Falling leaves in autumn reveal a landscape in which old farms, ghost towns, and other historic sites have been cloaked through summer.
That's why it's a favorite time for rangers and historians in southern West Virginia who wait all year for the region's annual Hidden History Weekend, during which more than a dozen special hikes and programs welcome the curious.
Though hundreds of participants altogether turn out for walks, hikes, and exhibitions centered around the canyons of the New, Gauley, and Bluestone rivers, each of the programs usually hosts only a handful of people, which is part of the attraction.
"Though some of the programs, such as the Bluestone walk, attract dozens of people, you can usually expect the Hidden History programs to be pretty intimate," according to Jodi French-Burr of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
Now in its 11th season, Hidden History Weekend events will highlight many more of the region's old industrial and sites and farmsteads. Though southern West Virginia is now a renowned destination for travel and outdoor recreation, it was once among the most productive coal-mining regions in the U.S.
All of the following programs are free and open to the public.
Friday, September 27, 2019
10 to 11:30 a.m. / 1.5 miles
Explore the area's pre-park history of Pipestem Resort State Park on this easy walk along the road and through the woods to an old farm site. Meet at Park Headquarters at Pipestem, West Virginia.
Endless Wall Trail
10 a.m. to noon / 3 miles
Hike one of the most scenic trails in the New River Gorge to see the stunning views at Diamond Point, which includes an overview of historic Kaymoor and Nuttallburg. Meet at the Fern Creek Parking Area of the Endless Wall Trail on Lansing-Edmond Road, Lansing.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield
11 a.m. to noon / 1 mile
Explore the impact of the Civil War in Nicholas County at the site of the Battle of Carnifex Ferry. Get an inside look at the historic Patterson house on this easy walk. Meet at the Patterson House in Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park near Mount Nebo.
Haunted History Hike
7 to 9 p.m. / 2 miles
Hear legends and stories from Appalachia while night falls. This program is not recommended for children younger than nine years old. Bring a flashlight! Meet at the Rend Trail parking area on Route 25 near Thurmond.
Saturday, September 28, 2019
Bike Ride on Southside Trail
9 to 11 a.m. / 4 miles
Bike along New River through remains of the historical ghost towns of Brooklyn and Red Ash. Bring your mountain bike, or one can be provided by making a bike reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meet at the Southside Trailhead one mile upstream from the Cunard River Access near Cunard.
Coal Town Hike
10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. / 6 miles
Coke ovens, an old cemetery, and obscure foundations are all that remains of Red Ash and Rush Run. Explore their ruins and hear stories of the area's early industrial history. Most of this hike is on level terrain but includes moderate off-trail explorations. Bring water and lunch. Meet at Southside Trailhead one mile upstream from the Cunard River Access near Cunard.
Walking Tour of Historic Hinton
10 a.m. to noon / 1 mile
Explore the Hinton National Historic District, including its Railroad Museum, Veteran's Museum, the Campbell-Flannagan-Murrell House Museum, and other notable structures. Participants will receive a complimentary bag lunch following the program. Meet at Summers County Visitor Center on the corner of Temple Street and 2nd Avenue in Hinton.
Bluestone Walk with History Bonus
10 a.m. to noon / 2 miles
Explore the area in which some of the earliest settlers in Bluestone River Gorge. Participants afterward are welcome to hike a half-mile farther an old farmstead, in which case the hike will be extended to 1:30 p.m. Meet at the bottom of Pipestem Resort State Park’s tramway at Pipestem.
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Cunard Hike on Brooklyn Mine Trail
9 to 11 a.m. / 5.4 miles.
Hike to the site of the historic Brooklyn mine, one of the lesser-known ghost towns in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Meet at the Brooklyn Mine Trailhead near the top of the Cunard River Access Road near Cunard.
Nuttallburg Headhouse Hike
9:30 a.m. to noon / 2 miles
Explore at 1920s headhouse and coal conveyor in the New River Gorge on this hike to the historic Nuttallburg mine. Meet at the new Short Creek parking area on Beauty Mountain Road, Lansing.
Hike on Glade Creek Trail
10 a.m. to noon / 3 miles
Hike along the banks of Glade Creek on the grade of timber railroad used in the early 1900s. Meet at the Glade Creek Trail parking area at the end of Glade Creek Road, 6.2 miles from Route 41 near Prince.
Old Growth Forest Hike
1:30 to 5:30 p.m. / 7 miles
Join guide Mitchell Dech to see old-growth trees near New River. Get a better idea of what it was like for people to live and travel this area in the mid-1700s, from Native American inhabitants to the region's early pioneers, including like Mary Draper Ingles. Meet at the Stone Cliff Trail parking area near Thurmond.
Hands-on History: Tools of the Coal Miner
3 to 4 p.m.
Come and go as you please for this informal talk that explores the history of coal mining in the New River Gorge. See tools used underground by these workers in the early 1900s. Meet at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve's Canyon Rim Visitor Center, Lansing.
Walking Tour of Historic Bramwell
2 to 4 p.m. / four-block walk
Join Mayor Lou Stoker and hear stories of early coal barons and their families on this sidewalk tour of the Bramwell National Historic District. Meet at the Coal Heritage Interpretive Center (Depot), Bramwell.
Thurmond Photography Walk
4 to 5:30 p.m.
Grab your favorite camera and explore this historic railroad town through a different lens. Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk will share tips and tricks on this no-pressure photo stroll through the town. All ages, skill levels, and cameras are welcome for this on-technical photography program. Meet at the deck next to the Thurmond Depot Visitor Center, Thurmond.
Mysterious stone face attracting curious in New River Gorge
An enigmatic stone face carved into the sandstone along the rim of the New River Gorge is attracting increased attention. Who carved it and why? The mystery has attracted the attention of hikers and rock climbers for decades. Read the full story here.