Fall colors on a hike in the mountains

10 Best Scenic Drives in West Virginia to Take In the Fall (2023)

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West Virginia is arguably one of the best places to experience the fall in the United States. The state is already known for its lush forests and mountain tops, so you can only imagine how beautiful it is during the autumn. What better way to take in all the breathtaking scenery this fall season than taking a scenic drive?

Beautiful fall foliage in West Virginia

10 Best Scenic Drives in West Virginia In The Fall: An Overview

A cozy way to explore West Virginia’s fall colors is by taking one of the state’s scenic drives. Buckle in, put on your favorite tunes, invite your loved ones, and get ready to take in some great views on some windy roads! Who knows, you might find some cool places to stop along the way!

Before we dive deeper into the details of these scenic routes, here is a list of all the drives we’ll be covering today!

  • Washington Heritage Trail
  • Highland Scenic Highway
  • Coal Heritage Trail
  • Midland Trail
  • Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike
  • Little Kanawha Parkway
  • Historic National Road
  • Mountain Parkway Byway
  • Lower Greenbrier River Byway
  • Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway
Washington Heritage Trail is by far one of the best scenic drives in West Virginia to take in the Fall

10 Best Scenic Drives in West Virginia To Take In The Fall

If you’re like me and love both beautiful fall colors and scenic drives, you’re in a fantastic state to experience the best of both worlds! West Virginia is scenic no matter what time of year, although when autumn rolls around, it’s a whole new level of breathtaking. Let’s go over some different roads and byways you can drive to take in all the best fall colors.

1. Washington Heritage Trail

The Washington Heritage Trail is not actually a trail, but a 136-mile scenic byway! It maneuvers through three counties in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle. It’s a great scenic drive for those who are interested in history, as it passes through the impacts that George Washington and his family left in the area. 

The Washington Heritage Trail passes through five different towns and has over 40 landmarks to see along the way. The scenic byway makes a loop as it passes through Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, Berkeley Springs, and Paw Paw. While this is an excellent route for anyone looking to see the changing colors in the fall, it’s also a great route to check out historical sites on the way to stretch your legs!

Are you looking to make a stop in Harpers Ferry? Check out my next post on 11 of the best Harper’s Ferry Hiking Trails!

Highland Scenic Highway is one of the best scenic drives in West Virginia to take during the autumn season

2. Highland Scenic Highway

The Highland Scenic Highway is a 43-mile highway beginning in Richmond and ending just north of Marlinton. This is considered one of the most scenic routes in the state because it weaves through the Monongahela National Forest and provides four excellent scenic overlooks for passengers to take in the mountain views and stretch their legs. 

For those looking for a windy route that twists through the mountains, this drive is for you! On this drive, you’ll go through the Alleghany Highlands and Plateau with an overall elevation gain of over 2,000 feet! This is by far one of the greatest drives to take during the fall season.

The Highland Scenic Highway utilizes Routes 39 and 150, however, Route 150 is not maintained during the winter. It’s still open though it’s often treacherous and impassible. The restrooms at the overlooks are also closed during the wintertime.

Looking for a place to stay in the area? Check out my post on Blackwater Falls Cabin Rentals!

Coal Heritage Trail is the best historic scenic drive in West Virginia

3. Coal Heritage Trail

The Coal Heritage Trail is another great example of a scenic drive through West Virginia that highlights the state’s history. This driving trail navigates through 187 miles and 13 different counties, showcasing the industrial history of past coal miners. Located in Southern West Virginia, this route is situated in the Appalachian Mountains, making it a beautiful and informative trip!

The heritage driving trail passes through all of West Virginia’s best sights… deep valleys, flowing water sources such as rivers and streams, substantial mountain walls, and quaint towns. It also passes through various National Historic Districts with cool attractions such as previous coal miner homes, stores, offices, and other buildings that offer a glimpse into the past “smokeless coal field” lifestyle.

View from Midland Trail

4. Midland Trail

For all of you with four-wheel drive and a vehicle that can withstand rugged terrain, Midland Trail is your spot. It’s also an excellent option for all of you looking to drive West Virginia from border to border. Midland Trail National Scenic Byway follows Route 60, is a total of 117 miles, and starts in Kentucky and travels down to Virginia. 

This is a fantastic route to see all the beauty that fall in West Virginia has to offer. There are many great spots to stop along the way to take in the scenery, making it a fantastic road trip! Some of the popular places that people usually stop along the way are Hawks Nest State Park, the New River Gorge, the State Capitol, and so many more!

Next Post: Your Guide to West Virginia’s National Parks, Scenic Trails + More

Colorful trees in West Virginia

5. Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike

The Stauton-Parkersburg Turnpike is another great cross-state road trip! This scenic byway begins in Staunton, Virginia, and crosses West Virginia where it ends in Parkersburg. Passing through ten different cities is a great way to see the state in the autumn since there are plenty of things to do and see on the way!

The Stauton-Parkersburg Turnpike follows US 250, US 33, and WV 47. It’s a historic road that starts in the Shenandoah Valley and ends at the Ohio River. Although the 225-mile journey is a long one, it can be completed within a day! To make a fun fall road trip, you could easily spend a week stopping at all the historic and cool places along the route.

