Living in Miami, FL we don’t have the opportunity to experience a true fall but that doesn’t stop us from leaf peeping. This year we headed to West Virginia for a 3 day fall road trip, exploring the Potomac Highlands region to get our fall fix. With the newest national park, New River Gorge, 35 state parks, and 9 forests West Virginia is filled with opportunities to experience beautiful fall foliage
The Best Time to Go on a West Virginia Fall Road Trip
Each year the fall foliage changes as far as when peak foliage is. Our trip to the Potomac Highlands region, specifically in Pocahontas Country on the map below took place in mid-October which ended up being peak leaf peeping! Each year this changes and September and both early to late October also have a lot of opportunity to see fall foliage so anytime during these months could be a great time for a West Virginia fall road trip. The state has a live fall map here so you can always check the status.
Getting to West Virginia for your Fall Road Trip of the Potomac Highlands
Since we came from Miami and didn’t have much time to spare we flew to West Virginia. The airport with the best times was Yeager Airport (CRW) in Charleston, WV. Delta, American Airlines, Spirit and United all have flights coming into and out of CRW. It’s a 3 hour drive from here to the Potomac Highlands.
A closer airport would be Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB) which is only serviced by United and offers non-stop flights from Dulles and O’Hare. This would cut your drive time in half but West Virginia is also within a few hours drive from New York, Philly, DC, and many major east coast cities. We rented a car from Hertz as they had the best deal for our dates.
We love a good flight deal and always check these websites to see what deals we can get. If driving to and from the airport is one think you don’t want to worry about, you can use a shuttle. Park ‘N Fly is a great option if you want to leave your car at the airport during your trip.
West Virginia Fall Road Trip: 3 Day Potomac Highlands Itinerary
We honestly could have spent a week exploring the Potomac Highlands but with only 3 days we had some choices to make. Here is how we spent each day of our West Virginia fall road trip.
Potomac Highlands Itinerary Day 1
After our three hour drive we took it easy on day one. We really just wanted to see all the beautiful leaves so we headed to Shavers Lake on the Snowshoe Mountain Resort property. Here they have a walking trail as well lots of water activities (kayaks, canoes, stand up paddle boards and more). First we explored the lake by foot going on the Backcountry Trail.
The trail is 1.6 miles and easy to hike for all levels. Hiking with two kids who were 5 and 7 they didn’t have any issues on any part of the trail. Just be aware some parts aren’t well marked so be sure to look out for the signs and don’t turn off on the Bailout or else you’ll be in for a more strenuous hike uphill!
After hiking the lake we decided to get on it. We took one of the canoes out for some paddling. The weather cleared up and it was such a beautiful place to take in all the fall foliage. In order to access Shavers Lake you’ll need to take the Ballhooter Lift at Snowshoe Mountain.
Potomac Highlands Itinerary Day 2
Cass Scenic Railroad
Shavers Lake was a great introduction to the Potomac Highlands on our West Virginia fall road trip. On our second day we drove one hour from there to Cass, WV. Here we took the Cass Scenic Whittaker Trip. They offer these 2 hour train rides Friday through Sunday at 11am and 2pm. There are other train rides including another 2 hour ride, a 4 hour, 4.5 hour and even an overnight ride. You can see the various rides offered here.
Halfway into the ride the train makes a stop at Whittaker Camp #1. It was a logging camp and skiffer set of the 1940-1966 era. It shows a replica of how those working along the railroad would live.
We spent about 45 minutes here so you have time to explore. There are bathrooms and picnic tables. You are allowed to bring food and drinks on the train so this stop is the perfect place to have lunch, especially if you take the 11 am train like we did. You can bring your own or order something from the Last Run Restaurant that is located where you board the train.
Snowshoe Bike Park
After a relaxing morning it was time for some adventure. While Snowshoe Mountain is known for skiing in the winter, the rest of the year it’s a popular destination for mountain biking. Hosting events like the 2021 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Finals we see why it’s recognized as one of the best bike parks in the US. We were so excited to try mountain biking out for the first time at such a great location.
The bike park offers a variety of lessons including Mountain Biking 101, Mountain Biking 202, Junior Group for ages 6-9, skills clinics for drop, jumps, berms and cornering and private lessons. Lessons are offered at 10am, 12pm, 2pm, and 4pm daily and prices range from $39 to $75 per person.
We were so impressed by what we learned in two hours. The instructors were extremely patient especially with the girls and gave us great feedback to build our confidence. The girls stayed on the test trial and really crushed it. Us adults decided to take it up a notch and go down the beginners trail and we actually completed it without any falls!
Potomac Highlands Itinerary Day 3
Cranberry Glades Botanical Area
For the third day of our West Virginia fall road trip around the Potomac Highlands we explored the city of Hillsboro. We visited the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area which protects the largest area of bogs in West Virginia. Here we walked the 0.5 mile boardwalk to take it all in.
According to the signs here sometimes you’re able to see black bears so watch out. We unfortunately didn’t see any but maybe you’ll have better luck! Still it was a nice walk and great to be outside in the fresh fall air!
Falls of Hills Creek
Just a ten minute drive from Cranberry Glades Botanical Area are the Falls of Hills Creek. We hiked the trail which led us to three waterfalls. It’s about 1.5 miles round trip and sometimes you’re walking along the creek.
Part of the trail is paved while there are some unpaved areas as well as stairs to climb to see some of the falls. It was such a beautiful hike during the fall, nice and cool and with all the colorful leaves.
Scenic Viewpoints Along the Way
On the way back to our accommodations we stopped at the various scenic viewpoints. There are quite a few of them and worth stopping at least once if time permits.
Where to Stay on Your West Virginia Road Trip
When we reached the Potomac Highlands we checked in at the Snowshoe Mountain Resort. We’ve never been to a ski resort other than ski season and it was a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t nearly as crowded and it was nice to see the mountain not covered in snow. Here we stayed in the Pedestal House, a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom rental home on the mountain.
The views from here, especially during sunset were unbelievable and we enjoyed having a front row seat to it each night. The house is nice and cozy with a fireplace we were able to warm up in front of during the cool evenings.
Staying at Snowshoe Mountain made it very convenient to get to most of our activities. Shavers Lake and the Mountain Bike lessons were both on the mountain and the other activities were within one hours drive. Traveling with kids it was nice having the village with lots of restaurants to conveniently get food. The fact that the property has a rock climbing wall, kids bungee rope, and a playground were all icing on the cake.
We had an amazing time on our West Virginia Fall road trip exploring the Potomac Highlands. It was so nice returning to the state with my family and being able to explore outside of Charleston where I interned. Hopefully we get to come back in the summer and try another adventure, white water rafting!
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