“Almost Heaven” is a well-deserved nickname for West Virginia. The state boasts an abundance of mountains, forests, valleys, rivers and farmlands to get lost in. Visitors can unleash their wild side by going hiking, climbing, skiing or camping in one of the many gorgeous state parks. And since the Interactive Wagering Act was passed in 2019, you can now also enjoy online casino games in between outdoor sessions.
But there’s more to this slice of paradise than meets the eye. Behind the popular parks and resorts, West Virginia is hiding breathtaking gems that many tourists overlook. We’ve gone digging and found six that you have to see to believe.
The story of the Mountain State
The history of West Virginia started 14,000 years ago when Native American hunters entered the Ohio and Kanawha valleys on the hunt for mammoths. Fast forward to the 1700s when Europeans arrived to find the land populated by ancient groups such as the Adena mound builders. In June 1863, West Virginia was officially added as a state to the Union during the American Civil War. After the war, the state emerged as an industry leader thanks to natural resources such as timber, coal, salt, oil and natural gas.
Today, West Virginia is called the Mountain State because it’s located in the Appalachian mountain region and its elevation is higher than that of any other state east of the Mississippi River. Aside from its fascinating history and industrial evolution, West Virginia is loved for its scenic mountain beauty and the numerous outdoor recreational activities it offers visitors. As an added bonus, it’s also regarded as one of the friendliest communities in the US.
6 Amazing hidden gems in West Virginia
You may well know some of the best spots in West Virginia, but perhaps it’s time to stray off the beaten path and discover the most fascinating secret places in the state. From spooky museums to strange national wonders, here are our top six secret West Virginia gems.
1. Mystery Hole, Ansted
The bizarre roadside attractions and oddities waiting to be discovered on road trips are a huge part of the American charm. In Ansted, one such attraction is the Mystery Hole, an underground experience that comes with a gift shop.
When Donald Wilson opened the Mystery Hole in 1973, he claimed that the underground chambers defied the laws of gravity. Inside the underground tunnels and chambers, balls and water roll uphill, humans can stand at a slant and furniture rests in the most impossible positions and on the most unlikely surfaces. Once you’ve explored the mind-bending underground, head above ground to the gift shop. This vibrantly painted shop is covered in bizarre artwork and features an old VW Beetle crashing into the store. You never know what you’ll find at the Mystery Hole, and that’s the best part.
2. A Town for ‘Wi-Fi Refugees’, Green Bank
If you’re looking to truly get away from it all and go off the grid, then Green Bank is your, well, hot spot. Green Bank is situated in the rolling hills of Appalachia. The town has become a haven for people who suffer from “Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity.” This means the town is unplugged from the addictive and sometimes invasive social and online world because the residents live here because they experience physical pain from electromagnetic frequencies. They are aptly called “wi-fi refugees.” This is why all local communication is heavily controlled and regulated – which, if you’ve chosen to be there, isn’t a bad thing; on the contrary, it makes for a wonderful refuge that falls under the National Radio Quiet Zone.
You won’t be bored during your digital detox in this charming rustic town because you can always check out the world’s largest directional telescope.
3. Archive of the Afterlife, Moundsville
Our next stopover is not for the faint-hearted. The Archive of the Afterlife, also dubbed the National Museum of the Paranormal, is a collection of historical and paranormal artifacts. The museum is filled with objects believed to be haunted, cursed or, shall we say, “charged” in some way.
Items in the collection include battle-worn World War II relics, a haunted Annie portrait, a disturbing defaced effigy doll and the lost execution cap of “Old Sparky” used by the West Virginia State Penitentiary. Objects on exhibit range from embalming tables to pamphlets from funeral homes. The museum also has a huge room solely dedicated to cursed items. If you want to inject a little mystery and fear into your West Virginia history lesson, add the Archive of the Afterlife to your itinerary.
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4. Ansted Trail, Hawks Next
West Virginia has many tourist-saturated spots, from the best golf courses in West Virginia to the popular family resorts. But when it comes to hiking trails, you sometimes just want something quiet and peaceful. While the views from hikes such as the Long Point are famous, the locals prefer the secluded Hawk’s Nest Rail Trail.
The trail starts at the Hawk’s Nest State Park. The old train tracks lead hikers along the creek past rail trestles, gorgeous waterfalls, old mine sites and through to the town of Ansted. This lovely trail offers the perfect mix of historical sites and natural wonders.
5. Curious Rock, Spencer
Truth be told, no one knows what Curious Rock is. Some believe the rock formation to be an ancient Native American totem, while others think it looks like a god meditating on a mountaintop.
The history of Curious Rock remains a mystery, so you might have to inspect it and come up with your own interpretation. The table-top rock formation is open to the public to hike to or visit for some unique travel selfies.
6. Organ Cave, Greenbrier County
A tour of Organ cave is unlike any usual mining cave tour. The adventurous will be rewarded with unbelievable rock formations, prehistoric fossils and live bats. In addition to being a scientific and natural wonder, the cave has a fascinating Civil War history.
Hidden beneath Greenbrier County, the historic natural cave features 45 miles of mapped passages, with more than 200 leads that haven’t yet been mapped or surveyed. It’s the second longest commercial cave on the East Coast and the cave is the site where the first prehistoric three-toed sloth was discovered in the late 1700s.
Though this cave is not a conventional bucket-list destination, it’s a National Natural Landmark and a National Landmark of Historic Places on the West Virginia Trails.
West Virginia is filled with little-known gems to discover. After a full day of hiking and exploring, sit back and play at a casino online. While the Mountain state may have limited land-based casinos, you can access all your favorite casino table games and slots in the BetMGM live dealer online casino.
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