There are 6 West Virginia National Parks including Bluestone NSR, Gauley River NRA, Harpers Ferry NHP and more. West Virginia is home to rugged mountains, cross country skiing, hiking, biking, and tons of outdoor recreation.
There are 37 state parks within West Virginia in addition to the National Parks in West Virginia.
West Virginia National Parks
28 miles of the Appalachian Trail passes through West Virginia. The elevation of the trail ranges from 265 feet up to 12oo feet.
The West Virginia portion of the trail is mostly in historic Harpers Ferry, the site of John Brown's Raid and notable Civil War battles. There is no camping within Harpers Ferry NHP but there are commercial campgrounds nearby.
For more information check out Exploring the Appalachian Trail: Hikes in the Virginias
Bluestone National Scenic River
The Bluestone NSR is located in Southern West Virginia approximately 70 miles southeast of Charleston. The park includes a 10.5-mile section of the Bluestone River.
The Bluestone River is a tributary of West Virginia's New River. The park was named for the bluish limestone of the streambed. You can access the park through two West Virginia State Parks, Bluestone State Park, and Pipestem Resort State Park.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP is located along the Potomac River from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The park offers hiking, biking, boating, camping, and outdoor recreation.
In 1828 the C&O Canal construction was started. Over the next 22 years 35,000 workers many of them immigrants from Ireland and Western Europe dug the canal and built aqueducts, culverts, and locks.
The first five boats filled with coal traveled the length of the canal in October 1850. At the peak of operation, the canal saw more than 540 boats in service with most of them carrying coal.
Visitors today can see 184.5 miles of the old canal right of way from Georgetown neighborhood in Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The towpath has been restored so you can see the path where mules pulled boats.
There are five developed drive-in campgrounds along the canal as well as 30 hiker-biker sites.
Chesapeake Bay Watershed
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the largest estuary in the United States. The National Park Service partners with over 170 sites and trails in the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water trails Network.
Gauley River National Recreation Area
The Gauley River NRA is located in South-Central West Virginia approximately 30 miles east of Charleston. The park offers rafting, kayaking, and more outdoor recreation.
The Upper Gauley River is for experienced kayakers and white water rafters for a large part of the season. The class III-V+ rapids include a steep gradient of more than 668 feet through 28-miles.
The Lower Gauley is still rated as Class III-V but is not quite as demanding. This is not a river to try if you are just learning to kayak or raft. Even with experienced rafting guides, you will need some experience on how to handle the river.
The boating season begins the first weekend after Labor Day and continues for six weekends depending on the water releases from the Summersville Dam.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Harpers Ferry NHP is located in Eastern West Virginia along with Central Maryland and Northern Virginia. The park provides the opportunity to explore a large number of historic sites.
Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. George Washington pushed for the establishment of a federal armory and arsenal that used water power to run the machinery that manufactured weapons.
During the Civil War in 1961, the Confederate and Union armies fought over these weapons and equipment. In 1862, Confederate Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson captured 12,700 Union Troops here.
Visitors can explore the Lower Town that includes the dry goods store, tavern, confectionery, clothing store, and the fire engine house. In the Maryland Heights section, you can view the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
On December 27, 2020, New River Gorge National River was re-designated to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
New River Gorge National Park is located in South Central West Virginia approximately 40 miles southeast of Charleston. The park offers white-water rafting, rock climbing, hiking, and primitive camping.
New River Gorge National River is world-famous for white water boating including rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. It is worth noting that the New River flows northward.
The upper river is considered the southern section and features Class I - III rapids. The Lower Gorge below Thurmond is only appropriate for experienced paddlers.
The Lower Gorge includes rapids rated at Class V! There are five primitive campgrounds located along the river.
The sandstone cliffs of New River Gorge are extremely popular for rock climbing. There are more than 1,600 climbing routes most rated 5.9 and higher.
List of West Virginia National Parks
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine)
- Bluestone National Scenic River
- Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (DC, MD, WV)
- Chesapeake Bay Watershed (DC, MD, NY, PA, VA, WV)
- Gauley River National Recreation Area
- Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (WV, VA, MD)
- New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
- Coal National Heritage Area
- Wheeling National Heritage Area
There are 6 National Parks in West Virginia that receive over 1.6 million visitors a year. These visitors produce over $75 million in economic benefits.
The National Parks in West Virginia include 3 National Heritage Areas, 1 wild and scenic rivers managed by the National Park Service, 2 National Trails, and 1,045 National Register of Historic Places listings.
There are 16 National Historic Landmarks and 15 National Natural Landmarks in West Virginia National Parks.
The National Parks in West Virginia also include 509 places recorded by the Heritage Documentation Programs and over 4 million objects in the West Virginia National Park Museum Collections.
For an entire list of US National Parks head over to our list of US National Parks in Alphabetical Order. We also have a printable checklist of all 419 National Park properties in the United States available.
If you have dreamed of working in the National Parks make sure and check out our article on How to Become a Park Ranger. Working in the parks is one of the most amazing jobs you can find. There is just something special about waking up and knowing you are going to work in a beautiful park.
Check out the National Parks in neighboring states