Best National Parks in West Virginia [2024 Updated Guide]

West Virginia is home to some of the most beautiful national parks in the United States, offering a diverse range of natural landscapes and recreational activities for visitors to enjoy. From rugged mountain ranges to pristine rivers and forests, the state’s national parks showcase the unique beauty of the Appalachian region.

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a longer outdoor adventure, West Virginia’s national parks should be on your travel bucket list. The scenic beauty, aesthetic environment, and spotting of wildlife are some things you would fall in love with.

The Best National Parks in West Virginia

There’s a lot to explore in West Virginia, but the national parks over here are just too stunning and aesthetically pleasing for anyone to miss. Let’s take a closer look at the top 6 national parks in West Virginia and explore what makes each of them so special.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

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PERFECT FOR: Rock Climbing and Whitewater Rafting
New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts in southern West Virginia. It spans over 70,000 acres of wilderness and offers stunning views of the New River Gorge Bridge.

There are several activities that visitors can enjoy like hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and kayaking. The park boasts over 50 miles of hiking trails with varying difficulty levels, from easy walks to challenging treks through the mountains.

Apart from recreational activities, visitors can also spot a diverse range of wildlife in the park, including black bears, river otters, and bald eagles. It’s the ideal location for bird enthusiasts as well and you can spot over 170 species of birds in the Park.

The cost of visiting the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve depends on the season and the activities you plan to participate in. There are no entrance fees, but you may pay charges for camping, guided tours, and other activities.

The cost of camping generally ranges from $10 to $35 per night. One reason why we highly recommend this park is due to the amazing nightlife you’ll experience here while gazing at the sky, having some hot chicken, and cool life.

The breathtaking scenery and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation make New River Gorge National Park and Preserve a must-visit destination in West Virginia.

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Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

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PERFECT FOR: Bird Viewing and Fishing Enthusiasts
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Looking for a unique destination that combines history, nature, and adventure? Look no further than Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia! This park spans over 4,000 acres and is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

Step back in time as you explore the historic town that played a key role in the Civil War and the abolitionist movement. Discover the rich history of the region through ranger-led tours and educational programs. Take in the stunning views of the surrounding landscapes as you hike along the park’s scenic trails. The best part? The views aren’t everything about this park. One can also enjoy kayaking, tubing, and fishing.

Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse array of wildlife that call this park home, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and bald eagles. Bird enthusiasts will be delighted to spot over 150 species of birds in the area.

The cost of visiting Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is reasonable, with entrance fees starting at just $15 per person and valid for 7 days. While it’s one of the smaller National Parks, it’s packed with wildlife and the trails are in pristine condition making it one of the best national parks in West Virginia.

So, don’t miss out on the chance to experience the unique blend of history, nature, and adventure that Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has to offer.

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Gauley River National Recreation Area

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PERFECT FOR: Kayaking, Fishing and Rafting
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Gauley River National Recreation Area

Thrill-seekers looking for the ultimate adventure should look no further than Gauley River National Recreation Area in West Virginia! With over 25 miles of rapids ranging from class III to V+, this park offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the country.

Aside from rafting, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy at the park. Take a hike along one of the many scenic trails, go fishing or swimming in the river, or simply relax and take in the stunning natural beauty.

Wildlife is abundant in the park, with black bears, bobcats, and bald eagles among the many species that call the area home.

The best time to visit Gauley River National Recreation Area is during the fall season, typically between September and October, when the water levels are at their highest and the fall foliage is in full display. Keep in mind that rafting during this time can be more challenging and may not be suitable for beginners.

Entry to this park is reasonable, with entrance fees starting at just $10 per person and valid for 3 days. If you plan to camp in the park, campsites start at $22 per night. Whether you’re an experienced rafter or just looking to experience the great outdoors, Gauley River National Recreation Area has something for everyone.

Make sure to come prepared for your adventure at Gauley River National Recreation Area. It’s essential to wear appropriate clothing and footwear that can get wet, and bring along necessary safety gear such as a life jacket and helmet.

