Advantage Valley's Awesome Outdoors

Mother Nature provides Advantage Valley residents with good reasons to get outside.

By
Kevin Litwin
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 15:48
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If it can be done outdoors, it can be done in Advantage Valley.

The region, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, offers proximity to best-in-class hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, fishing and other outdoor recreation activities as well as opportunities to stay active in all seasons.

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West Virginia Tourism

Whitewater Thrills

The region is within close proximity to major national parks with world-class whitewater. The New River Gorge National River is home to one of the oldest rivers on the continent for family-friendly float trips or whitewater that forms raging Class V rapids. The Gauley River National Recreation Area attracts international adventure seekers to experience the whitewater thrill of this 27-mile river that drops more than 800 feet.

Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy the nationally known Hatfield-McCoy Trails, which feature 700 miles of ATV and off-roading opportunities. Over 55,000 visitors a year take to the trails.

And if you’re looking for the best skiing – downhill and cross-country – in the mid-Atlantic, Advantage Valley is a day trip to resorts in Canaan Valley and Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, now owned by Aspen Skiing Co.

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Tyler Evert / West Virginia Tourism

Park Paradise

Locally, the 9,300-acre Kanawha State Forest, just 7 miles from downtown Charleston, is known for its 25 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. In-season hunting, with proper licenses, is also allowed in specified areas of the forest. Coonskin  Park is located 10 minutes from downtown Charleston and includes over 1,000 acres of woodland, hiking and biking trails, disk golf, a handicapped-accessible 18-hole, par-three golf course, an Olympic-size pool and a 3,000-seat soccer stadium.

Huntington’s Ritter Park is considered the crown jewel of the city’s historic Park District. Its 75 acres and numerous amenities contributed to it being designated one of the 10 Best Public Spaces in America by the American Planning Association. A signature feature of the park is the award-winning Ritter Park Rose Garden, which boasts more than 3,300 roses.

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Nathan Lambrecht

On the Right PATH

One of the region’s top spots for bicyclists, walkers and joggers is along the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, or PATH, in Huntington. The trail is named for Dr. Paul Ambrose, a promising young physician killed at the Pentagon during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

Today, the growing PATH initiative features more than 18 miles of trails accessible to many of Huntington’s attractions and workplaces, allowing residents an alternative means of transportation.

Advantage Valley is crisscrossed by several rivers, including the Ohio, Guyandotte, Elk, Kanawha, Mud and Coal, which provide opportunities for canoeists, kayakers and water recreation enthusiasts.

West Virginia’s newest state park, the Elk River Rail Trail, represents over 50 miles of historic rail corridor that has been converted to a hiking and biking trail along the scenic Elk River. Known as one of the most ecologically diverse rivers east of the Mississippi, the Elk is perfect for family kayak and paddle boarding outings.

A favorite spot for kayakers is the Coal River, a tributary of the Kanawha River. The Coal River Group, formed in the early 2000s, works to promote the 88 miles of the Big Coal, Little Coal and Coal rivers for recreational use. The group stages the annual Tour de Coal kayaking event that attracts about 2,000 kayakers each June to Advantage Valley.

“I didn’t dream then of a kayak revolution occurring in our region, but that’s what is happening today,” says Bill Currey, founder and chairman of the Coal River Group. “Those three rivers were long impacted by industry and other factors, but millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours went into restoring the waters. Now, the Big Coal, Little Coal and Coal are among the most beautiful and clean flat-water paddling rivers in the eastern United States.”

Kicking & Shouting

The $17 million Shawnee Sports Complex spans 127 acres and features six collegiate turf/multipurpose fields for soccer and lacrosse and four collegiate-size baseball and softball fields. When coupled with the Village of Barboursville’s multi-sports and soccer complex, these facilities provide an estimated $30 million annual economic impact to the region through the national youth sports tournaments they host.

If you'd like to learn more about the Advantage Valley area, check out the latest edition of Livability: Advantage Valley, WV.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Litwin is the author of Crazy Lucky Dead and a freelance feature writer with a career spanning more than 20 years.