West Virginia

The US state of West Virginia became world-famous thanks to its majestic summits. But the "Mountain State" can do much more: cultural highlights, picturesque towns, and some of the most beautiful landscapes in the USA are waiting for you!

West Virginia facts

Capital: Charleston
Area: 62,755 km²
Population: about 1.8 million
Location: Eastern USA
Nickname: Mountain State
Hotspots: Charleston, New River Gorge
Time zone: Eastern: UTC -5/-4

West Virginia: location & population

The US state of West Virginia is located near the East Coast of the USA between the states of Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

This pretty spot got its nickname "Mountain State" from the massive Appalachian Mountains that completely surround West Virginia with the Appalachian Plateau, the Great Valley, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Piedmont.

In the past, only the Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee people inhabited what is now West Virginia. Today, the small US state is home to nearly two million people whose ancestors come from all over the world.

The percentage of foreign-born residents in West Virginia is relatively small, at about 1 %. Most of them come from the Philippines, China, and India.

The largest cities in West Virginia

West Virginia has no city with a population greater than 100,000. The largest cities in the Mountain State include:

City Population
Charleston 47,000
Huntington 45,000
Morgantown 31,000
Parkersburg 29,000
Wheeling 26,000

Climate and nature in West Virginia

When on vacation in West Virginia, bring all types of clothing and combine them cleverly in a layered look because temperatures sometimes fluctuate drastically in the Mountain State.

Humid-cool to damp-mild is a permanent condition in West Virginia. The exceptions are the hot summer months of July and August when temperatures can reach 30 °C. September and November are fairly dry. You can experience snow flurries and skiing romance from mid to late December if you are lucky.

Nearly 80 % of Virginia is covered with forests, making outdoor excursions very relaxing. You may encounter bats, flying squirrels, raccoons, bald eagles, skunks, and black bears during your wilderness adventures.

The best time to visit West Virginia

If you like mild temperatures and little rain, you can come to West Virginia in spring or late summer. However, the Mountain State is a real feast for the eyes in the fall, when the Indian summer leaves glow in all colors.

West Virginia in spring and summer

With its mild temperatures, spring is perfect for adventures in West Virginia's majestic wilderness. Rent a cabin on the lake, take an inflatable boat out, and spend the night outdoors around a campfire. West Virginia's shady, biodiverse forests make hiking and fishing trips enjoyable even in the hot summer months.

West Virginia in fall and winter

The Mountain State's treetops turn color and enchant you with their fiery splendor beginning in September. Together with the breathtaking landscape of the Appalachian Mountains, you get the perfect backdrop for a romantic USA road trip on a silver platter! Winters are also great if you love skiing or hiking alongside frozen waterfalls.

How to get to West Virginia

If you want to fly directly from Europe to West Virginia, you will most likely end up in Charleston or Huntington after two stopovers and at least 19 hours of flight time.

British Airways, SWISS, Air France, Delta, American, and others will ask you to pay at least € 600, but more likely around € 800. Outside of Europe, you'll even pay more than € 1,000 for a flight to the Mountain State.

Therefore, it may be worthwhile to first fly to Washington, D.C., on a cheap flight and take a leisurely road trip to West Virginia from there.

West Virginia travel authorization

Remember: If you don't have a Green Card yet and you are not an American citizen, you have to apply for an ESTA or a US visa for your trip to West Virginia.

ESTA – visa-free to the USA

With an ESTA, you can stay 90 days visa-free in the USA. Apply online now!

West Virginia airport transfers

Most visitors to West Virginia arrive at Charleston's Yeager Airport and will need to arrange transfers to their first accommodation from there. Your options are many:

Taxicab

Yeager Airport is manageable in size, so you'll have no problem finding the cab stands right next to the rental car parking lot at the south exit (look for the blue P sign).

Shuttle bus

The free hotel shuttles are waiting for their customers next to the check-in area. Find out if your hotel will provide you with a shuttle by giving them a quick call.

Public transportation

Are you good on foot? You can walk between 40 and 60 minutes to the bus stations at Yeager Airport. The M10 bus (Transit Mall) departs from the Nursing Home on Association Drive and Line 6 from Greenbrier Street. Well-intentioned advice: better get a rental car.