Additionally, some areas of the park can be remote and cell phone service may not be available, so be sure to inform someone of your plans and route before setting out. With proper planning and safety precautions, your trip to Gauley River National Recreation Area is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

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Bluestone National Scenic River

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PERFECT FOR: Aesthetic Beauty
West Virginia, Bluestone River
Bluestone River

Bluestone National Scenic River is a true gem in the West Virginia wilderness. This beautiful river and the surrounding landscape offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area.

One of the most popular activities in the park is floating or kayaking down the river. The calm waters and scenic views make for a relaxing and enjoyable experience for people of all ages. Fishing is also a popular activity in the river, with smallmouth bass and rock bass among the many species that can be caught.

As you float down the river, you will spot wildlife like white-tailed deer and black bears that call the park home. And don’t forget your camera – you never know when you’ll come across a picture-perfect moment!

The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, black bears, and numerous bird species. Keep your eyes open while exploring the park and you may be lucky enough to spot some of these beautiful creatures.

The best time to visit Bluestone National Scenic River is during the spring and summer months when the weather is warm and the river is at its most inviting. However, fall can also be a great time to visit, with the changing leaves offering stunning views.

The best part? Entrance to this park is free. Camping is available within the park, with campsites starting at just $10 per night making it one of the cheapest national parks in West Virginia.

So, whether you’re looking to spend a day floating down the river or want to set up camp and explore the surrounding wilderness, Bluestone National Scenic River is a must-visit destination in West Virginia.

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Appalachian National Scenic Trail

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PERFECT FOR: Hiking and Wildlife Viewing
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Appalachian National Scenic Trail

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails in the United States, and it spans over 2,000 miles through 14 states. In West Virginia, the trail winds its way through the Appalachian Mountains, offering stunning views and a true wilderness experience.

The trail is open to hikers year-round, but the best time to visit is in the fall when the leaves are changing and the temperatures are cooler. Spring and summer can also be great times to visit, but be prepared for warmer weather and the possibility of rain.

The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including black bears, white-tailed deer, and many species of birds. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready, as you may be lucky enough to spot some of these creatures on your hike.

Hiking is the main activity in the park, but there are also opportunities for camping and backpacking allowing you to have a fun night time too. Many hikers choose to camp along the trail, and there are several designated campsites with amenities such as water and restrooms.

It’s also important to plan ahead and be aware of the trail’s terrain and elevation changes. The trail can be steep in some areas, and hikers should be prepared for both uphill and downhill climbs. We also recommend studying the trail maps and elevation charts beforehand to have a better understanding of the route.

Another thing to consider when hiking the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is your safety. While the trail is generally safe to hike, you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings and wildlife in the park.

Black bears are usually shy and avoid contact with humans but hikers should take precautions to prevent encounters, such as storing food properly and making noise on the trail. If you do come across wildlife, give them plenty of space and observe from a safe distance. It is not advised to come close as they might attack you.

There is no cost to hike the trail or camp in the park, but permits may be required for certain activities. Overall, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a must-visit destination for any outdoor enthusiast or nature lover. So pack your backpack, lace up your hiking boots, and hit the trail for an adventure you’ll never forget.

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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

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PERFECT FOR: Wildlife Viewing
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is a must-visit destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who loves exploring the natural beauty of the United States.

The park is situated along the Potomac River and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, ospreys, and river otters. The best time to visit the park is in the spring and fall when the weather is mild and the foliage is at its peak. However, the park is open year-round, and each season offers its own unique beauty.

One of the most popular activities in the park is hiking or biking along the 184.5-mile towpath that runs parallel to the canal. This scenic path offers stunning views of the river and the surrounding countryside and provides an excellent opportunity to explore the history of the canal. You can also take a guided tour of the park, visit the visitor center, or attend one of the many ranger-led programs and events.

