Adventures in Nature
Here in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, we are blessed with an abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities. When The Observer asked, we jumped at the chance to spotlight a few of our favorite activities for the fall. The changing of seasons represents a metamorphosis of the self. We as humans should strive to constantly change and grow to be better, stronger, more fulfilled through trying new things. As this strange and trying year approaches an end, the changing of the colors in the leaves is a gentle reminder that nature is waiting for you to partake and heal your troubled soul. If ever there was a year to be excited about autumn, this is the one.
A Day’s Adventure With the Family
River Riders in Harpers Ferry is a prime location for the adventurous among us. With a brand new 1000-foot long zipline over the Potomac River and the Aerial Adventure park featuring nine different difficulty levels, this place will get your heart pumping! They even have a kids zipline course designed specifically with the little ones (ages 4-6) in mind. The nearby White Horse Tavern currently offers outdoor dining and live music, making this one of the coolest outings for the whole family to enjoy. They will continue to run the ziplines through November, along with some fall camping, paddling, rafting, and floating activities.
Get On Your Bike
If you want to try mountain biking, Rolling Ridge Trail in Harpers Ferry has over 7 miles of trails which can be easily accessed via Mission Road. For a longer day of riding and exploring, check out Cacapon Resort State Park in Berkeley Springs. This park has over 33 miles of mountain biking trails, including the scenic Overlook Trail and the more challenging Ziler Loop.
Over on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, we recommend the C&O Canal Towpath for folks looking to get outside, enjoy the fresh fall air, and see the changing leaves in a gentler manner. The canal offers bikers a flat, beginner-friendly means of enjoying nature. The stretch between Edward Ferry and the bridge at Shepherdstown has recently been resurfaced, creating a smooth ride for both novice and experienced riders. The towpath is easily accessible via many parking areas, but one we recommend is the Cushwa Basin parking area in Williamsport, MD. This stretch of the towpath passes by a lock house and newly restored aqueduct, giving riders a quaint glimpse of the town’s historic past.
The Western Maryland Rail Trail runs parallel to the C&O Canal for 28 miles, between Big Pool and Sideling Hill (there are small parking lots near both ends). This paved surface allows for a broad variety of activities such as biking, walking, and inline skating. This trail is also wheelchair accessible, which provides opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Scaling The Cliffs
West Virginia encompasses several of the East Coast’s best climbing opportunities. With over 3000 sport and bouldering routes, the New River Gorge is annually ranked as one of the top ten climbing destinations in America. Closer to the Panhandle, Seneca Rocks is home to the only true climbing summit east of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming. Towering some 900 feet above the confluent creeks below, the south peak of Seneca leaves climbers with a view and adventure to remember.
Other outdoor climbing destinations closer to the panhandle include: Harper’s Ferry, which hosts the area’s only multi-pitch climbing; Elizabeth Furnace in VA, which offers moderate sport climbing; and Sugarloaf and Annapolis Rocks in MD, which provide several single-pitch traditional and top roping options. We recommend seeking out qualified instruction if you are heading to a new area to climb or are looking to increase your technical skills. The Climbing New Heights rock climbing gym near Martinsburg can help you plan and prepare.
On Your Feet
The nearby region offers outdoor enthusiasts a plethora of beautiful hiking trails, each of which has its own unique biodiversity and stunning views. The Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is a good jumping off point to access the Appalachian Trail, C&O Canal, and Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. CSX has repaired the footbridge across the Potomac River, and the parking lot located at the train station, the river lot on Shenandoah street, and the Cavalier Heights parking area are all open. The Park Service is currently reopening the park buildings and encouraging visitors to observe pandemic health guidelines. The shuttle bus service from the visitor center parking lot was suspended during the spring and summer; visitors should check the park’s website for the current shuttle service status. An annual park pass, good for a single vehicle/family, is $35.
On the Maryland side of the Potomac, Antietam National Battlefield hosts several miles of loop-like trails that range in difficulty. Several monuments and trail markers provide an educational experience as hikers and walkers meander through this hallowed ground.
Catoctin Mountain Park boasts 25 miles of hiking trails and stunning views from the top of Chimney Rock, Wolf Rock, and the Cunningham Falls overlook. For explorers looking for a weekend-long adventure, the Catoctin National Recreation Trail offers 26.6 miles of beautiful Blue Ridge Mountain hiking.
For a faster pace, West Virginia boasts some of the most beautiful running both on road and trail. Two Rivers Treads organizes group runs, free workshops, and clinics to keep you running healthy. All are welcome to join their staff for a group run every Tuesday at 8:30 am in the Keys Gap parking lot for a 5-7 mile trail run or every Wednesday at 6 pm at their Ranson store (400 South Mildred St) for a dynamic road run and drills. Put your training to use with a virtual Fun Run put on by Freedom’s Run on October 3.
Exploring & Learning
The Cool Springs Preserve operated by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society (PVAS) offers 63 acres of forest, marsh, and meadow, which allow guests to immerse themselves in nature. The PVAS website also offers several online and virtual opportunities to learn more about the nature found in your own backyard. These web activities include fall-themed nature journaling and a virtual Habitat Highlight seminar. PVAS also offers several in-person bird
watching experiences. If you are looking for inspiration or a recovery day, the EDventure series by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy offers opportunities to experience the trail virtually with weekly interactive Zoom sessions. See you Outside!
Submitted by: Chris Price & Jordyn Truax. Chris and Jordyn are co-owners of Climbing New Heights gym (Martinsburg). Chris lives in Harper’s Ferry. An Air Force veteran, Chris is the father of three adventurous daughters, a proud husband, and an active climbing addict (summitJunkie). Jordyn resides in Williamsport and has a background in psychology and a passion for leading others to find the healing value of being out in nature.Article Submitted by Chris Price, Jordyn Truax