Route 5 in WV

6. Little Kanawha Parkway

To get some of the best views of nature in the state, Little Kanawha Parkway is one of the better drives. With a distance of only 77.63 miles, it typically takes travelers about 2 to 3 hours to complete this drive. The parkway winds through rustic farmlands and charming small towns while getting river and forest views the entire way. 

Little Kanawha Parkway travels from east to west from Burnsville north to an area between Elizabeth and Parkersburg. Many people take this parkway nice and slow due to the winding roads and beautiful scenery along the way. This drive follows Route 5 and offers plenty of outdoor recreation activities for visitors, granting access to fishing piers, hiking trailheads, and hunting designated areas.

Historic National Road in West Virginia is by far one of the states best scenic drives

7. Historic National Road

Also known as the Cumberland Road, the Historic National Road was the US’ very first federally funded interstate and became the corridor for the migration of goods and people traveling from the West. This scenic highway is remarkable because it takes drivers through a physical timeline of the 200-year history of the highway, including stopping points at classic inns, diners, motels, and toll houses. 

The Historic National Road is 620 miles long and connects the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. To drive the section through West Virginia, follow US 40 from the Pennsylvania border to the Ohio border. Points of interest along the way are the Museums of Oglebay Institute, Madonna of Trail Statue, and Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum.

Fall is an excellent time to experience this historic road because the weather is perfect, the trees are colorful, and the tourist season has died down!

Beautiful fall colors in WV

8. Mountain Parkway Byway and Backway

Most of the scenic drives we’ve covered up until this point have been fairly long drives. However, if you’re looking for a shorter but just as beautiful drive in the fall, look no further than Mountain Parkway Byway! It has a distance of about 45 miles and travels through Webster County. This mountain byway is perfect for those looking to experience the fall season with shorter mileage, without giving up all the attractions on the route.

Mountain Parkway Byway and Backway are drastically underrated because the scenery is breathtaking as you wind through valleys, mountains, and small towns in the area. It also passes by Holly River State Park, which is an excellent attraction to check out in the fall! It’s a loop drive, so you won’t see the same thing twice!

The byway and backway are different routes, allowing you to choose your adventure. The byway is an easier drive that follows along WV Route 20 while the backway follows County Road 3. Other attractions in the area include Mollohan Mill, Hacker Valley, McCray Rocks, and Mount Zion Church.

Leaves by a river

9. Lower Greenbrier River Byway

Located in Fort Springs, the Lower Greenbrier River Byway is 27 miles long and travels parallel to the railroad through the scenic countryside, lush forests, wooded areas, and the endearing town of Alderson. This scenic drive is perfect for those who don’t want to drive too fast but want to take in the magical views of autumn along the river.

This route is fairly flat except for two steep uphill sections. Both occur near the beginning and end of the drive, depending on which direction you take. The route begins/ends at the towns of Ronceverte and Bellepoint. It takes about three and a half hours to complete.

Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway is a great scenic drive in West Virginia in the fall

10. Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway

The Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway is about 170 miles from beginning to end, traversing through both Virginia and West Virginia. The byway passes through five different counties on Route 39. The route got its name due to all the freshwater sources that you encounter on your drive, including lakes, streams, and rivers. 

If you’re road-tripping throughout the area, this is by far the scenic way to go. The quiet and peaceful natural landscape accompanies you as you wind through historical treasures, remarkable mountains, and natural wonders. It’s especially beautiful in the fall since the natural water sources provide vibrant leaves along the path.

Fall colors on a hike in the mountains

Best Scenic Drives in West Virginia: Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we’ve gone over ten different routes that are great for driving through during the fall, let’s discuss more on some frequently asked questions surrounding this topic!

What is the best scenic route in West Virginia?

Washington Heritage Trail is arguably the best scenic route in West Virginia. It’s popular for a variety of reasons, including its historical prevalence, variety of attractions en route, and of course, because of how scenic the drive is!

What is the most beautiful highway in West Virginia?

Highland Scenic Highway is one of the most referenced scenic drives and highways in West Virginia because it traverses through the Monongahela National Forest and offers many scenic overlooks along the way. It’s a windy, mountainous road that offers great scenery from your car windows!

How long is Highland Scenic Highway in WV?

Highland Scenic Highway is 43 miles long, beginning in Richmond and ending just north of Marlinton. It goes through the Monongahela National Forest and drivers will experience over 2,000 feet elevation gain on this drive!

Do you drive through the mountains in West Virginia?

Depending on which route you take, it’s probable that you’ll be driving through the mountains in West Virginia. The state is known for its lush forests and grandiose mountain tops, and one way that people can experience this is through driving!

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    Wrapping Up: 10 Best Scenic Drives in West Virginia To Take in the Fall

    There you have it! Ten of the best scenic drives in West Virginia to take in the fall. These scenic drives are great any time of year, although who wouldn’t want to experience them when all the beautiful leaves are changing colors? We hope you take advantage of all the beautiful autumn views that West Virginia has to offer this year, and a road trip is just one great way to do it!

    Make sure to look into road conditions, closures, and more before you go. It’s also advisable to do some research on your way because all of these drives offer great attractions to see en route! Drive safe!