The tapestry of autumn colors sets a perfect backdrop for many places, but there's something distinctively charming about West Virginia's small towns during this season. From the golden hues of the forests surrounding Elkins to the pristine beauty of Fayetteville's New River Gorge National Park and Reserve, West Virginia promises a visual feast.
Hinton is a small town in Summers County, West Virginia. The town dates back to 1837, and history buffs can enjoy the town's rich history in one of the town's many museums. There is the King's Civil War Museum, Railroad Museum, and Veterans Memorial Museum in town for people to enjoy. There is a large portion of untouched land near the town. This is perfect for enjoying the beauty of fall in the outdoors. Hinton sits along the New River, which is a 360-mile-long river flowing through North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia. In the fall, the park offers stunning views of the lake surrounded by the red and orange hues of the changing leaves.
Fayetteville is another town filled with numerous outdoor recreation opportunities to enjoy the fall. The town is in Fayette County, West Virginia, which is adjacent to the New River Gorge National Park and Reserve, which conserves the New River running through Hinton. Covering more than 70,000 acres, the New River Gorge National River is a part of the Appalachian Mountains. One of the most distinctive geographical features in the preserve is the New River Gorge. The Gorge has unique geographical features that exemplify the geology of the Appalachian Plateau—for example, the exposure of over 1,000 feet of sandstone and shale.
There are several outdoor recreation opportunities for visitors to enjoy, including hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing. In the fall, the preserve's forests have trees that change to beautiful hues of orange and red. Fayetteville is also south of the New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is one of the longest single-span arch bridges in the entire world. It is 876 feet high and offers a spectacular view of Fayetteville and the surrounding area.
Beyond the outdoors, Fayetteville also has a historic town square dating back to 1873. During the Civil War, people fought over the town. Both the North and South occupied the town at different times.
Harpers Ferry is yet another town with a rich history. The town is part of the Shenandoah Valley, where many famous Americans have visited, including Thomas Jefferson. According to Jefferson, the view from Harpers Ferry is “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.” Harpers Ferry is well known for its historic importance in the Civil War. The town is where John Brown's raid took place. In 1859, abolitionist John Brown organized a raid as an attempted slave revolt. The plan of the raid was to take over the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. The raid was unsuccessful, and the Marines arrested Brown. However, the raid started anxiety in the South since it threatened the current way of life. In Harpers Ferry, you can visit the spot where John Brown made his stand.
Beyond its significant history, Harpers Ferry is a town with beautiful scenery, and the town comes alive in the fall. Harpers Ferry sits between the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. At their convergence lies 'The Point,' a vantage spot offering an extravagant view. In the fall, the changing leaves enhance this panorama, making it especially captivating. The town is also near the Appalachian Trail. There is a visitor center for the trail in town where people can go to learn more about popular hikes in the area. Harpers Ferry is a significant point for hikers on the Appalachian Trail because it is the "psychological" halfway point on the trail. While it isn't the exact halfway point, it is often the spot where hikers, exhausted from their journey, consider themselves to be halfway.
Since Harpers Ferry has part of the Appalachian trail run through the town, it has the beauty of the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. In fall, the town has rolling hills of red, yellow, and green as the leaves change color. Whether you are in Harpers Ferry for the history or the Appalachian trail, the surreal scenery of the Appalachian Mountains is something everyone can appreciate.
Summersville is a little patch of West Virginian paradise. The town's second name is "Little Bahamas of the East" because it has Summersville Lake, West Virginia's largest lake, with over 2,800 acres of water and over 60 miles of shoreline. The town is a popular summer destination as people can enjoy snorkeling, kayaking, rafting, and paddle boarding. Every year during autumn, water from the Summersville Dam is released into the Gauley. This makes the river one of the best whitewater rivers in the United States. The Gauley River goes down 650 feet and spans 26 miles, with over 100 major rapids. This is a must-try for rafters and water sports lovers. Those who don't like the sound of water rafting can enjoy a panoramic view of Summersville Lake at the Summersville Lighthouse.
Morgantown is one of the larger towns on the list. It is a college town in Monongalia County, home to West Virginia University. Mountain lovers will love visiting Morgantown, West Virginia. The mountain town has no shortage of adventure. Morgantown is near Coopers Rock State Forest, a park filled with beautiful forests to hike through. The park has outlooks that give a full view of West Virginia state. Dorsey's Knob is one of the highest points in Monongalia, offering panoramic views of West Virginia. The Caperton and Deckers Creek rail trail is a hiking and biking trail that goes through the core of the forest, where you can see hundreds of native plant species. While Coopers Rock State Forest is a great place to visit throughout the year, in fall, with the autumn colors, the outlooks offer some of the most stunning views of West Virginia.
Elkins sits on the Monongahela National Forest, which has thousands of acres to explore. The changing foliage of the fall makes the forest come alive, and it is the perfect time for a hike. One of the most [popular trails to walk in Elkins is the Allegheny Highlands Trail. This is a 24.5-mile-long trail that follows the original route of the West Virginia Central and Pittsburg Railway. The trail passes through small towns and farmland. It is the perfect way to enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Elkins also hosts the Mountain State Forest Festival every fall. The festival has woodcrafts, parades, fair foods, carnival rides, live music, the crowning of Queen Silvia, lumberjack competitions, and art shows. The festival dates back over eighty years and is a beloved town tradition.
Embracing Autumn in West Virginia's Enchanting Towns
From the historical streets of Harpers Ferry to the lively festival atmosphere of Elkins, West Virginia in the fall presents an unparalleled blend of nature, history, and culture. The towns, each with their unique character, offer an invitation to immerse oneself in autumnal splendor. Whether seeking adventure, tranquility, or a touch of the past, visitors will find West Virginia's small towns to be the heartbeats of the season. So, as the leaves turn and the cool air settles, let the beauty of these towns be your autumnal guide.