West Virginia’s scenic byways and backways offer visitors a chance to view remarkable scenery and visit some of the state’s most historic sites. Six of the byways in the state have received federal recognition, including the National Road, which is the state’s only All-American Road. The Midland Trail, Highland Scenic Highway, Coal Heritage Trail, Washington Heritage Trail, and the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike have been recognized as National Scenic Byways because of their historical, cultural, recreational, or scenic qualities. The state has recognized more than 20 other scenic byways or backways, as well.
The West Virginia Division of Tourism and the West Virginia Division of Highways offer additional information about many of these scenic byways and backways. The America’s Byways program also provides detailed information about the roads.
• National Road: Congress authorized construction of the National Road from Cumberland, Maryland, to Wheeling in 1806. It was later incorporated into U.S. 40, a transcontinental route from New Jersey to California. The 16-mile stretch of National Road in West Virginia goes through Wheeling and travels over the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, a National Historic Landmark. Sites on the byway or nearby include West Virginia Independence Hall, the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum, and Capitol Music Hall. For more information, go here.
• Midland Trail: The Midland Trail is part of the national east-west route built in the 1930s and designated as U.S. 60. The 117-mile section of the Midland Trail from White Sulphur Springs to Charleston is a National Scenic Byway and features numerous notable sites, including the historic Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, Lewisburg, Hawks Nest State Park, the Mystery Hole, Kanawha Falls, and Malden, once home to educator Booker T. Washington. In Charleston, the Midland Trail travels by the West Virginia capitol, designed by Cass Gilbert. The 63-mile section of the Midland Trail between Charleston and Kenova is a state scenic byway. Sites along the byway or nearby include the South Charleston Mound, Blenko Glass in Milton, Central City in Huntington, and Camden Park, the state’s only amusement park. For more information, go here.
• Highland Scenic Highway: This 43-mile national scenic byway follows State Route 39 and State Route 150 from Fenwick, through Richwood, and then to U.S. 219, north of Marlinton. The byway travels through part of the Monongahela National Forest and features some of the most scenic spots in the state, including Summit Lake, the Falls of Hill Creek, and Cranberry Glades. For more information, go here.
• Coal Heritage Trail: This byway, 98 miles long, travels through part of the National Coal Heritage Area, which includes 13 counties in southern West Virginia. Visitors will see coal company towns, miners’ homes, company stores, rail yards, and reclaimed mining lands. Starting at the southern end, the trail follows U.S. 52 from Bluefield to Welch, State Route 16 through Beckley to Chimney Corner, then U.S. 60 to Ansted. The trail also includes County Road 25 that goes to Thurmond, once a bustling coal town and now an historic district on the National Register. The byway also travels by Bramwell, once home to numerous wealthy coal operators. In Beckley, travelers can visit the Exhibition Coal Mine. Recreational sites on the byway or nearby include the New River Gorge National River, New River Gorge Bridge, Hawks Nest State Park, Bluestone Lake, Twin Falls State Park, and Pinnacle Rock. For more information go here or here.
• Washington Heritage Trail: This 137-mile trail takes visitors through the many historic and scenic sites of Jefferson, Berkeley, and Morgan counties in the Eastern Panhandle. Starting from the west, the byway follows State Route 9 from Paw Paw to Berkeley Springs, through Hedgesville and Martinsburg, and then to Kearneysville. The byway then follows State Route 45 to Shepherdstown and then State Route 230 to U.S. 340. The byway then goes east to Harpers Ferry or west to Charles Town. From Charles Town, the byway follows State Route 51 to Gerrardstown and then follows county roads to U.S. 522 back to Berkeley Springs. Along the trail, visitors will see several of the Washington family’s estates, including Harewood, which is still owned by a descendant of the Washington family. In Harpers Ferry, visitors may visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and learn about John Brown’s raid in 1861. In Berkeley Springs State Park, visitors may see the mineral springs that were visited numerous times by George Washington. Other sites include the Belle Boyd Museum in Martinsburg and the Shepherdstown historic district. For more information, go a here.
• Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike: The Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike, completed in 1850, was an integral part of Virginia’s early state road system. Now the 180-mile scenic byway takes visitors from Parkersburg to the Virginia state line. From the east, the byway begins in Parkersburg and follows State Route 47 to U.S. 33. U.S. 33 travels through Weston and Buckhannon and goes to Elkins. At Elkins, the byway goes south on U.S. 219 to Huttonsville and then south on U.S. 250 through Bartow. Travelers will see numerous historic sites, including the former Weston State Hospital, now known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, and the historic town of Beverly. Rich Mountain Battlefield is a few miles west of Beverly. Other sites include Civil War fortifications at Camp Allegheny and Camp Bartow. For more information, go here.
The following roads have been recognized by the state of West Virginia as scenic byways and backways. While byways are usually two-lane, paved roads, backways are often gravel and are not suitable for large vehicles.
• Historic Wellsburg and Bethany Byway: This 22-mile byway travels a loop through Brooke County along State Route 27, State Route 88, and State Route 67. Sites include the campus of Bethany College, the Alexander Campbell Mansion, Drover’s Inn, and historic Wellsburg.
• Old Route 7 Byway: This 43-mile byway follows State Route 7 beginning at Morgantown and ending beyond Terra Alta at the Maryland state line. Along the way, the byway follows Deckers Creek and crosses the Cheat River. Arthurdale Historic District, home to a New Deal homestead, is nearby on State Route 92 south of Reedsville. For more information, go here.
