West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle: Wild & Wonderful Ways to Adventure
Wendy Kedzierski
May 9, 2023 — Read in 4.3 mins · 869 words
View of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia at sunset from Maryland Heights

West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle is teeming with opportunities for adventure, and we’re sharing our favorite activities here. Located just a short distance from D.C.’s Metro area, Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties offer stunning scenery and the small-town charm of yesteryear. Mountains, rivers, and off-the-grid options will disconnect you from busy city life, reconnect you with nature, and rejuvenate your soul.

Jefferson County

Jefferson County is adjacent to Washington County, Md., Loudoun and Clarke counties in Va., and Berkeley County, W.Va. When you leave Maryland and enter into Jefferson County, you’ll cross two rivers – the Potomac and the Shenandoah. The bridges across these bodies of water are the gateways that make it clear you have entered into “Almost Heaven,” West Virginia.

Arriving from this direction, the first town you’ll see is Harpers Ferry – and there’s no mistaking it: the well-preserved town is full of restored 19th-century buildings. The location where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet is known as “The Point” and offers amazing vistas of both Maryland and Virginia.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a visitors center in Harpers Ferry where you can pick up a guidebook and plan a hike.

Or, you can take a footbridge across the Potomac River and head for the historic C&O Canal; the canal’s towpath offers hikers and cyclists great terrain for miles. In fact, the C&O Canal connects to the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails-to-trails route spanning from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, Pa.

If you prefer to be in the water, you can ride the rivers. From whitewater rafting adventures to lazy, peaceful tubing, River Riders is the go-to business for local outdoor adventures. They also offer ziplining, e-biking, camping, and more.

Fishing excursions are popular for experienced anglers and beginners alike. Both rivers are well-known for smallmouth bass. Guided fishing excursions are available through White Fly Outfitters

Cool Spring Nature Preserve in nearby Charles Town, W.Va. has 63 acres of forest, meadow and marsh and is known as a birding hotspot. Owned by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, Cool Spring offers educational programs throughout the year.

If you prefer golfing over birding, the Locust Hill Golf Course is also located in Charles Town. Each tee on the 18-hole course has challenges; the course consists of 35 acres of lakes, ponds, and streams.

Shepherdstown, also located in Jefferson County on the banks of the Potomac River, is another great location for boating, tubing, fishing, cycling, and hiking. The Potomac Valley Audubon Society is headquartered in Shepherdstown and offers nature programs for adults, youth, families, and educators.

Berkeley County

Looking for a way to entice your tech-savvy kids to enjoy nature? Geocaching is a method of treasure hunting that combines technology and the outdoors, engaging the user through GPS tracking and clues, and Berkeley County, W.Va. has a great geocaching experience for all experience levels. They claim to be the world’s #1 county for geocaching, with more than 57 active caches that have earned 100 favorite points or greater.

Berkeley County also has plenty of hiking and biking trails, including Poor House Farm Park, encompassing 137 acres, including five miles of trails and a fully-stocked pond. The Tuscarora Trail is a 250-mile-long spur of the Appalachian Trail; much of the 33 miles in West Virginia are located within the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Stauffer’s Marsh Nature Preserve and Yankauer Nature Preserve are both managed by the Potomac Audubon Society and also offer nature programs.

Golfing options in Berkeley County include The Woods, an 18-hole championship course, and a 27-hole disc golf course at Poor House Farm.

Morgan County

The county seat in Morgan County is the “Town of Bath,” more recognizable by its post office name, Berkeley Springs. Warm mineral waters from the springs were captured for enjoyment and health in the 18th century, and spa life continues to this day. Each year, thousands of tourists “take the waters” at Berkeley Springs State Park by wading in the pools and soaking in the Roman baths where spring water flows at a constant temperature of 74.3 degrees.

South of Berkeley Springs is Cacapon Resort State Park, 6,000 acres of hiking, biking, fishing, boating, shooting, swimming, picnicking, horseback riding, and generally communing with nature. Prospect Rock offers one of the most historic vistas in West Virginia and is purported to have been a favorite overlook for the young surveyor, George Washington. 

Cacapon Lodge has 48 guest rooms, and there are also cabins throughout the park. The park’s golf course features 73 well-placed sand bunkers and a challenging 100+ yard wide double green. 

Off the beaten track in Morgan County is the Paw Paw Tunnel, one of the most historically significant engineering features on the C&O Canal. Work began on the tunnel in 1836 and ultimately took 14 years to complete due to labor issues, funding shortfalls, and the challenge of digging a 3,118-foot tunnel through hard shards of shale.

Rockfall hazards continue to be a problem, and the National Park Service is working to stabilize rock slopes along the trails. Plan your visit ahead of time by checking out this NPS website for updates.

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