Colleges and Universities in West Virginia

There’s a lot to consider when deciding which college or university is best for you. No matter what you might want in the perfect college, West Virginia is a great place to look. The state is home to great outdoors adventures, great destinations and landmarks, and great history–and its residents know how to have a great time while they provide a dash of southern hospitality, too. If you’re ready to bring your education to the next level while you have the time of your life, then read on to discover some of the best colleges and universities in West Virginia.

If you’re looking for a small school, then you could do no better than Alderson Broaddus University. This selective private school has only just under 1,000 undergraduates studying on a 170 acre campus and has been around since 1871. When you’re in the area, you can scout out the popular Philippi bridge, visit the Barbour County Historical Museum, or hike in the Audra State Park.

If you’d like to be part of a bigger crowd, then check out Marshall University. It has just under 10,000 undergraduates who all enjoy the city-like environment. The size helps reduce the cost substantially, and Virginia residents will pay only $7,798 in tuition without financial assistance. Catch a game at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium, explore Ritter Park, or catch a ride on the New River Train. If you’re looking for a spiritual experience, head to St. Joseph’s Church. If you’re more in the mood for the arts, then explore the venue at Keith Albee Performing Arts Center.

There are only just over 400 undergraduates at the tiny Ohio Valley University, but that just means you’ll have a small community of friends who you’ll consider family, and everyone will know everyone. If that sounds like a great fit for you, then check out this liberal arts paradise. Ohio Valley University is located near all sorts of fun outdoor activities that will keep you occupied. If you want a nice autumn treat, grab a chocolate or caramel covered candy apple at Holl’s Swiss Chocolatier. Do some shopping at the conveniently located Grand Central Mall if you’re in the mood. Go for a run in the McDonough Wildlife Refuge or walk in Jackson Park.

Even the best schools in West Virginia might have an unfortunate reputation. West Virginia University has been ranked as one of the top party schools in America because of the number of students partaking in drugs and alcohol, but that doesn’t make a dent in the other factors that make it a great choice. It scores high in academics, and was ranked with high grades for diversity, athletics, campus atmosphere, and value by Niche.

What are you waiting for? Schedule a visit to a West Virginia college or university today!

Take a look at the exciting times at WVU in this video:

Five Best Hiking Trail Views

Five Best Hiking Trail Views

No shock to anyone, the mountain state has no shortage of high peaks with incredible views. The Appalachian Mountains provide the state of West Virginia with great hiking trails with a reward at the end. That is, if you can see the view through the thick foliage of the state., the state’s official resource site for tourists, ranked the five best views in their state.

  1. Overlook Rock Trail, Kanawha State Forest

This trail is located just on the outside of West Virginia’s largest city, Charleston. The 1.5-mile one-way route is covered in mossy rocks, thick trees, and bubbling streams. When you reach the top of the trail, the trees will open and you will see a spectacular view of the hills that surround Charleston city.

  1. Long Point Trail, New River Gorge

The Long Point Trail in Fayetteville County’s New River Gorge National River is not known for its peak; after all, it is a gorge. The 1.6-mile hike leads you to the tip of a rocky peninsula. The peninsula overlooks New River and Wolf Creek and hundred-foot sandstone cliffs the jet out in three directions. When you reach the edge, you will also see the New River Gorge Bridge. This makes for a nice twist of nature meets man made materials.

The return hike splits into dozens of mini trails. Some of these trails lead to abandoned mining towns, Fayetteville Town Park, and other little streams and waterfalls.

  1. High Knob Fire Tower, Brandywine Recreation Arena

The High Knob Fire Tower is located right on the border of West Virginia and Virginia in the George Washington National Forest. The Brandywine Recreation Area features various lakes, developed camping, and the Saw Mill Loop Trail. The recreation area also features a 3-mile 650-foot climb to the High Knob Fire Tower.

Once you reach the top of the trail, the trees will open up into a meadow. You can proceed to climb the High Knob Fire Tower. The tower will give you a 360-degree view over two state borders.

  1. Raven Rock Trail, Coopers Rock State Forest

Coopers Rock State Forest is just outside of the college town of Morgantown and features mountain biking, camping, and rock climbing on the rim of Cheat River Canyon. For the best views, take the 1.5-mile hike to the edge of the peak that overlooks Cheat Lake.

  1. Dolly Sods, Monongahela National Forest

The 17,000-acre in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area is home to 50 miles of trails and it can take hikers multiple days to finish. Some of the best views in the state are hidden in this area of the vast mountain ranges of West Virginia.

Tips for Winter Hiking

Many people limit their outdoor activities in the winter to the likes of ice skating, skiing, snowshoeing and snowboarding. But, as far as hiking is concerned, a lot of people are content to pack up the boots and retire the backpacks until the snow melts. However, there is still plenty of appeal to winter hiking. For one, crowds are much more sparse, making it much easier to appreciate the environment around you and feel like you’ve truly “gotten away.” And two, there’s something magical and serene about hiking on a trail after a fresh snowfall. As long as you know how to go about being safe in the colder climate, hiking in the winter can be arguably just as enjoyable as any other season.

