This is the third and final installment of our summer road trip through West Virginia.
After a restful night at the hotel of the same name, we had wanted to bop on over to Blennerhassett Island, but were pressed for time. It was nearly two hours out to North Bend Rail Trail, and we had photos opps to tackle.
So instead, we headed to everyone’s favorite on-the-way-out-of-Parkersburg joint, JR’s Donut Castle, for snacks to go. The donuts did not blow my mind, but they were pretty tasty.
And they made for great photos, so there’s that, too.
By 9am, we were on the road in the direction of the North Bend Rails, which Google told us was about 45 minutes away, then we arrived and found the lodge it had mapped us to was an actual derelict (former) school with a massacred teddy bear next to a “NO TRESPASSIG [sic]” sign.
We compromised and turned around to try a new direction. In the end, it turns out you should never listen to Google Maps; it took us to Cairo when we needed to go to east of there almost to Harrisville. Once we righted that wrong, we were on the path toward the rail tunnels.
These seventy-two miles of former railroad-turned-hiking trails are popular with a number of old railway tunnels that make for great photos (and OK, a little learning, too). We hiked a mile or so out and went through just one, and I felt like we were on our way to Terminus the entire walk.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long—are you sensing a theme to this trip? go, go, go!—as we had things to do in Charleston, namely visit the Capitol Market before it closed. We were also supposed to run by Spencer on the way, but we ran out of time (why does everything in the Mountain State have to be so dang far?). Oh well, next visit for sure.
After a snack and wander around the Market, we went just south of the city to JQ Dickinson Salt-Works, wishing we’d been in town days earlier for their popular farm-to-table dinners beneath the stars.
But we were able to take a tour anyway and get a lay of the land, sample some salts and take others home with us.
And then, another hour (more like two) of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, and we were at Adventures on the Gorge just in time for sunset and S’mores around the campfire—my favorite way to end any night, really.
Drive time: 195 miles / 3 hours, 34 minutes
Adventures on the Gorge was so cool with its cabins and activities galore—another adult summer camp, it seems; one where you can also bring the kids—but unfortunately we were only really there to sleep as we had to make it all the way back to Tennessee that day. Wah!
So, it was up bright and early and into the cantina for breakfast before we took a stroll down to the viewing platform of New River Gorge Bridge, which is located just across the street from the entrance to AOG.
For many years after it was constructed in 1977, it was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge (it’s now third in the world and the longest in the northern hemisphere), and the New River flows beneath it.
Not only is it a magnificent site to see, but the Gauley has some of the best Class V rapids in the world for those of you who love a little whitewater rafting.
On the way back to Interstate-64, we detoured for one final time to see Babcock State Park and its old Grist Mill. Once we arrived, though, we wanted to take a dip and weren’t technically allowed to swim—this was the case in a handful of the state parks we visited—so we snapped a few pics and then continued on our merry way.
One day, I’ll make it back to New River Gorge and do this place justice, this I promise you.
Note: Our trip was amazing, delicious and full of fun, but I do not recommend going at the pace we did. In all, we drove more than 1,500 miles in five days and needed a vacation from our vacation when we got home! If I were to do it again, I’d pick one region—like New River Gorge, for example—and spend a good four or five days there. You have no idea how much time it actually takes to drive what seem like relatively short distances in West Virginia until you actually get there and see for yourself that they’re not.
Drive time: 479 miles / 7 hours, 37 minutes
Need more West Virginia advice? Check out these posts:
- Kickstarting a West Virginia Road Trip: Huntington, Morgantown & Coopers Rock
- A West Virginia Road Trip: Adventures in Grand Vue & Parkersburg