Mini Travel Guide: The Appalachians

The Appalachians are a beautiful mountain range in Eastern United States perfect for road tripping! Enjoy this mini travel guide to the Appalachians. This is one of many Mini Travel Guides in which locals and expats share their favorite things with us. 
Mini travel guide to the Appalachians

Hi! I’m Kelly. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, with a yearlong stint in West Virginia for Americorps, and two years in North Carolina for graduate school. The Appalachian Region is, in my opinion, among the most beautiful and friendly our country has to offer. Come check it out!

Must do in the Appalachians

Must go in the Appalachians

FloydFest, Floyd, VA

This annual summer festival is a must for music lovers or anyone who is bummed they missed Woodstock. Spend a few days near the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, pitch a tent, and make some new friends by the campfire. You can also float down the Little River or add a mountain-biking excursion while you’re at it.

The Greenbrier Resort, White Sulphur Springs, WV

No reservations are required to drop in on this gorgeous hotel steeped in history. Established in the late 1700s, the hotel was occupied at different times by both sides during the Civil War, and as an internment facility for diplomats during World War 2. In the 1950s a bomb shelter was constructed under the hotel, to be used to house Congress in case of a nuclear attack. The bunker was exposed and decommissioned in 1992, and can be viewed on tours that are open to the public.
must do in the Appalachians

Must do in the Appalachians

Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival, Riner, VA

Have you ever wanted to take a hay ride to pick your own pumpkin? Here’s your chance. Every weekend in October the Pumpkin Festival provides just that opportunity, along with kettle corn, ice cream, a corn maze, and if you’re lucky, “punkin chuckin” (watching a pumpkin being launched into a field by a giant lever is way more fun than you would think).

State Fairs

The North Carolina State Fair, held every fall in Raleigh, is an impressive display of rides, food, and livestock. Make sure to try a deep fried Oreo, or if that’s not your speed, grilled corn on a stick (delicious!). The West Virginia State Fair, held in August, is a much smaller version of the same. Grab some homemade donuts and stroll by one of the livestock barns to watch children with exceptional wrangling skills show their prize sheep (and learn a thing or two about animal husbandry in the process).
Must eat in the Appalachians

Must eat in the Appalachians

Barbecue

It’s no secret that North Carolinians love their barbecue. The Lexington Style (tomato or ketchup-based) v. Eastern Style (vinegar-based) feud is older than the Duke-UNC rivalry. Any visit to the state is a good chance to fill-up on barbecue and decide which style works for you.

Vineyards + Breweries

Wineries have been popping up all over Virginia in recent years. You can get your fill of wine, but also try high-quality beer and cider thanks to the Brew Ridge Trail, a group of small craft breweries. Many of the wineries are located on beautiful properties that make for great picnics, and live music is generally offered in the summer months.

From the food trucks

Durham, NC has a wide variety of offerings that are served via food truck. Pizza, popsicles, and Korean are just a few of your choices. Look for them at community events or outside of bars and breweries on weekend evenings.
Cultural tips for traveling in the Appalachians

Cultural tips for traveling in the Appalachians

Basketball is almost a religion in North Carolina. If you’re not a basketball fan but you’re hoping to meet people on your trip, it’s probably a good idea to brush up on some of the state’s teams before you go.
Everyone I met during my year in West Virginia was very conscious of the state’s “redneck” reputation. Some despise it, a few are proud of it, but fewer still actually fit that description and no more so than any other state.
Cheap travel in the Appalachians
 

Travel on the cheap in the Appalachians

The Appalachian Region is blessed with the perfect land for outdoor activities. In every state you can find hiking trails, rivers, bike paths, and so much more. Even if you don’t feel up for a hike on the Appalachian Trail just yet, there are plenty of free options for being active. And if you find yourself near Fayetteville, WV, make sure to check out the spectacular New River Gorge Bridge, which you can cross on foot on Bridge Day in October.
Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University: These stunning gardens are free to the public, and feature displays of native southeastern plants as well as plants of eastern Asia.
Thanks so much for sharing, Kelly!  Do you Appalachian readers have any other travel tips to share?

photo 1 by nicholas t // photo 2 via dreams in hd // photo 3 by adrian valenzuela // photo 4 by sodanie chea // photo 5 by us navy imagery // 
photo 6 by nicholas t 

11 Comments

Sue Pariseau Pottery

Stayed in Floyd VA a couple times while our daughter lived nearby. Didn't make it to Floydfest, but enjoyed the Friday Night Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store and comfort of Hotel Floyd. Recommend both.

