Fall Foliage: Six Ways to See the Colors

August 18, 2017


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Fall Foliage: Six Ways to See the Colors

By Rachel Gouhin
Photography provided by WV Division of Tourism

It’s no secret that the Mountain State hosts breathtaking fall colors, from the burnt oranges of the Northern Panhandle to the brilliant yellows of the Greenbrier Valley, but the variety of ways in which the state’s autumn beauty can be experienced might come as a surprise.

West Virginia offers vistas that inspire visitors and natives alike to lower their smartphone cameras in awe and absorb the kaleidoscope of colors on display. Instead of setting out on the typical fall foliage trip this year, embrace the adventurous spirit that fills the mountains and hills of West Virginia and experience our Mountain Mama’s fall colors like never before.

A hiking overlook along the Appalachian Trail.

1. Up, Up and Away

Hot Air Balloons

Survey the different colors of fall from a hot air balloon as you glide through the clouds at a steady 2,000 feet. West Virginia Ballooning in Huntington has state-of-the-art equipment and highly qualified pilots to make your ride safe and enjoyable. You can also take flight at Oktoberfest in Morgantown for a unique view of the changing colors. These rides are a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will allow you to appreciate the grandeur of the state’s beautiful mountains.

Zip Lines

Opt for an outing that gets you even closer to the leaves this fall. Zip lining allows you to soar through the vibrant treetops for a unique vantage point. West Virginia excels when it comes to zip lining, and three of the state’s best zip line facilities all have something special to offer. At Grand Vue Park in Moundsville, zip lining is just a small part of the huge outdoor adventure park, which also includes a rappelling wall, an aerial ropes course and a Euro Trampoline. The Harpers Ferry Zip

Line Canopy Tour in the Eastern Panhandle allows guests to experience vistas that stretch across Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia all in one spot. At Adventures on the Gorge near Fayetteville, the Gravity Zip Lines provide spectacular views of the New River Gorge that can’t be found anywhere else.

For those who may have a fear of zip lining but still want a great view, the aerial tramway at Pipestem Resort State Park takes guests on a leisurely six-minute, 3,600-foot ride down to the Bluestone River Gorge.


If you’re looking for a way to check out fall foliage in style, charter a biplane. The Wild Blue Adventure Company offers flights in Glade Springs, New River, Summersville and Kanawha Falls or a combination package that takes you through all four locations. Flights last 40-60 minutes and typically cost $295-425.

2. All Aboard!

Cass Scenic Railroad, built in 1901, transports guests back in time.


What better way to explore our picturesque mountains in the fall than with a scenic train ride? You can find plenty of rail opportunities all across the state, ranging from the New River Excursions to several lines offered by Mountain Rail Adventures, such as the Cheat Mountain Salamander, Durbin Rocket, Cass Scenic Railroad and New Tygart Flyer. You can expect to pay $30-50 for one-day trains and $100-400 for overnight trains, depending on the duration of your ride. These trains will take you deep into the mountains where you can find colors different from the ones you see on your everyday commute.

3. Follow the Trail


Hiking will always be a great way to see the leaves—and with good reason. Hiking allows leaf peepers to immerse themselves in nature, giving other senses like smell, sound and touch a chance to experience the fall season. For the die-hard hiker, West Virginia is home to two amazing trails: the Appalachian Trail and the Allegheny Trail. There are also plenty of shorter distance trails like the North Bend Rail Trail and the Greenbrier River Trail. For an overnight hiking trip, Dolly Sods is the perfect option. Hike your heart out all day and set up camp at night for one of the best stargazing locations in the country.

4. Giddy Up!

Horseback riding at Dolly Sods.

Horseback Riding

Hop on your trusty steed for a calming ride through nature during the most colorful season of the year. Babcock State Park is a hot spot for horseback riding, as are Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs, Dolly Sods in Dry Fork, Oglebay Resort in Wheeling and Hidden Trails Stables in Lost River State Park. Saddle up and let your horse be your guide on orange, red and yellow leaf-covered trails at your own comfortable pace.

5. Hit the Road


The Hatfield McCoy Trail System must have been made for the enjoyment of autumn with over 500 miles of real mountain beauty. This trail system is the largest network of off-road trails in the eastern U.S., welcoming all kinds of motorized recreation, though it caters specially to ATVs. All riders must have a current trail permit before hitting the trail system, which can be purchased at www.trailsheaven.com.

A scenic fall drive on the Midland Trail.

Scenic Drives

When looking for fall foliage, nothing beats a classic road trip. The Midland Trail National Scenic Highway is a fantastic way to travel 180 miles across the midsection of the state. You’ll find great road stops along the way, such as the New River Gorge, Hawks Nest, Cathedral Falls, Sewell Mountain and Canaan Valley. These locations make for great photo opportunities and memories you’ll be sure not to forget.

6. Wet and Wild

Whitewater Rafting

What would West Virginia be without her thrilling rapids? Whitewater rafting is a tradition in our state, and the New River valley shines when it comes to water recreation. Starting the Friday after Labor Day, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from nearby Summersville Lake, which creates the Gauley River’s adrenaline-inducing rapids. Known as Gauley season, this experience is a must for whitewater fans.

Kayaking at Stonewall Jackson State Park.


For those who enjoy a slower pace on the water, both the Gauley and New rivers offer kayaking. Float along one of the oldest rivers in the world and enjoy a unique view of the changing trees. The New River valley glows in ambers, maroons and golds in the fall like no other place.

Just as West Virginia’s natural beauty is limitless, so are the number of ways for locals and guests alike to experience the characteristics like brilliant fall leaf colors that make West Virginia Almost Heaven. This fall, dust of your hiking shoes, pack a bag, channel your inner adventurer and make your leaf peeping trip in West Virginia wild and wonderful.

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West Virginia Executive

(2) Readers Comments

  1. Fonda Thomas
    October 2, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    I wrote a short story about my flight with Wild Blue Adventure. It was fantastic!! The blue & gold biplane is beautiful and Chris is an amazing pilot. I highly recommend it!!

  2. Forrest Cheuvront
    October 4, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    Wild, Wonderful WV.

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