• Cheat River Byway: This 14-mile route along State Route 72 between State Route 7 and U.S. 50 offers views of the Cheat River canyon. Other sites include the Buckhorn Run Waterfall and the Tray Run Viaduct, one of the first modern iron railroad bridges in the United States. For more information, go here.
• Northwestern Turnpike Byway: Northwestern Virginia Turnpike was once the most important east-west route in western Virginia. The 54-mile scenic byway begins at Bridgeport and follows U.S. 50 through Grafton to the Virginia state line. Sites along the byway or nearby include Grafton National Cemetery, the historic district of Grafton, the Mother’s Day Shrine at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, and Cathedral State Park near Aurora. For more information, go here.
• Mountain Parkway Byway: This 17-mile byway along State Route 20 connects Hacker Valley and Cleveland in Webster County. This road travels through Holly River State Park, the second largest park in the state system. The byway ends at Cleveland, named for President Grover Cleveland.
• Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail Byway: This 80-mile byway follows the Kanawha River from Nitro to Point Pleasant on State Route 62 and back again on U.S. 35 and State Route 817. Sites include the Winfield Locks and Dam, the town of Eleanor, the River Museum in Point Pleasant, and others. For more information, go here.
• Little Kanawha Byway: This 78-mile byway follows State Route 5 and State Route 14 between Burnsville and Mineral Wells. The byway offers access to fishing, hunting, and hiking, as well as views of the Little Kanawha River, forests, and farms. For more information, go here.
• Elk River Byway: This 72-mile byway follows the Elk River from Sutton to Clendenin along State Route 4, State Route 16, and County Road 5. (Drivers of large vehicles are advised to stay on State Route 4 and avoid the county road.) The byway passes through the towns of Gassaway, Clay and Clendenin. The byway offers nice views of the Elk River, which is used for fishing, canoeing and kayaking. For more information, go here.
• Paint Creek Scenic Trail Byway/Backway: The 44-mile byway and backway travels through Kanawha, Fayette and Raleigh counties on county roads and highlights the state’s coal history. Considered the first battle of the West Virginia Mine Wars, the Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike took place in this part of West Virginia in 1912-1913. Sites along the byway or nearby include a coal trestle, coal company housing, Plum Orchard Lake, and Westerly Falls. The byway begins at Pratt and ends behind Tamarack, an arts and crafts center. The section from Mahan to Pax is a backway and is not suitable for RVs or buses. For more information go here.
• Farm Heritage Road Byway: This 59-mile byway takes visitors through picturesque farmland along State Route 12, State Route 122, U.S. 219, and State Route 3 in Monroe County. The sites on the byway or nearby include Indian Creek Covered Bridge, Salt Sulphur Springs, Union, Rehoboth Church, and Sweet Springs. For more information, go here.
• Lower Greenbrier River Byway: This 32-mile byway follows the Greenbrier River in Summers and Monroe counties. From Hinton, it follows State Route 3 to Alderson and then continues on State Route 63. For more information, go to here.
• Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway: The 145-mile byway follows State Route 39 from Summersville to Lexington, Virginia. The byway takes visitors through three West Virginia counties—Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Nicholas. Some of the sites include Cranberry Glades, the Falls of Hill Creek, and the Marlinton Opera House. For more information go here.
• Monongahela Byway: This byway travels along U.S. 219 through Thomas and Parsons, then on State Route 32 to Davis. The byway then travels through Canaan Valley and north on State Route 72. Along the way, visitors may see sites such as the Otter Creek Wilderness Area, Blackwater Falls State Park, and Canaan Valley State Park.
• Mountain Parkway Backway: This 32-mile backway in Webster County follows several county roads that can be reached via State Route 20. The county roads travel through the small communities of Pugh and Wheeler. The sites include Hanging Rock and Mollohan Mill, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Travelers can visit the workshops of several crafts people.
• Cedar Creek Road Backway: This 42-mile byway follows county roads in Gilmer and Braxton counties from State Route 5 near Glenville to Interstate 79 at Flatwoods. The backway offers views of farms and forested hills and takes visitors to Cedar Creek State Park. For more information, go here.
• Mountain’s Shadow Backway: This 29-mile backway between Peterstown and Gap Mills in Monroe County follows county roads along the ridge of Peters Mountain. The backway provides access to the Appalachian Trail. For more information, go here.
• Williams River Backway: This 28-mile backway follows Monongahela Forest Roads 86 and 216 along the Williams River. The Williams River is a popular trout stream stocked by the Department of Natural Resources. The trail provides access to hiking trails in the Cranberry Wilderness and the Tea Creek Backcountry. For more information, go here.
• Wolf Creek Backway: The 24-mile backway begins at Alderson and follows State Route 3, County Road 5, and County Road 43 through Greenbrier and Monroe counties. It passes scenic farms and a winery. The underlying limestone has created numerous sinkholes and caves in the area. For more information, go here.
• Lowell Backway: This nine-mile backway on county roads in Summers County passes farms and camps located along a big bend in the Greenbrier River. Travelers will pass the sites of two old mineral springs—Pence Springs and Barger Springs—and a camp built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It can be accessed from State Route 12. For more information, go here
• Glade Creek Backway: This six-mile backway parallels the New River and ends at a National Park Service campground. The gravel road can be accessed from County Road 41 at Prince.