West Virginia's Midland Trail National Scenic Byway - Route 60
Historic Route 60
Historic Route 60 through West Virginia is a highway that rivals the National Road (Route 40) and Historic Route 66 in sights to enjoy and places to visit. All of these American highways have stories to tell and have inspired novels, films, and even animated films like the Disney Cars series.
My memories of driving along Route 60 frequently are many, but the ones I remember most vividly are those that include the coal mining villages I saw that consisteed of several trailers in a hollow, Gauley Bridge Reservoir, and Hawk's Nest State Park.
Before my trips began, I had heard many people say that there was nothing in West Virginia, but that senitment is incorrect. The songs extolling the state for its scenery and people are correct. Had I never visited the state, I would have been missing a lot.
Memories Of West Virgina Route 60
Coal Mining Villages
Driving east on Route 60, I usually saw several coal mining villages along the road. These communities consisted of several long trailers of the same length, all used for homes, a school, and a church.
They were not upscale trailers, but they served as convenient living close to the coal mining projects in the state. They were picturesque in a way, yet looked lonely in another way, reminding me of the true stories written by Homer Hickam about his upbringing in a coal mining town in WVa. Those were the days before he went to work for NASA and wrote Rocket Boys (October Sky) about his rocket building with high school friends.
West Virginia is full of interesting people and places.
Gauley Bridge Civil War History
I was surprised by the town of Gauley Bridge the first time I met it along Route 60. I rounded a curve and suddenly saw the clearest water I have ever seen, just beside me at a level flush with the shoulder of the road at the time. I remember a row of rental cottages along the other side of the road. The scene would make a good picture postcard.
Today, you can still see pilings left by a bridge, the Gauley Bridge, that was destroyed with the retreat of Confederate troops in 1861. It was a covered bridge spanning the Gauley River near the point at which is joins with the New River to form the larger Kanawha River. Kanahwa Falls is about teo miles south of this point, and also a popular stopping place along the historic highway.
Gauley Mountain is to the east, easily scene from the town of Gauley Bridge. Cathedral Falls is on mile east of the town, between it and the mountain. It is not shown on maps, but it sits right beside Route 60 in a roadside park.
In town, the old K&M Railway Station was recntly renovated. However, it earned placement on the National Register of Historic Places in the spring of 1980.
Cathedral Falls, Gauley Bridge
Hawk's Nest State Park
Around another curve in the road is the magnificent Hawk's Next State Park. It covers 276 acres that border the New River Gorge National River and Anerican Heritage River; and offers panroamic views of the beautiful West Virginia countryside, along with views of the hydroelectric dam and the trains running down in the valley.
A modern ADA-accessible lodge of 31 guest rooms is currently in operation at the park, right above Hawk's Nest Lake. Overnight guests often stay in the lodge in order to benefit from the white water rafting activities in the park.
A Sky Tram ride also offers magnificent pastoral views along a route between the lodge and the marina on the lake below. During the monthof October, the tram operates every day in order to afford visitors views of fall foliage.
The name Hawk's Nest is attributed to the fish hawks, or ospreys, that live in the area.
River Nature Center inside the park is a great family attraction, presenting matieral aboout the fish hawks and other wildlife and native plants as well as mountains and rivers. The center is also a stop on a 1.8 mile Rail Trail operated by he town of Ansted WVA.
Several hiking trails in the park give acess to places like the abandoned coal mine in the picture below. There is even a Lover's Leap Trail - it contains 100 wooden steps for a lot of exercise. Shorter trails are available for fun as well.
Swimming is a popular activity in the park and jetboat rides are available. Some visitors enjoy the 9 hol golf course and the lodge's restaurant. The jetboats offer an hour long tour and travel under the picturesque New River Gorge Bridge, 876 feet high.
Hawks Nest State Park
49 Hawks Nest Park Road
PO Box 857
Ansted, WVA 25812
(Located in Fayette County along Route 60; Phone 800-225-5982)
Special Events at Hawk's Nest
- New River Hummingbird Festival - Yearly, on a third weekend of August.
- Cornstalk's Raid - 250th commemoration (in 2013) History Alive! - Yearly during a day in the first week of September.
- Country Roads Festival - Third weekend every September. Food, vendors, crafts, apple butter making, live music and family activities.
- Hometown Mountain Heritage Festival - Downtown Ansted. Third weekend each June. Vendors, crafts, live music, and more.
View of Hawk's Nest State Park
More of Historic Route 60
Moving from west to east, the Midland Trail begins at Virginia Point Park and cover 180 miles to White Sulphur Springs. The places I have remembered most vividly are in the central section of the route, in what is called the Recreation Center. The western most section is the Capital Area and the eastern portion is called the Refined Pastoral East.
White Sulpher Springs is the location of the upscale Greenbrier Resort in which the restaurant wait staff take no notes and memorize everyone's order. It has operated since 1778 at 300 West Main Street and now offers over 30 shops inside the lobby and three PGA golf courses. A secret Cold War-era Congressional bunker that was used at the Greenbrier is open to the public to tour. The city supports plenty of outdoor recreation activities as well.
Sewell Mountain is a short distance west of the Greenbrier resort and acts as the dividing point bewteen the pastoral section and recreational section of Route 60. Crossing the mountain presents a number of twists and turns that are called the "Hairpin Turn Experiences." travelers enjoy wildlife sightings and beautiful views during their descent from the mountain.
In the Capital section of the Midland Trail, you will find State Capital Charleston as well as Huntington and several historic cities.Furthest West is Virginia Point Park in Kenova, which also features a working drug store soda fountain at Griffith and Feil Drugs. The store has a copper ceiling, oak floors, and a bubble juke box to go with the soda fountain/lunch counter. Other fixtures are from the1880s!
West Virgina has a lot to see and do. For more information on the Midland Trail and Route 60, call 1-866-ROUTE60.