Rental car

Yeager Airport's rental car counter is located inside the baggage claim, and rental car parking is just a few feet from the terminal. Have a safe trip!

Parks and Natural Wonders in West Virginia

The US state of West Virginia is full of opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and fishing. Here are the best places for your nature adventure in West Virginia:

Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls, nearly 20 m high, is a must-see in the state park of the same name! But the park is also a great place to hike, camp, and enjoy a breath of fresh air. If you make it up the many enchanting hiking trails to the lookouts at 900 m above sea level, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views. In addition to Blackwater Falls, the park has Elakala Falls, Pendleton Falls, Blackwater Canyon, and a lovely swimming lake where you can sit around a campfire in the evening.

New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge National Park is wild and green. Sparkling rivers, fabulous hiking trails, and a host of historic sites invite you to an extensive camping and hiking adventure. You'll also see the iconic New River Gorge Bridge, a variety of abandoned coal-mining sites, and the hidden waterfalls of Sandstone Falls and Brooks Falls. We highly recommend whitewater rafting in the gorge or rock climbing at one of the 1400+ climbing sites in the park!

Coopers Rock State Forest

You'll never forget the views at Coopers Rock State Forest! Above the canopy of the beautiful forest, Main Overlook and Raven Rock Overlook invite you to take breezy breaks after challenging hikes. Climbing the rock walls or zip lining among the treetops are also among fearless visitors' favorite activities. There are hikes through the dense forests, boat trips, and overnight stays in one of the rustic wooden cabins or under the spectacular starry sky for the rest of us.

Monongahela National Forest

In the Monongahela National Forest, dense forests, abundant wildlife, and babbling rivers await you. Around the nature preserve, you can visit historic sites, immerse yourself in America's railroad history, have fun at Canaan Valley Ski Resort, or admire the sensational Seneca Creek Falls. The highest point in West Virginia is located in Monongahela National Forest which makes it a popular place for climbing.

Top 10 sightseeing highlights in West Virginia

The following places in West Virginia are must-sees and should absolutely be on your travel list:

  • Appalachian Trail
  • Snowshoe Mountain Resort
  • John Brown’s Fort
  • The Greenbrier
  • New River Gorge
  • Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
  • West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center
  • Seneca Caverns
  • West Virginia State Capitol
  • Blackwater Falls State Park

West Virginia city highlights

The first time you explore West Virginia on a map, you'll feel like you're in the place because the city names here come from all over the world: Athens, Berlin, Cairo, Calcutta, Geneva, and Shanghai.

However, no city in West Virginia is particularly large. But there are a few beautiful places with culture and great food. Here are the top highlights for your city trip through West Virginia:

City highlights Charleston

Charleston, West Virginia's capital, hugs the Kanawha River in the Southwest and invites you for a stroll in the historic district, a shopping tour, a visit to a minor league game, or the discovery of the State Forest by the river. But there's no shortage of arts and culture, either: each year, Charleston hosts the West Virginia Dance Festival, the Memorial Day Vandalia Gathering, and arts and cultural events called FestivALL.

These are the places you should see in Charleston:

  • West Virginia State Museum
  • Coonskin Park
  • Capitol Market
  • West Virginia State Capitol
  • Clay Center

City highlights Harpers Ferry

Located in the middle of the legendary Appalachian Trail, the historic small town of Harpers Ferry is a haven for visitors of all kinds. Activities abound: in Harpers Ferry, you can canoe, zip line, raft, or rock climb. Book a guide to take you through the historic park with its museums and viewpoints. The West Virginia Mountain Heritage Arts & Craft Festival is also held here.

Don't miss the following places to visit in Harpers Ferry:

  • Appalachian Trail
  • Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
  • Maryland Heights
  • John Brown’s Fort
  • St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church

City highlights Morgantown

The college town of Morgantown is best known for its world-famous West Virginia University and its fine sports teams. In addition, this small northern town is also full of exciting experiences: hang out in the bustling downtown area, admire the university's historic brick buildings, take a kayak tour, or hike through the colorful woods to the waterfalls at Deckers Creek or the overlook at Ravens Rock.

