With its most popular trails free of crowds, hikers can enjoy solitude in winter and witness an environment far different than when the trees are in leaf.
"It's an eye-opening experience," says Levi Moore, an outdoor recreation proponent who's become a dedicated winter hiker. "The environment in winter is completely different."
Why hike in West Virginia in winter? Moore and the West Virginia Explorer staff have outlined five reasons a hike in the Mountain State might be just the place for a winter weekend getaway.
The winter views are exceptional.
Considering the vastly changed landscape, it might as well be another state in winter. "It's completely different, and you can see for miles after the leaves have fallen," Moore said. "You'll see details such as rocks and ruins you can't see when the leaves are out."
Interactions with nature may seem more intimate.
Sound carries differently in winter without the muffling effect of foliage. Animal behavior is also different. Mammals that don't hibernate leave tracks in the snow. Moore says, "I'm fascinated to see their tracks and determine where their dens are."
Most trails are easily accessible.
"While it might seem remote, West Virginia is only a half day's drive from many major U.S. cities," says Clyde Craig, a staff writer. "I can drive from downtown Pittsburgh, Columbus, or Washington into the heart of West Virginia in less than three hours."
Many trails are less crowded.
Many of the state's best-known trails can grow busy on warm weekends, but you're less likely to encounter crowding in winter. Hundreds of lesser-known hiking trails will provide exceptional solitude, and trailhead parking will be far less problematic.
Lodging rates may be discounted in winter.
Unless you plan to lodge near one of the state's ski resorts, chances are you can take advantage of off-season rates at cabins and hotels. Restaurants may also be less busy, and staff often have time to provide more friendly service than during vacation season.
For more information on planning a winter getaway in West Virginia, visit Winter in Almost Heaven.
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