13 bucket-list adventures

Hidden among the Mountain State’s vast outdoor playgrounds, there are hundreds of amazing adventures— and a standout few are real once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Some you can share with the family, and others are for the true thrillseekers. But these are the trips you’ll never forget.

Add them to your Bucket List (or your Trip List.)

1. Raft a world-famous waterfall on the Gauley

Gauley River WV

The Gauley River offers an exciting and ever-surprising rafting trip. So exciting, in fact, it’s renowned as one of the Top 10 Whitewater Rivers in the World. It’s not strictly for experienced paddlers, but one practice run on the waves of the New, Cheat or Tygart Rivers will get you better prepared for the Gauley’s famous “Big 5” rapids, which end in a 14-foot waterfall.

This rare world-class trip is only runnable for a few exclusive days in the fall, so plan ahead!

2. Conquer obstacle courses— in the sky

skybridge in WV

Crawl through tunnels suspended in mid-air, climb rope nets, and zipline from tree to tree to get through these aerial obstacle courses at TimberTrek and Harper’s Ferry Adventure Parks. The challenge is more mental than it is physical— there are tricks to make crossing the skybridge puzzles easy! 

3. Climb the East Coast’s most remote peak

WV's unique Seneca Rocks

The only “true peak” on the East Coast that’s accessible only by rock climbing, Seneca Rocks is an automatic must for climbers. But just because you can’t hit the peak without climbing doesn’t mean you can’t get up high for some amazing views. The hike up the jagged fins of the rock ledges is steep but surprisingly easy, with plenty of rest stops.

4. Leap at one of the world’s only BASE jumping sites

Bridge-day-app

If you happen to be an experienced parachuter or rappeler, Bridge Day offers you the chance of a lifetime, just once a year. Hundreds of spectators gather at the festival to watch BASE jumpers leap from the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge, while rappellers drop into the canyon.

And if you’re not already a seasoned adventurer? There’s still hope to cross this one off the list: there are a limited number of tandem BASE jumps each year, but you have to grab one early!

5. Stand 876 feet directly over a canyon

bridge-walk

That bridge people jump off of? Get a real sense of how high it stretches above the gaping gorge with a stroll across its underbelly on a Bridge Walk. Take in stunning views of the canyon, with the mountains rising up around the river shoreline. Maybe you’ll even get a glimpse into the falcon nest!

(And yes, you can take a Bridge Walk on Bridge Day.)

6. Stunt through the skies on a WWII Biplane

Wild Blue Adventure Company in New River Gorge, WV

Have you ever seen the sharp aerial maneuvers a WWII pilot can pull? Wild Blue Adventure Company’s airman is every bit as graceful, and he’ll take you along for the ride. Sit back for swirls, loops, flips and stunts in a real restored warplane.

Of course, you can also take a flight sans-stunts, just to take in the bird’s eye view of the mountains. Or soar in a more modern plane or helicopter with Mountain Air Services in Buckhannon.

7. Bike or hike a  rare ‘Epic’-level trail

North Fork Mountain Trail, West Virginia

One of only a handful of trails in the world to be awarded “Epic” distinction by the International Mountain Biking Association for its jaw-dropping beauty, the 25-mile North Fork Mountain Trail traces backcountry ridges overlooking the wonder of Seneca Rocks. But it is not for faint of heart. There are no exit points along the rugged route, and no water stops, either. So you have to come prepared— but it’s worth it for one of the most amazing treks of your life. 

8. Take a truly unexpected route less traveled

Fishing on the Coal River, Wv

All the best historic sites and local stops in the Allegheny Mountains are connected by a roadway— just not a paved one. The flowing Cheat River Water Trail is your guide to exploring the best of civilization alongside the best of Mother Nature. Paddle the waterway, and stop along the shoreline access points for all the attractions along the way.

9. Walk hundreds of feet, straight upwards

Nelson_Rocks-Via_Ferrata-rs-5622a

Part hike and part rock climb, the Via Ferrata at NRocks is a stunning but easygoing journey is fit for the whole family. Scale the cliffside on steel rung steps, reaching heights of 200 feet, or 300 if you’re bold enough to scale the optional challenge stretch at the end.

10. Discover your ride at the Hatfield-McCoy Trails

WV ATVing

ATVing is fun for so many reasons: scenic views, revving faster and faster through the valleys, barreling across wild terrain. No matter what grabs you about these mountain-wrangling rides, you can find it in the Hatfield McCoy Trail Systems. Each of its 8 sprawling systems is known for a different style of ride, and each has enough trail to keep riders at every skill level roaring for weeks.

11. Fly in the Morgantown Balloon Festival

The only thing better than floating above the West Virginia mountains in a hot air balloon is being one of hundreds of these colorful dots all painting the skies at once. Balloon pilots launch all together several times throughout the Balloon Festival weekend for a dramatic show, including evening releases that light up the night sky.

12. Complete both the VIPP and trail challenges

WV trailsDid you know you can earn rewards for exploring West Virginia’s parks and trails? Claim the distinction of State Park  VIPP (Very Important Parks Person) by collecting stamps at each one you visit. And if you log your hiking miles as you explore, you’ll earn rewards from the State Park Hiking Program, like achievement shields and a members’ walking stick to display them on. You can even earn limited-edition shields for seasonal hikes.

13. Reach the eagles’ level on a hike to Hanging Rock

hanging-rock-app

Our state is full of amazing hikes, but the hike to Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory brings you eye-level with majestic hawks, falcons and eagles as they soar. The old lookout tower on the mountaintop is now one of the nation’s premier outlooks for birds of prey. But the view itself is reward enough: the rolling green mountains seem to stretch out infinitely beneath you before fading into the fog. 

How many have you completed, and which are on your bucket list?

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