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Jennifer Scott

Yes, yes, THANK YOU! I went to West Virginia for college (and stayed another year to do Americorps*VISTA–where did you serve??), and I absolutely loved it. Many of my native West Virginian friends are some of the smartest, wittiest, most erudite people I've ever met, and it is BECA– USE they are from West Virginia, not in spite of it. And yet now that I'm in Pittsburgh (which is less than an hour from the WV border), I get a lot of "Ew, WV, I'm not going there, it's full of hillbillies." And then I have to facepalm and get on my "West Virginia is actually pretty great" soapbox. I love your suggestions! I will have to take a road trip sometime soon, I think. 😀

If I had to add any, I'd say check out Helvetia, WV. Through a strange accident of geography, a deal cut with Germany to get some settlers, and a variety of other strange history, Helvetia is basically an adorable Swiss village in the middle of WV. It's weird, but also awesome.

Canaan Valley is also a really awesome place for nature lovers. Another accident of geography has actually made the climate and ecosystem in this area more akin to southern Canada than central WV. The bird watching is top-shelf if you're into that, and it's supposed to be a great ski destination in the winter. Also, Seneca Rock and the Caverns are nearby, if you like caving and rock climbing.

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kelly

hi Jennifer! I did VISTA in Lewisburg, so most of my experience was with the southern part of WV. Will definitely have to check out your suggestions!

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Anonymous

I have been going to SW VA since I was a little girl. If you are in the Boone, NC area, definitely stop in at Mass General Store. Also, the small town of West Jefferson, NC is a great small town. They have a cheese factory with a great selection as well as cute little shops and restaurants.

Grayson Highlands State Park is a great place to go hiking. They also have a great Fall Festival with the absolute best dessert ever, Hobopies (Bread, butter, apples, and powder sugar).

And I completely agree, you should know the rival college teams (Go Wolfpack!) and make sure you have some good eastern carolina barbecue!

~Jeanette

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iris

West Virginia is pretty great for hiking, but we were in Fayetteville, WV for July 4th a few years back and I've never heard more anti-city, anti-intellectual country music in my life. Maybe that region is one of the ones that fall into "being proud", but it was incredibly uncomfortable for our bunch of city-living PhD students…

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Alicia Johnston

Be still my heart! I have a deep and abiding love for the Appalachia as a Virginia native, frequent West Virginia visitor, and someone who grew up visiting NC or SC every year. This guide gives me some new ideas for trips next time I go home and a reminder of somethings I already love.

If you're near DC, I highly recommend Breaux Vineyards in Purcellville–great for a picnic (BYO) and also just a beautiful drive. For a challenging but not impossible 1/2 day hike, Old Rag is a great portion of the Appalachian Trail. Awesome post, Kelly!

Alicia / Jaybird

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Anonymous

Hmm I really like this guide & it makes me want to go visit these nice parts of Appalachia, but it makes me uncomfortable to not have any mention of how parts of Appalachia are some of the poorest regions of the US and how mountaintop-removal coal mining is causing immense environmental destruction and devastating communities :(…and the inspiring organizing going on to fight that and preserve all of these nice parts!

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Megan

West Virginian here (who went to college in Roanoke), and I'm so happy to see such a great post about the region here. We do get such a bad reputation (and "Buck Wild" made more people angry than most anything else I've ever seen). It's such a beautiful area, and I really love my state but there is a huge brain drain as people leave for the cities to get better jobs.

hollowdocumentary.com does a great job of covering life in a coal mining town in West Virginia as it was just a month and a half ago.

As for traveling there, Charleston is fabulous for foods and local business. The tamarack is a fantastic artisan gallery/shop on the highways. The outdoors is really where to be though with the rafting, skiing, hiking, ziplining, mountain climbing, etc. The fall is great for the views and the leaves changing on the mountains- ziplining in the autumn leaves is fabulous. There are quite a few state parks as well.

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Emiy

I would absolutely love to visit this part of the US – I'd love to even hike a bit of the trail through this region. Cool hints – I hope it's not long before I get the chance!!

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Sarah

My dad grew up in West Virginia and has so many stories of playing in the Appalachians! I've always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but I probably need to get in better shape to pull that off! 😉

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