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While taking some back roads on a mega US road trip this month, I ended up driving around a part of the planet I hadn't seen in depth before -- absolutely wonderful eastern West Virginia. The gorgeous piece of US real estate is often best known for its silver screen appearances, and something I always loved about those flicks was the fabulous scenery happening; even creepy cult fave Wrong Turn showcases some beautiful backgrounds. Extremely good coffee? Found it. Brew pubs? Not so much. Drop-your-jaw drives and mountains forever? That's road tripping eastern West Virginia style.

Some drives worth doing in eastern West Virginia include my fave from this trip, a twisting trek over Shenandoah Mountain on US 250 on through Monongahela National Forest (that's it at left -- head west into the Allegheny mountains from Staunton, VA). I was driving into Phillippi where, yes, there is a Crislip Holler and a cool covered bridge, and stopped atop the pretty pass to read about Stonewall Jackson's civil war breastworks, still visible off the road, and do some hiking amid the trees. Mist was rolling down the mountains when I hit the highway again to haul up and down some nine percent grades -- use that excuse to stay in second gear, because that's the speed to see the scene here. Alternatively, "here" could be Highway 33 west from I-81 to meander into West Virginia's Potomac Highlands via 28 south to 250, where the white tailed deer bounce faster than my VW van can corner.

In the northeastern tip of West Virginia, I spent some time in historic Harper's Ferry National Park on the borders of Maryland and Virginia, where the park service leads daily walks past some Civil War spots -- good thing, as you can't park a car on most of the one winding road leading downtown. Birds on the bordering Shenandoah River, like the Louisiana heron (I believe; I'm no birdwatcher) at left, captivated me for hours -- if you're used to fast water, rivers so still that they grow green surfaces are something to see.

Stop at the Harper's Ferry Visitor Center, about one mile west of the Shenandoah River bridge off U.S. Route 340, to get the lay of the land and chat with some very friendly National Park Service folks.

Lodging can be had, of course, but camping is the summertime thing in West Virginia. I spent some nights in the National Forest, where you can always pull in for free, and one in the Harper's Ferry KOA; that's it at right on a misty mountain morning. KOA campgrounds offer free wifi these days, which was one of my big motivators -- kinda surreal to tap on a laptop in a campground. Drattedly, this KOA's wifi was awol for part of my stay, but it's a central spot for camping very near US 340, three state borders and the Harper's Ferry visitor center.

I had a dyno time in Shepherdstown -- drop by this college colony that's home to Shepherd University and the Contemporary American Theater Festival, just north of Harper's Ferry, for a ginger-banana-peach-cinnamon smoothie in the very cool Lost Dog coffee shop. See some art, hear some music and take away an XXX oily bag of French Roast.

People playing sack and people performing Civil War reenactments; Betty's Restaurant, which serves a mean looking dinner platter but doesn't take credit cards, near the Stone Soup Bistro and China Kitchen -- yeah, I like this town. The place to party? Didn't find it -- let us know if you've got the secret handshake and map.

If you go to Eastern West Virginia

West Virginia's mining history is long and deep -- educate yourself about what may lay just beyond a scenic vista. Understand how the Civil War split now-neighboring Virginia and created West Virginia. Now hit the road.

Related: Road Trip Photos: States Less Traveled | Road Trip Wonders: Iowa | Road trip planning 101 | How to Reserve in a Federal Campground Online | KOA Campgrounds Online | How to Find Free Travel Wifi

Photos: Kathleen Crislip
March 3, 2007 at 11:21 am
(1) Mike says:

Thanks. Very helpful.

December 2, 2008 at 2:37 am
(2) bed and breakfast in west virginia says:

Your post was very helpful. I thought I’d ad more. My family and I recently stayed at this great vacation farm / bed and breakfast in the south eastern portion of the state near lewisburg, wv. it is called pyne mountain farm and offers not only food and lodging but also ATVs, trails, ponds, internet access, foosball, a video library of 2000 titles… it was nuts, we stayed two extra days.

April 22, 2009 at 10:51 am
(3) southeastern west virginia says:

I agree with #2 – I’ve never been to Pyne Mountain Farm, but the area of SE West Virginia from Lewisburg up US Route 219 through Hillsboro and Marlinton is absolutely beautiful!

April 10, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(4) Jeff and Mary says:

Two years ago, we vacationed in Luray at wonderful Amish farmhouse for spring break. Our family loved the trip and enjoyed having the privacy of 70 acres. This year, we wanted to try something similar, but with the ability to ride ATVs and dirt bikes. We found the perfect place — Pyne Mountain Farm in Salt Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The beautiful and rustic log home built in the early 1800′s is located on approximately 500 acres with an elevation of 2100 feet. Miles and miles of old logging trails through all types of terrain are available for hiking, ATVs, motorcycles or off-road vehicles.

Our four children especially loved the 500 foot “zipline” that provided a thrilling, but safe trip from the log home to the barn.

All the wood we could use was provided for the furnace, fireplaces and the nightly fire pit where the kids enjoyed sitting around the campfire and making smores.

Five bedrooms and three bathrooms provided plenty of space for our family while two dogs, multiple cats, chickens, ducks and four horses provided lots of entertainment.

Wireless Internet was available, but everyone enjoyed the other amenities so much, we seldom used it.

The hosts, David and Theresa, were exceptionally friendly and thoughtful. The nearby town of Union, WV is very quaint and has several well-restored log homes from the 1800′s for those looking to explore some of the history of Monroe County.

Our kids told us this was our best vacation ever and we agree.

Jeff and Mary

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