On Fall's Trail in West Virginia

What to Do and Where to Do It
Fall on the Gauley
Fall on the Gauley

Bike the Canaan Mountain Backcountry

In the Monongahela National Forest, fall color comes from maples, beech, birch, oak. Elevations in the 3000-4000-foot range mean that the fall color here is more like Canada's than like color in the rest of West Virginia. Wildlife include black bear, wild turkey, and the Northern Virginia flying squirrel. The Canaan Loop road is a good place to start, an 18-mile primitive road that loops from Rt. 32 to Blackwater Falls State Park, covering much of the perimeter of Canaan Mountain.
Access: Take Rt. 32 south 3.3 miles from the Blackwater River bridge in Davis to a large white sign that points to "#1 Wilderness Road". This is the Canaan Loop Road. The area is full of trails, fireroads, and railroad grades.
Peak color: late September

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Paddle the Gauley River

With a riverbed that drops more than 800 feet in a 27-mile stretch, therugged Gauley River's two distinct sections are considered by many to be the ultimatechallenge in whitewater rafting. The Lower Gauley features more than 20major roller-coaster rapids, including"Heaven Help Us" and "Lower Stair Steps."There are more than 30 major rapids on the even more demanding upper section of whitewater. The Gauley's rafting areas also feature some of West Virginia's most picturesquestate parks, famous for their wildlife and remarkable scenery. The lastSaturday of Gauley Season is also Bridge Day in Fayetteville, an annualevent that draws BASE jumpers from around the world and more than 200,000visitors to the world's longest steel arch bridge.

Access: US 19 just south of Mt. Nebo.
Peak color: Late October

More about the Gauley River

Hike the New River Gorge

The Kaymoor Trail along the New River Gorge National River offers a different way to see this popular paddling destination. While it's only threemiles long, the Kaymoor Trail provides lets hikers take in some tremendousviews, fall colors, and industrial history. Beginning just off FayetteStation Road (below the world famous New River Gorge Bridge), the trailfollows an old road to the former coal mining site of Kaymoor. At the closedmine, a steep set of steps leads down the New River canyon to the ghost townsite at river level. Hikers can view the ancient New River and whitewaterrafters as well as the 876-feet-high New River Gorge Bridge from the base ofthe gorge.
Access: Interstate 64 & 77, U.S. Route 19.
Peak color: mid-October

More about the New River.

Hike and Bike the Greenbrier River Trail

Originally a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, this 76-mileabandoned grade was ranked by Backpacker Magazine as one of the top ten hiking trails in the United States. The Greenbrier is one of the state's most successful rails-to-trails conversions, running from North Caldwell to one mile south of Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Extending 75 miles and traversing 35 bridges and two tunnels, the trail parallels the Greenbrier River, is less than a 1 percent grade, and features some of the best pastoral and woodland scenery the state has to offer. Novice and intermediate mountain bikers will appreciate the packed gravel surfaces on the majority of the trail. Stop to nibble on wild strawberries, juicy blackberries or crisp apples that grow plentifully along the length of the trail. Twelve rustic campsites are available along the trail.
Access: US 219 just north of Lewisburg.
Peak color: Late October

Drive the Highland Scenic Highway

Crisp, early frosts begin painting West Virginia's woodlands with color from mid-September to early October. Some of the state's most stunning autumn beauty and breathtaking vistas can be witnessed by driving over the Highland Scenic Highway (WV 150), 23 miles of unspoiled, unsettled plateaus and valleys at an average of nearly 4,000 feet in elevation. At the southern end of the scenic highway is Cranberry Glades, a natural botanical garden of unique bog vegetation and plant life living far south of its normal range. To the east, off US 219, is Watoga State Park, thestate's largest park at 10,100 acres. It offers vacation cabins and camping facilities. Farther down U.S. 219, in Hillsboro, is the birthplace of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Pearl S. Buck. The Highland Scenic Highway is a nationally designated scenic byway.
Access: West of West Virginia 55 between Slaty Fork and Edray.
Peak color: Late September

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Hike the North Fork Mountain Trail

This 24-mile trail in the Monongahela National Forest extends along North Fork Mountain, providing excellent viewsof the surrounding Allegheny Mountains. Start off of West Virginia 28/55 about six miles west of Petersburg. The trail comes out on US 33 near Franklin. Water is not available along this trail, and it's pretty rugged in spots. At the nearby junction of West Virginia 28 and US 33 is the Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area and its new Discovery Center. A trail from the Discovery Center leads hikers to the top of the world-famous SenecaRocks crag, one of the few steep peaks of its kind accessible to hikers aswell as climbers.
Access: West Virginia 28/55 about six miles west of Petersburg.
Peak color: Late September

More about Monongahela National Forest.

Hike Manns Creek Gorge Trail at Babcock State Park

Connecting Fayette County's Babcock State Park and Camp George WashingtonCarver, the Manns Creek Gorge trail is three miles of scenic grandeur. Numerous rocky ledges and outcroppings yield views of the 1,000-feet-deep Manns Creek Gorge. In the fall, the hardwood trees meet rhododendron at cliffside, providing a stunning view of the sandstone saturated by leaves of deep red, orange, and yellow in the canyon below. The trail follows along the canyon rim, thenmeanders back into gigantic thickets of rhododendron that literally createtunnels through which hikers must pass. The hike descends an old mule trail toManns Creek, where water tumbles over smoothly eroded rocks as it heads tothe New River. The waterfall spot along the trail is a perfect place forsunbathing or taking in some cool mountain water. The trail ends on anabandoned railroad bed just below Babcock State Park's campground.
Access: Thetrail begins at a large parking lot at Camp Washington Carver. Babcock State Park lies off of West Virginia 41 just south of Clifton.
Peak color: Late October

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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