Where do you want to go, we asked each other. We couldn't decide what in the world to do with our long weekend. We pondered and we talked about options. Undecided, we knew we had to make a decision and we had to make it soon. It wasn't until the simple comment was made, "There is so much I want to see in this world" that we knew. Immediately, we knew what the plans were going to be. We were going to visit two locations in western West Virginia. Places that we had each longed to visit. I was going to finally visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV and Jason was going to be able to see the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, WV. We couldn't be happier with our plans.
We took our time and researched everything fully and settled on our plans. We woke up early and drove to Weston, WV and arrived at the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum at 11:30. The first tour was set to start at Noon. I had already ascertained and decided on the tours that we would be doing, so I quickly paid and we went out to wait for our tour to start. Ohhh my word, this building and tour is everything I could have imagined. This building is quite historic and is just teeming with stories and happenings.
WeThe tour guide was knowledgeable and was able to give a history of the architecture and inhabitants through a variety of stories and information about the site. I already want to go back!
We were tired at that point so we headed to our hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn and we couldn't be any happier with our hotel. The staff working the hotel were super friendly and the building was immaculate. It was so clean in fact that we asked if the building has just been built and opened to the public!
The next morning we were ready to head to our next destination, The New River Gorge. Before we left the town though, we decided to head into the Museum of American Glass. This museum dedicated to glassware was interesting. We enjoyed the oil lamp collection and I absolutely loved the Lady Jane Stained Glass Dollhouse. The drive from Weston to Fayetteville was through mountains where nature surrounded us. The scenery alone made the drive worthwhile. It was about an hour drive and eventually we arrived! We were so excited to get our first glimpse of the bridge. We started at the National Park Service visitor Center parking lot. We walked the boardwalks to the overlooks and took in the bridge.
It is hard to describe the massive proportions of the bridge. This thing is huge!
This is located in a national park and unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic the visitor center was closed. However all overlooks and trails were open. We took every chance we could to see the bridge.
One of the highlights of this weekend was the visit to Thurmond, WV. This is an abandoned town nestled in the bottom of the gorge. Once a boom town, this town slowly faded to a collection of empty buildings as the coal mines shut down. The buildings are intact and have been secured and maintained by the National Park Service. The commerce area of the town is right on the edge of the railroad tracks while the residential area stood on the hill above the town. Walking through this town was amazing. It is hard to not think about the people that walked those roads many years before.
The trail system and scenery in this area are second to none. There are trails that take you to overlooks, trails that take you to abandoned coal mines and trails that lead you to rivers edge. It seemed as if we saw a waterfall at every turn, each one just as pretty as the one before. We could have stayed for a week and still not seen and experienced everything that this area has to offer. There are mountain bike trails, miles of hiking, ruins, kayaking and so much more.
On this trip, we even managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Monster Museum in Sutton, WV! The quirkiness of this little museum was a great stop along the drive home.
We have already decided that we will be returning to New River Gorge as soon as possible. It's pretty and full of activities that will have you appreciating history and nature. A weekend at New river Gorge National Park and visiting Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was a perfect getaway!
Check out the in detail descriptions for the locations visited during this trip
New River Gorge
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
Museum of American Glass
A visit to The New River Gorge National Park would not be complete without a visit to the town of Thurmond, WV. Before we visited the area, I did my due diligence and researched many of the attractions and trails in the area. We only had a short time during that visit and I wanted to see as much as I could and to hit the most important locations. As soon as I saw the words ‘abandoned town’, I was hooked! Thurmond was one of the ‘musts’ for this trip!
The town of Thurmond was once a bustling boom town. The steady flow of money from the local coal mines and the railroad station in town fueled the economy. Over the years the coal mines began to shut down which caused a decline in the financial wealth of this community. Simultaneously, the rise in popularity of the automobile brought around a steep decrease in passenger train travel, which further hampered the economic prosperity of the town. Slowly, people began to leave the town for more prosperous towns. In the 2010 Census, the population of the town was listed as 5 and most of the buildings are now owned by the National Park Service.
The Commercial Area of Thurmond, WV
The first thing you will see as you drive into the town is the train station. This station has been completely redone and serves as a visitor center for the National Park. It is the focal point of the town. This is still a flag stop for Amtrak service. So if you want to begin and/or end your vacation in Thurmond, you can definitely arrive by train!
To tour the business area of the this abandoned town you will be walking along the railroad tracks. The commercial area of town is nestled between the side of the mountain and the railroad tracks. These railroad tracks are still owned, operated and used by CSX, so please be careful. It is fascinating to walk by the businesses and imagine how life was in this town during the heyday when it was a bustling center of activity that while small was so prosperous that it was able to support two banks.
