For explorers longing to see a variety of sites in one trip, Highland County, Virginia, is a perfect home base. In an easy one to two-hour drive, travelers can ride historic railways, view naturally growing Venus Flytraps, learn about the search for extraterrestrial activity, and explore 460-million year old caverns.
Here is just a sampling of day trips where one can achieve adventure while staying at our Blue Grass Cabin. (And the potential fall colors in these locations is just an added bonus!)
This protected botanical area, known as Cranberry Glades, is the largest collection of bogs in West Virginia and is home to extremely rare plants for this part of the United States, such as carnivorous or insect-eating plants. Over 10,000 years ago, climate and glacial changes made way for several species of unique plant life to migrate from Canada and the northern U.S. and take root in this unique, 750-acre property. Two boardwalks allow visitors to traverse through the bogs and view these plants in their natural habitat. Visitors may also spot wildlife, such as the American Black Bear, West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel, Red-tailed Hawk, American Bald Eagle, Coyote, Cooper Hawk, Screech Owl, and White-tailed Deer.
In about an hour’s drive through scenic, country back roads, travelers can discover the attractions at Seneca Caverns. Drive up around noon, and pack a lunch to enjoy under the picnic shelter or dine in Asbury’s Restaurant, a log-cabin eatery located next door to the cavern’s entrance. (The caverns and the restaurant share a parking lot, so you can walk from one to the other.) However, before you enjoy lunch, reserve your spot on the next cave tour at the Seneca Caverns Visitor Center. Then, get some food in your belly and walk it off during the one-hour tour that takes explorers 165 feet below the earth’s surface to see stalagmites, stalactites, fairies, devils, Chief Bald Eagle, and Princess Snow Bird. Some NFL teams even make a special appearance, too!
Visit the Greenbank Observatory to see the world’s largest steerable telescope, which weighs 17 million pounds and has a surface that could hold two entire football fields! Even though the famous telescope is so massive, it can be directed with an accuracy of one arcsecond – the equivalent to the width of a human hair seen from 34 feet away. Learn about the fascinating world of radio astronomy from the pioneer instruments of the 1950’s to today’s most modern technology. Visitors can also take a SETI tour, which offers exciting and comprehensive info on the on-going search for extraterrestrial life. On the Behind-the-Scenes High Tech Tour, one can visit telescope control rooms and engineering labs normally off limits to the public. Not to mention there are walking trails, a gift shop, a cafe, star parties, and Star Lab Sundays – a planetarium event offered every Sunday at 2 pm.
Built in 1901 to haul lumber to the mill in Cass, West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad is now a state park where visitors can experience the same Shay locomotives used in Cass during the time of the railway’s creation. Home to the world’s largest fleet of geared Shay locomotives (six to be exact!), the legendary turn-of-the-century class C-80 Shay #5 has been making the trek up Cheat Mountain for nearly 100 years, which makes it one of the oldest engines in continuous services and the second oldest Shay in existence. From September 24 through October 27, the train will depart the station at 12 pm Tuesday through Sunday for riders to enjoy a relaxing and scenic ride up the mountain. (View their website for additional seasonal hours.) The approximate 22-mile trip lasts around 4.5 hours and climbs to an elevation of 4,842 feet to Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia.
Explore one of the most photographed attractions in West Virginia – Blackwater Falls. This 57-foot cascade is tinted by tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. A short walk on a well-maintained path will lead visitors to several viewing platforms where the falls can be enjoyed year-round. (Other landmarks, such as Elakala Falls, Lindy Point, Pendleton Lake, and Pendleton Point Overlook, are also located nearby if you want to add more sites to your trip!) And if your geocaching enthusiast (or even if you’re a first-time geocacher), there are plenty of hidden cache sites to search for. The park also offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails for the warmer months as well as cold-weather activities including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and is home to the longest sled run on the East Coast. Not to mention, this site is a photographer’s paradise during any season!
Of course, at the end of any day-trip adventures, you can settle in at your home-away-from-home, the Blue Grass Cabin. Comfortable beds, a soft couch, a fireplace, and a back deck offer the relaxation opportunities you need after a big day of exploration!