking, and in-line skating. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge is a feat of 19th-century engineering. It connects downtown Wheeling with Wheeling Island. When completed in 1849, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world. Victorian Old Town, another must-visit, showcases Wheeling’s rich architectural heritage with preserved Victorian homes. It is often bustling with walking tours and special events.


The New Tygart Flyer vintage diesel-powered train locomotive out of Elkins, West Virginia, United States
The New Tygart Flyer vintage diesel-powered train locomotive out of Elkins. Image credit Wirestock Creators via Shutterstock.

Elkins, West Virginia, is a town in the center of the Appalachian Mountains. Founded in 1890 by Senators Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins, it was located at the junction of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway. Elkins developed as a business and cultural hub, enriched by its natural resources and the burgeoning railroad industry. The city’s historical architecture, particularly in its downtown area, reflects the prosperity of the early 20th century.

Visitors to Elkins can ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad through the Appalachian Mountains in a historic steam-driven locomotive. The Monongahela National Forest, another top attraction, is ideal for outdoor recreation and wildlife observation, with hundreds of miles of trails for hiking and biking. The forest's ecosystems range from lush forests to highland bogs. For those interested in arts and entertainment, the Gandy Dancer Theatre and Conference Center hosts a variety of performances, including lively dinner shows featuring music, dance, and comedy.

West Virginia's breathtaking small towns are jewels nestled within its mountainous terrain. Harpers Ferry, with its rich Civil War history and scenic confluence of rivers, is a reflective journey through America's past. Fayetteville has thrilling outdoor adventures set against the dramatic backdrop of the New River Gorge. Meanwhile, Buckhannon's community spirit is showcased during its festive Strawberry Festival. Along with the others mentioned, these towns are gateways to exploring West Virginia's rugged landscapes, making them must-visit destinations for those seeking adventure and natural beauty.

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