5 Reasons To Plan A Last-Minute Trip To West Virginia For Fall Leaf-Peeping

Now is the time for peak foliage.

<p>Getty Images/Sean Pavone</p>

Getty Images/Sean Pavone

If West Virginia is almost heaven by default, then come autumn, which lingers into November here, it’s all out nirvana. Fall’s fiery painter’s palette licks its flames across mountainsides and paints snaking valleys golden, and an idyllic cabin escape with a side of soft family adventure awaits. Follow our lead for some of the sights you won’t want to miss in West Virginia this fall. 

Hike Along Long Point Trail

Kid-friendly hikes abound in the Mountain State. But one of the best, the Long Point Trail, takes you along a moderate 1.6-mile trail (one way) through the forest to a rocky outcropping that’s wide enough to walk across without getting vertigo (but you’ll still want to squeeze those little hands tightly). The reward? Incredible views overlooking the New River Gorge Bridge in the distance and the flaming hues of the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve all around. The vistas you get on this relatively easy hike are usually reserved for far more challenging adventures, and the reward is extra sweet when younger family members can share it with you. Afterward, join the cyclist crowds at Arrowhead Bike Farm, a sweet little spot with picnic tables and fire pits near the trailhead parking lot. Order a West Virginia craft beer (we suggest the Wild Trail Pale Ale) and a ginormous Bavarian-style pretzel.

<p>Getty Images/Ali Majdfar</p>

Getty Images/Ali Majdfar

Stay at a State Park Lodge

Why should the western part of the U.S. have all the fun when it comes to cozy state park lodges? Visitors to West Virginia are often surprised to learn that the state holds its own when it comes to state parks offering lodge-style stays that bring good old fashioned family fun to the plate, naturally.

In the southeastern part of the state, Pipestem Resort State Park’s McKeever Lodge has 111 rooms and suites, many of which overlook the gorge. Guests can enjoy a heated indoor pool year-round and take an aerial tram ride to the gorge floor as well as outings to nearby Bluestone State Park for picnics with lake views. In West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Cacapon Resort State Park’s lodge, the newest in the West Virginia State Parks system, has an onsite spa and a cozy fireplace that calls for board games and relaxing after outings in the cool autumn air. Other state park lodges to put on your radar? North Bend State Park Lodge, popular with the mountain biking crowd and for its family-friendly vibes, and Tygart Lake State Park Lodge, a more boutique stay with just 20 rooms overlooking a lake.

Support Appalachian Makers

Fall is certainly better than December for getting a head start on your holiday shopping. And to make sure your gifts skew more unique than the usual purchases ordered in last-minute holiday haste, head to the beloved Tamarack Marketplace near the historic coal-mining town of Beckley. Here, you can browse Appalachian makers’ stalls for everything from glass ornaments blown in a studio on-site to fine art, wood sculpture, and bespoke lighting crafted by a West Virginia metalworker. The center operates as a non-profit organization and showcases works by artists from across all 55 counties in West Virginia. There’s even a cafe where you can taste Appalachian favorites like West Virginia rainbow trout and fried green tomatoes. An underground tour of the Exhibition Coal Mine, nearby, is worth a detour in the area, too. Retired coal miners act as guides as you explore the dark tunnels aboard carts that roll along the original tracks.

Relax in Harper’s Ferry

Just an hour’s drive from the Capital Beltway, historic Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle is the perfect destination for a weekend cabin escape surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains. Hiking trails and forested fall and water views abound at every bend in the road in this scenic spot at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Stop for very West Virginian eats, like a pepperoni roll from H. B. Snallygaster's General Store & Cafe, or the giant cinnamon buns loaded with caramel, bacon, and walnuts at Battle Grounds Bakery & Coffee.

<p>Getty Images/Ali Majdfar</p>

Getty Images/Ali Majdfar

Go Camping at Coopers Rock

Take in Morgantown’s college town vibe with some brewery hopping (Chestnut Brew Works for artisanal West Virginia ales) and a University of West Virginia Mountaineers football game, before making a break for some of the state’s most dramatic views at Coopers Rock State Forest, near the Pennsylvania and Maryland border. The rock itself is a massive sandstone outcropping from which you can enjoy dramatic and colorful fall views overlooking the Cheat River Gorge, a superlative canyon that shimmers a dizzying distance below. There are 50 miles of hiking and biking trails to explore in the state forest as well as a six-acre pond stocked with trout if you’re tempted to toss out a line. McCollum campground, which stays open through December, is a beautiful spot to set up your tent surrounded by fall foliage. Mountain Creek Cabins has four cozy walls (complete with hot tubs and panoramic views) if you prefer something more solid. 

For more Southern Living news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Southern Living.