BUCKHANNON – Escape to crisp mountain air and quiet rolling hills with a weekend trip into the heart of West Virginia.
The quaint small town of Buckhannon is the perfect place to station yourself as you venture out to wander through all the wonders north-central West Virginia has to offer. From amber-tinted waterfalls and an abundance of spectacular overlooks to rich history, heritage and a little bit of seasonally-appropriate haunting, Upshur County is the ideal locale from which to begin your staycation.
So, where should you stay? Two suggestions are to dream the night away at A Governor’s Inn, a quaint, Victorian-style inn, or the stately Bicentennial Hotel, both of which are located within walking distance of Buckhannon’s historic and storied downtown.
So, whether you’re headed north, east, south or west, Buckhannon is the best place to begin – and end – your day.
Start your day early on Buckhannon’s idyllic Main Street by grabbing a cup of Stone Tower Joe coffee from Stone Tower Brews, a local specialty coffee shop that also serves up lattes, mochas and more – not to mention their tasty breakfast sandwiches. (STB keeps a slew of local, craft beers in bottles and cans, too.)
Once you’re adequately caffeinated, head east on U.S. Route 33/48 toward the town of Harman, where you’ll follow the signs to Seneca Rocks. Pack a picnic lunch and prepare for a 2.7-mile roundtrip hike up Seneca Rocks Trail to the top of one of the best-known lookouts in West Virginia.
Located in the Monongahela National Forest, Seneca Rocks is a popular spot for rock climbers, but non-climbers can capture breath-taking, panoramic views by taking the Seneca Rocks Trail up to near the top of the 900-foot rock formation, which towers over the North Fork River.
The trail is a moderate, well-maintained climbed, and along the way, you’ll be able to spot plenty of birds and wildflowers. There are plenty of picnic tables at the base of the trail.
Hop back on Route 33 and head northwest to Blackwater Falls State Park, perhaps the most talked-about treasure in all of eastern West Virginia. Tucked in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot waterfall which takes on its hue from the tannic acid of hemlock and red spruce needles that fall into the river.
If you’re tired from the morning’s trek up to the top of Seneca, keep things short and sweet and take the easy quarter-mile Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail down to an observation deck, a prime place from which to photograph the uniquely amber-colored cascade.
However, if you’re hungry for more hiking, a variety of top-notch trails thread through Blackwater Falls State Park, including the Balancing Rock Trail, the Elakala Trail and the Yellow Birch Trail.
On your way back to Buckhannon, check out the Alpine Lodge in Alpena, West Virginia, which is conveniently located adjacent to U.S. Route 33. The Alpine Lodge is one of Randolph County’s most delightful discoveries, with its selection of homemade salad dressings and breads, fresh seafood and mouth-watering selection of steaks. The Alpine Lodge’s rustic atmosphere and down-home service will make you want to sit, eat and stay awhile.
Eager to get back to your hotel? You could also grab a bite in Buckhannon from one of the area’s most popular and up-and-coming Indo-Asian restaurants, The World’s End, which is open Wednesday through Saturday. The World’s End, located at 7 W. Main St., offers carryout and outdoor dining and its chef Jon Arbogast specializes in Thai, Indian and Vietnamese cuisine. If you’re in town on Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find The World’s End staff serving up carefully crafted sushi.
Take a drive through scenic southern Upshur County into neighboring Webster County to peep the pretty views from your car windows while heading to Holly River State Park. Situated in Hacker Valley, Holly River State Park is the second largest park in the Mountain State. It’s nestled in a narrow valley through which the clear, untarnished water of the Holly River – and slew of heavily forested trails – meander.
Two trails to try include the Wilderness Trail (five miles of moderately difficult terrain) and Nature’s Rock Garden Trail (less than a half-mile walk that’s a self-guided interpretive loop). Creek-crossings and small waterfalls are among the pristine scenes you’ll spot along the way.
If you’re back in Buckhannon by lunchtime, check out Fish Hawk Acres, a one-of-a-kind market and eatery that showcases a sizable cooler of grab-and-go meals, all made with local farm-to-table ingredients. Stop by the deli for some freshly sliced roast beef or order up FHA’s signature burger. FHA is typically stocked up on fresh salads, soups, pastas and a variety of specialty juices, teas and sodas, all perfect for a mid-day meal before your next mini-adventure.
Then, wander westward on U.S. Route 33 about 20 minutes down the road to the famous – and infamous – Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, which served as a sanctuary and holding place for the mentally ill starting in the mid-1800s. The 160 year-old-asylum, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, holds spellbinding tales of Civil War raids, a gold robbery and the valiant efforts of people who tried to improve the lives of the mentally ill, according to its website.
TALA is a National Historic Landmark that is ideal for history buffs and thrill-seekers who delight in feeling haunted. Located at 71 Asylum Drive, this Lewis County attraction draws people from across the U.S. from April through November who enjoy embarking on a wide assortment of tours, from trips through the sprawling buildings that center on history and heritage to daytime and nighttime paranormal tours to overnight ghost hunts.
So, book your desired tour, and remember to bundle up — in the colder months, it can be a bit breezy in the building if you catch our drift.
Upon returning to home base in Upshur County, celebrate a successful trip with a pie from the area’s most popular pizzeria, Sam’s Pizza, and then stop by Sweet-A-Licious, a hand-scooped ice cream shop that dishes out Hershey’s premium ice cream, as well as Italian ice, gourmet cupcakes and other sweet treats.
Then kick back and breathe in the clean air as you sort through all the great photos you snapped of your refreshing adventure in the heart of West Virginia.
This story produced in partnership with the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau.