Six crowd-free vacation experiences in outdoorsy West Virginia

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Six crowd-free vacation experiences in outdoorsy West Virginia
The Glade Creek Gristmill at Babcock State Park has become an icon of West Virginia's rurality and scenic beauty.

Though it lies in the heart of the eastern U.S., West Virginia may offer more than its share of uncrowded vacation experiences.

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Because of its low population density, it boasts a remarkably well-established infrastructure of less-congested vacation venues, and there are plenty of opportunities to do nothing at all.

Shops at Shepherdstown, West Virginia

"Simply driving down to the river and skipping rocks is a fine thing to do any day," says Maura Kistler, co-owner of in .

"I think sometimes we forget that vacations can include unscheduled down-time, and it's easy to find a lot to do here without planning or scheduling."

Kistler says alone time is also ideal for rejuvenation, and it's easy to achieve that in the outdoors.

West Virginia is the third most forested state in the U.S., and there are plenty of parks and forests in which to wile away the hours.

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"Social distancing is easy in nature," Kistler says, "and social distancing is part of the reason that being out in nature can be so healing. It's a balm for the tortured spirit."

Then there are West Virginia's legendary , ideal for road-tripping and Sunday drives.

Headlights trace highways along Seneca Creek (upper right) and the North Fork of the South Branch. Photo courtesy Jess Thornton.

Many rural routes have been developed as scenic byways and interpretive trails, ideal for low-key getaways, says Leisha Elliot, executive director of the  in north-central West Virginia.

"If you want to get away and explore and learn, there are many driving trails, including the state's , and there are plenty of war memorials and historic sites everywhere," Elliot says.

West Virginia is no more than a half day's drive from home for millions of Americans, and it's an easy place in which to drive. With the exception of some congested areas in and near its larger cities, driving is easy.

Fishing

West Virginia is a favorite destination for , partly because it's not as heavily fished as other states. There are plenty of uncrowded lakes, streams, and ponds, and a newbie angler can acquire a road, reel, and license for less than $50 at almost any department or sporting-goods store.

Hiking

Hiking is a popular pursuit in West Virginia, and thousands of trails wander its parks and forests. You're likely to meet other hikers on popular paths such as the Endless Wall Trail, , chances are you'll be able to enjoy solitude on most.

Biking

Off-road and back road biking trails may be found throughout the Mountain State, and gravel-road riding is growing exponentially in rural areas. If you don't have your own bike, it's not hard to find bike rentals available in outdoor-recreation centers such as .

Kayaking

Paddling is perhaps the fastest growing sport in West Virginia where clean water and beautiful small towns are plentiful. Whitewater kayaking is extremely popular in the mountains, notably on streams that also offer whitewater rafting. Flatwater kayaking is booming statewide.

Sight-seeing

Perhaps the most effortless pursuit of all, there's plenty to see from the window of the car or after only a brief stroll from the road. Sights such as the gristmill at Babcock State Park (pictured above) are to be found across the state. Mountaineers are friendly and love to point out landmarks.

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing is among the most challenging of outdoor pursuits for which West Virginia is known, but there's no better time than present to learn. Climbing guides and outfitters can generally be found near its chief climbing destinations, such as at the New River Gorge, Seneca Rocks, and .

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