This West Virginia Region Has Epic National Parks, Charming Small Towns, and Spas With Natural Mineral Baths
Here's how to plan your trip in any season.
The gravel road that takes visitors to West Virginia's Cacapon Mountain Overlook looks like something out of a fairy tale.
A thick tunnel of towering trees lines the route, only letting through a few golden rays along the way. The road ends with a makeshift parking lot to the left and the overlook, which sits at 2,285 feet above sea level, to the right, treating visitors to spectacular panoramic mountain views. A sign proclaims it "one of West Virginia's best-kept secrets." But the overlook — and the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia it sits in — deserves to be discovered.
The overlook is part of the 6,000-acre Cacapon Resort State Park, located in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, about two hours from Washington, DC. It's all part of a scenic region that encompasses charming small towns such as Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry, and Berkeley Springs and is a year-round playground for nature lovers thanks to its stunning fall foliage and mineral springs. Here's what you need to know to plan the perfect weekend in the area.
Visit Berkley Springs, Following in the Footsteps of George Washington
When George Washington first visited Berkley Springs in 1748, the quaint town was known as Medicine Springs, named after its healing mineral waters. The future president kept returning to bathe in the warm hot springs and even renamed it Bath, referencing England's renowned spa town.
Today, the town continues to draw visitors with an eclectic mix of businesses, including clothing and jewelry stores, food shops offering artisanal cheeses and oil, coffee shops (we're looking at you,Fairfax Coffee House), and even two local breweries. There's also an exciting dining scene in town thanks to Lot 12 Public House, led by James Beard Award–nominated chef Damian Heath.
Soak in the Area's Mineral-bath Spas
The main attraction in Berkley Springs is most certainly its mineral-bath spas, especially those at the Old Roman Bathhouse. The recently renovated bathhouse has saunas, baths, and various healing massage treatments for anyone interested in a fully immersive experience.
Need more? The Atasia Spa has its own mineral whirlpool baths, a eucalyptus steam room, and a full menu of face, body, and beauty treatments.
Stay at the Cacapon Resort State Park Lodge
Travelers seeking an all-in-one experience should head to the nearby Cacapon Resort State Park Lodge in Berkeley Springs. With a full spa, a large indoor heated pool, a whirlpool, and a fitness center, it is the ultimate West Virginia wellness escape.
The 124-room lodge was renovated in 2021 and sits on a hill overlooking the property's 18-hole golf course. After a day spent outside, guests can unwind in the lodge's elegant, family-friendly restaurant or gather around its fire pit or in the indoor lounge areas.
Just outside the lodge, guests will find the surrounding state park, which comes with 20 miles of hiking trails. The park is also home to a small swimming lake with a beach and boats available for rent in the summer, a children's playground, and a Nature Center with year-round programming for guests of all ages.
Visit Harpers Ferry, Where 8 National Parks Converge
No visit to this part of West Virginia is complete without a stop at the town of Harpers Ferry, the converging point of eight national parks and historic sites, and certainly one of the most charming small towns along the Appalachian Trail.
Harpers Ferry, home to fewer than 300 full-time residents, is also where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers come together and continue their way to the Chesapeake Bay. A viewpoint with an observation deck located in the historic downtown area of Harpers Ferry allows travelers to marvel at the rugged landscape and see three different states — Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia.
This gem of a small town is a treasure trove of picture-perfect mountain vistas, scenic trails, heritage sites, museums, and waterways. Even the town itself is distinct. It's a designated National Historic District by the National Register and is a place that will transport visitors back to the 1800s with its restored Victorian buildings and neo-Gothic cathedral.
See the National Parks
Travelers with a National Parks annual pass can use a convenient parking lot just off the main street in downtown Harpers Ferry with additional parking available a short five-minute drive away. (Non-passholders can still enter the park but need to find a different place to leave their car.)
Travelers looking to reconnect with nature have plenty of choices here. As the mid-point of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Harpers Ferry area boasts about 22 miles of hiking trails of all difficulty levels (the Visitor Center at 171 Shoreline Drive has trail maps available).
Weekend family trips here seamlessly blend nature with history and truly has something for everyone. All you need to do is gather your friends, family, or general travel partners and make your way there ASAP.
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