These are must-see places in Morgantown:

  • Art Museum of West Virginia University
  • Core Arboretum
  • Dorsey’s Knob Park and Disc Golf Course
  • White Park
  • Metropolitan Theatre

City highlights Summersville

What sounds like long sunny days by the lake? Summersville! The small town is home to West Virginia's largest lake. Located in the middle of the state, this pretty town of 300 is a great mixture of nature, water with a beach and bluffs, and beautiful historic buildings. Relax on a boat or paddleboard, book a whitewater rafting trip, or tour the historic sites of the American Civil War.

Don't miss these places to visit in Summersville:

  • Summersville Lake
  • Gauley River National Recreation Area
  • Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park
  • Nicholas County Veterans Memorial Park
  • Long Point Trail at Summersville Lake

Road trip in West Virginia

Panoramic roads, waterfalls, beautiful forests, and historic bridges make West Virginia the perfect state for an extensive road trip! A special highlight is a drive along the Highland Scenic Highway in autumn when the treetops glow in the legendary Indian summer colors!

Once you've enjoyed the main views, get off the main roads and seek out West Virginia's mysterious roadside attractions: the Mothman at Point Pleasant, Prabhupada's Palace of Gold in Moundville, the Mystery Hole in Ansted, and World's Largest Teapot in Chester are just a few.

Take a leisurely drive through West Virginia's romantic small towns, stopping for a snack as often as you can. The Mountain State is especially hospitable, and restaurants serve authentic, home-cooked meals.

Instagram hotspots in West Virginia

How beautiful it is here in West Virginia! You definitely need to show this off to your friends! Here are our top 5 Instagram hotspots in West Virginia:

  • Bear Rocks Dolly Sods
  • North Fork Mountain Chimney Rocks
  • North Fork Valley Canopy Tour
  • Blackwater Falls
  • Green Bank Observatory

Food highlights in West Virginia

As you travel through West Virginia, you'll be able to sample many local treats, thanks to Mountain State's signature hospitality. Don't miss the following dishes and snacks in West Virginia:

  • Biscuits and Gravy — Soft breakfast rolls with creamy meat sauce
  • Skillet Cornbread — Buttery cornbread with eggs and buttermilk
  • Buckwheat Pancakes — Fluffy buckwheat pancakes
  • Morel and Ramps — Fried morels with wild spring onions
  • West Virginia Slaw Dogs — Hot dog with chowder and chili

By the way, the world-famous Golden Delicious apple also comes from West Virginia.

West Virginia fun facts

You probably didn't know these fun things about the beautiful state of West Virginia:

  • At the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, you can marvel at the mysterious creature said to have been spotted several times in the woods of West Virginia. Mothman is now a world-famous legend.
  • Peterstown is where the largest washed-up diamond in North America was found.
  • Cecil H. Underwood was the youngest and the oldest governor of West Virginia. His terms lasted from 1957 to 1961 and from 1997 to 2001.
  • On "Official Bridge Day," every third Saturday in October, hundreds of people jump off the giant New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville. But don't worry: They wear parachutes or bungee cords while doing so.
  • White Sulphur Springs is home to the Coal House - the only residential building in the world made entirely of coal.

Moving to West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the most beautiful US states to live in, and it's not that hard to build a new life here. We'll explain how.

Working in West Virginia

West Virginia's major industries include mining, chemicals, biotechnology, aerospace, automotive, and tourism. It's no surprise that the most common occupations here are drivers and nurses, in addition to cashiers and runners, as the largest employers in West Virginia include the health care system and construction. You'll also have a good chance at a secure job as a teacher in elementary and secondary schools here. However, the best paying professions in West Virginia are financial advisors, engineers, and doctors

Living in West Virginia

There's good news and bad news for your new life in West Virginia. The good: the cost of living in West Virginia is well below the US average. The bad: You'll have to work hard to get a good-paying job. As a reward, you'll be treated to some of the most incredible scenery and forests in the United States, romantic small towns, and friendly people. A good solution for many professionals: live in the beautiful Mountain State and work in Washington D.C. or Pittsburgh.

Coming to West Virginia with a Green Card

A Green Card allows you to live and work in the USA indefinitely. The easiest way to get the desired US immigrant visa is through the Green Card Lottery, in which the US government draws 55,000 Green Cards every year. Sign up now - it's just a few clicks!

Green Card Lottery

Win one of 55,000 Green Cards in the official Green Card Lottery of the US authorities!