If you’re interested in boating, kayaking, or fishing, the Potomac River offers plenty of opportunities to get out on the water. You can also take a scenic boat tour of the canal and learn about its history and significance.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is a great place to learn about the history of the canal and the role it played in the development of the United States.

It’s also an excellent place to enjoy the natural beauty of West Virginia and take part in a variety of outdoor activities. So whether you’re a history buff or an outdoor enthusiast, be sure to add this park to your list of must-visit destinations in West Virginia.

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National Park Location Established Area (acres) Fun Activities
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Southern West Virginia 2020 72,808 Whitewater rafting, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, camping
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 1944 4,010 Hiking, history tours, museums, living history programs
Gauley River National Recreation Area Southern West Virginia 1978 11,224 Whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, camping
Bluestone National Scenic River Southern West Virginia 1988 11,071 Fishing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping
Appalachian National Scenic Trail Runs from Maine to Georgia, including West Virginia 1968 2,200 (within West Virginia) Hiking, camping, backpacking
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C., including West Virginia 1971 20,577 (within West Virginia) Biking, hiking, fishing, camping

Things to Consider Before Visiting National Parks in West Virginia

Visiting national parks in West Virginia is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the area, but it’s important to consider a few things before you go. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Seasonal Weather Conditions

West Virginia experiences a range of weather conditions, which can get quite rough at times. Before planning your visit, check the weather forecast and pack accordingly. Summer months can be hot and humid, while winter months can bring snow and ice. It’s also important to note that some parks may have limited access or be closed during certain seasons.

Park Regulations

Each national park has its own set of rules and regulations, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with them before your visit. This can include restrictions on camping, hiking, and other activities. Be sure to check the park’s website or call ahead to get the most up-to-date information.

Wildlife Safety

West Virginia is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, snakes, and other potentially dangerous animals. It’s important to take proper precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of the animals. This includes keeping a safe distance from wildlife, properly storing food and trash, and following any other guidelines set by the park.

Plan Your Trip

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead when visiting national parks in West Virginia. This can include booking campsites or lodging in advance, bringing a map or GPS device, and packing plenty of food and water for your trip.

By keeping these things in mind before your visit, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in West Virginia’s national parks.

How We Pick Our Recommendations?

When it comes to choosing the best National Parks in West Virginia, the main consideration is that the Park is officially declared a “National Park”. While there are several other national recreational areas in West Virginia, we only discussed the official National Parks. Apart from all that, we also consider the ease of visiting the Park, the facilities provided, activities to do in the area, and the abundance of wildlife. These aspects are usually most looked after by visitors as well. We also considered the view of other visitors to make our choices the most validated ones for the readers.

Final Thoughts

West Virginia is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes and has breathtaking views that are unmatched. The National Parks in this State are well-managed, have well-maintained facilities, and are abundant in wildlife. Best of all, you can enjoy a complete hiking experience on one of the many famous trails in West Virginia.

National Parks in West Virginia

What is the most suitable time to visit National Parks in West Virginia?

The most suitable time to visit National Parks in West Virginia is in the summer between May and September. The rivers are unfrozen at this time, the water warms up a bit and it’s the perfect time for fishing and kayaking. Summer is also ideal for camping and wildlife viewing

What is the best National Park in West Virginia?

The best National Park in West Virginia is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It contains abundant wildlife and offers fishing, whitewater rapid rafting and other fun activities to do. This National Park is also home to over 2000 historical sites.

What is West Virginia Famous For?

West Virginia is famous for its spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and thousands of historical sites over the State. It also contains some of the most frequented National Parks and is home to a section of the Appalachian Trail.

Sara Anwar
Sara Anwar is hopdes' US director and a globetrotter. She joined the Hopdes team in July 2022. She has done more than 300,000 miles back and forth. She's been to more than 80% of the world, and her passion for understanding different cultures has only grown stronger with time. A traveler at heart, she loves to experience new cultures and learn new languages. Sara's wealth of travel experience makes her the perfect person to oversee a travel website – after all, who knows better what travelers want and need than she does?

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