The Coaling Tower
There are still remnants of the bygone era of steam locomotives. The coaling tower still stands tall and proud at the end of the commerce section of town. Along with some of the outbuildings that supported the thriving railroad. Proud of the history of this town, in recent years they have held a Thurmond Train day for rail fans.
The Residential Area of town
We walked through the commercial area of the town and walked by a few buildings that were obviously residential in nature before we came to a winding road that led up the side of the mountain. It was a hot day when we were there, but we decided to walk up a bit of the hill to explore. Oh my word! I am so glad I did. Abandoned house after abandoned house stood at the side of the road a testament to the lives that had been lived in this town. The houses have been secured by the National Park service, so they are not readily available for entry. However, it is possible to walk onto the porches and peer in some windows.
Remnants of lives once happily lived are evidenced in the flowers that were once carefully planted but now grow wild. As we wound up the hill and back down, we came across the town church standing proud on the side of the mountain. Oh, if walls could talk!
Thurmond, WV quickly became the absolute favorite part of our visit to this area. It is not often you get to walk through an abandoned ghost town that is still almost fully intact. The history and vibe of the area was something to behold! We explored that town as fully as we could! We have both on many different occasions since we have been home have made the remark that we will go back to that town to explore more!
For more about this area, check out The New River Gorge Bridge.
I have heard so much about the New River Gorge Bridge! Jason had always wanted to see the the bridge and I had grown interested through hearing about him talk about this bridge. We were in Western West Virginia to visit the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and realized that the New River Gorge was only an hour away. We had to go! Completed in 1977, The New River Gorge Bridge opened as the worlds longest single span arch bridge. It held that record for 26 years. Even now, it remains the fourth largest single span bridge. The bridge was built as a means of traveling from one side of the gorge to the other. Before the completion of this bridge traversing from one side to the other required a 40 minute trip down to the bottom of the gorge and back up the other side. The new bridge reduced the travel time to roughly one minute.
National Park Service Visitor Center
We arrived at the new river gorge around lunch time. We couldn’t wait to lay our eyes on this bridge that we had heard so much about! We immediately headed to the National Park Service Visitor Center parking. I knew that the actual visitor center was closed due to the pandemic, but the website had indicated that the boardwalks and overlooks were open. While it would have been nice to be able to see and learn more about the bridge , I was grateful that I would still be able to visit the overlooks. After all, that was what I came for! We parked in the parking lot at the National Park visitors center. We were ready to get our first taste of the New River Gorge Bridge!
There were signs that indicated the direction to the overlook. The path quickly turns into a wooden boardwalk. The walk is easy and in just a few short moments you will come to the first overlook. We could see the bridge and we stood in awe for a bit.
AThis boardwalk trail was not over though. There are a series of steps that head down to a second overlook. We didn’t have to ponder long. Although as we headed down there was a bit of trepidation about the return climb up the steps. Halfway down the steps there is a nice area that includes some benches if you need a break. We reached the bottom and the view was spectacular. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized exactly how deep this gorge is and how utterly mammoth this bridge really is.
The hike back up isn’t too bad. We were out of breath but it only took a few minutes. We decided to walk a bit around the visitor center area and we came to a second overlook. This on also had some neat displays showing information about the bridge.
After we had explored all we could see we headed out. It wasn’t until the next day that we explored the bridge more fully.
Fayette station road
The road that up until 1977 had been the primary means to get from one side of the gorge to the other is called the Fayette Station Road. It is still open and the visitor center offers audio tours of this road. I knew from my pre-trip research that we could stream the audio tour in lieu of going into the visitor center (which was closed). Perfect! We happily headed on this tour. The audio tour is well done. It gives the history and background of this road that winds down and then back up the mountain utilizing switchbacks while carrying you by sheer rock walls and waterfalls.
Along the way there are ample opportunities to stop to view the New River Gorge Bridge. Each different view and angle only reinforces the mammoth proportions of this bridge. At the bottom of the gorge there is camp/day use area with plenty of parking. This allowed us the chance to view up close the river that runs through the gorge. We saw kayakers drop into the water, fisherman fishing and swimmers enjoying the cool temperature of the water on a hot day. We took the opportunity to walk back to the bridge that spans the water at the bottom of the gorge. It was here that we were given a full view of the bridge.
andThe Fayette Station Road has a few pull offs that are at trailheads. We hiked one of the trails for a bit, enjoying the flowing water of streams and the gushing waterfalls that the trail took us too.
The overlooks located at the visitor center and the views of the new River Gorge bridge from the Fayette Station were spectacular and made the bridge experience a most amazing part of this trip! The new River Gorge is definitely a must see location!
For More West Virginia travel, visit the Museum of American Glass in Weston, WV and Thurmond and abandoned town in the New River Gorge Area.
Belief In Living
Travel with us as we explore!