Want to Cool Off? Head West, to Pocahontas County
Author thumbnail By M. Scott Smith, DCSki Editor

Although D.C. area temperatures have hovered above 90 for the past couple weeks, cooler temperatures are only a few hours to the west. West Virginia’s Pocahontas County is packed with endless opportunities for summertime recreation, with mountain elevations that offer a reprieve from the sizzling summer heat.

Name your favorite recreational activity: you’re likely to find it in Pocahontas County. The County is filled with places to camp, hike, or mountain bike. Lakes and rivers provide opportunities for canoeing and trout fishing. History buffs and sightseers will also find plenty to do. A sampling of activities is provided in this article.

Want to get close to nature? Trying camping at one of the many campgrounds spread throughout Pocahontas County. Several campgrounds are operated by the U.S. Forest Service or state parks; other campgrounds are privately operated. The Watoga State Park (800-CALL-WVA) features 88 tent or trailer sites, with restrooms and shower facilities nearby. Or, “upgrade” to a cabin - 33 cabins, including 9 modern ones, are available for renting.

Maybe camping isn’t your style. You’ll find plenty of lodging opportunities at Snowshoe Mountain Resort (304-572-1000), located atop Snowshoe Mountain at 4,848 feet above sea level. West Virginia’s largest ski resort bustles with activity in the summer. Mountain bikers will find over 75 miles of maintained trails along with two fully-staffed mountain biking centers. Horseback riding, golf, tennis, and swimming are all on-site. The new Outdoor Adventure Program adds activities such as climbing, BMX racing, paintball, and a skate park. Snowshoe also offers campsites and a backcountry cabin. The Hawthorne Valley Golf Course, located at the base of Snowshoe Mountain, is a Gary Player signature course. The popular Snowshoe Symphony Festival, to be held August 20-22, will mix the sound of music with cool mountain air.

Mountain bikers will also feel welcome at the Elk River Touring Center (304-572-3771), one of the first mountain biking centers in the state of West Virginia. Guided tours, shuttle service, and bike rentals are all available.

The Greenbrier River Trail is a rails-to-trails conversion that extends 75 miles along the Greenbrier River, crossing 35 bridges and going through two tunnels. This trail offers an easy-going 1% grade and passes through some of the best scenery in West Virginia. Hikers, bikers, and joggers enjoy the trail during the summer, while cross-country skiers flock to it in the winter.

Are we alone? That is one of the many questions posed by researchers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (304-456-2150), located 25 miles north of Marlinton. This facility is home to numerous radio telescopes, which peer into the heavens searching for signals or measuring natural phenomena from distant galaxies. Reaching high into the sky, the $75 million Green Bank Telescope, currently under construction, will be the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world. Tours are offered daily during the summer.

The Cass Scenic Railroad (800-CALL-WVA) shuttles visitors 4,842 feet above sea level, powered by some of the last Shay and Heisler-type steam logging locomotives in the world. Eight-mile (1.5 hours) and 22-mile (4.5 hours) trips are offered. Each Saturday during the summer, Evening Dinner Trains are offered, taking visitors to the Whittaker Station for an outdoor barbecue and bluegrass entertainment.

The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad (304-456-4935) offer two scenic rail excursions in an open gondola car and 1920’s caboose. Riders will have many opportunities to see wildlife. On Fridays during the summer, the train will shuttle visitors to a river overlook for a hearty lunch and local Blue Grass entertainment.

The 23-mile long Highland Scenic Highway (also known as Route 150) is one of the highest roads in the east - over 60% of the road is above 4,000 feet. Numerous overlook and picnic spots are available, along with hiking and fishing in the surrounding Monongahela National Forest.

There are hundreds of activities available in Pocahontas County; this article concentrated on just a few. The Pocahontas County Tourism Commission (800-336-7009) can provide information about additional activities or answer any questions you might have.

About M. Scott Smith

M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.

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