Looking out for your safety and the safety of those with you is always a number one priority when it comes to hiking, and even moreso in the winter time. And one of the primary ways to do that is by having proper equipment. Adapting to winter conditions while hiking requires a whole new repertoire. For one, dressing appropriately is more important than ever. Layers are key, and many advise the following: a base layer to wick moisture off your body and prevent evaporative cooling, thus keeping you dry, fleece for insulation and preservation of body heat, and an outer shell that shields you from elements such as wind, rain and (since you’ll be hiking in the winter) likely snow. Remember, this isn’t a stroll down the sidewalk. A simple winter coat may not be enough during the prolonged exposure. It may be meant as a fun excursion, but the need for protecting yourself from the elements during a winter hike is still very real. It is also recommended you familiarize yourself with crampons and how to put them on, along with the more critical supplies such as a First Aid kit, compass, trail map, hiking poles, a multitool or pocket knife, and sources of both heat and light. Emergency equipment such as heavy sleeping bags or bivy sacks are certainly not the worst idea either, should you be forced to spend an unexpected night outside. Account also for some source of hydration. Becoming dehydrated even in the cold is a surprisingly common concern. Recommend packing a thermos or portable stove to heat water.

If you are starting out in the world of winter hiking, be reasonable with your limits. Even experienced summer hikers may find winter hiking to be a whole other animal. Trudging through a snow-laden path that is several miles long is not the same as walking that same path on a clear, summer morning, so be encouraged to plan for a shorter trip to acclimate yourself. It is also important to account for the shorter period of sunlight, so starting early in the morning is advisable as well. And as always, traveling in a group is much safer than traveling alone, especially if the worst should happen while you’re out. A lack of crowds does make winter hiking more appealing, but being completely alone can still be very dangerous. Even better if someone you are with is an experienced winter hiker in their own right.

Last but certainly not least, be prepared. Not just physically with your supplies and gear. Be prepared for what is to come. Check weather conditions before setting out, gain insight on the trail itself if you are able. Because of the drastic change in weather conditions between summer and winter, there are many more factors to account for. Beyond it just being colder, the threat of avalanches and whiteout conditions are real possibilities. Fortune also does not necessarily favor the bold. If conditions worsen while you are out, do not hesitate to turn around and head back to the trail head as soon as you can. The mountain and the trails will still be there even after inclement weather. There is no need to take such risks.

When Is The Best Time Of The Year To Go Hiking?

Most people assume that hiking is best done in spring and ends with the start of summer. However, it’s the best time to hike would be during fall and early winter, especially if you’re hiking in the national parks. During this time, the hiking trails are less crowded than summer allowing you to take many photos of the scenery. Here are a few reasons why hiking in fall or winter is definitely a good idea.

• Less Crowds
During this time, you should find less people in the hiking trails so you can always do it at your own pace. You don’t have to step on anyone’s toes and hire a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights while you’re hiking. Additionally, you can always do it at your own pace without worrying about if you’re being left behind or the group behind you doesn’t give you enough peace to hike comfortably.

• The Fall Foliage
Fall is always characterized by the best foliage. It’s the best time to walk through the forest and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Fall foliage always produces the most beautiful display of color and it’s something you shouldn’t miss. There’s the radiant red, golden yellow and much more mosaic features that are always short-lived. Therefore, take a hike during this time and enjoy the beauty of what nature has to offer.

• Comfortable Temperature
During summer, your clothes will remain sticky and moist because of the intense and hot sun as well as the heavy humid air. Well, in the fall season, the temperature is cooler and drier making it easy and comfortable to go backpacking. There’s the brisk wind which keeps the air circulating normally allowing you to stay cool and your body builds up heat from the hiking.

During fall, there are shorter day which means the nights are colder, making them comfortable for sleeping. The chilly mornings will warm up gradually to a sunny and bright afternoon and layering comes in handy. The cooler air keeps your water cooler making it more refreshing than sipping on a hot can of water.

Less Bugs
Are you tired of getting bitten or eaten out by bugs when you’re hiking? Well, during fall, you can always leave your bug spray when you go hiking because there are fewer bugs out there. Note that, they don’t disappear completely then reappear again in the spring. However, since they are triggered by the short days, the insects will move to a warmer spot and they will find a good hiding spot anywhere. They can stay protected from the wind and hide from squirrels and birds.

• More Wildlife
There are few people on the trail meaning you will encounter more wildlife on the trail. Since the days are shorter, animals will often get busy before winter comes along. Therefore, you can always take lots of photos and have an amazing hike up and down the trail. Additionally, if you love hunting, you can always get the permits and enjoy your trip.

Therefore, if you’re planning on going hiking, wait till fall to get the best out of it.

If you go hiking in the winter, you still need to worry about bears! Check out the video below to see why.

West Virginia Tourism Because of The Trail

People who aren’t from West Virginia might not think about it in the sense of a prime travel destination but, with more and more people becoming interested in keeping healthy and exploring the countryside, it seems poised for a return to form. Tourists are interested in the beauty that the great West Virginia outdoors has to offer, and the possibilities are certainly endless. People can explore, kayak, go white water rafting, or stay in town and discover historical destinations they never knew existed.

West Virginia’s Civil War Trail will take you to some history-intense locations such as Jackson’s Mill Farmstead, Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park, the Philippi Covered Bridge, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, West Virginia Independence Hall, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, and Grafton National Cemetery. If you’re interested in Civil War history, these stops are not to be missed.

If you’re in love with the outdoors, then be sure to take a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park, where you can find skiing and hiking activities for the whole family. If you just want to hang out and enjoy the beautiful view, then there are lodges, cabins and restaurants available on site. In addition, you’ll find other memorable locations like Bear Rocks Preserve and Backbone Mountain for hiking and camping nearby.

If you’re more interested in experiencing the areas mostly untouched by man, then you’re free to venture out into one of West Virginia’s nine swaths of land protected under The Wilderness Act. These include Cranberry Wilderness, Laurel Fork South Wilderness, and Otter Creek Wilderness. At any of these protected locations, you’ll find forests and preserves full of unique vegetation and wildlife–and great photo ops while you’re out hiking the many trails.

Don’t forget about the Appalachian Trail. It begins in Maine and extends downward before terminating in Georgia. The small town of Harpers Ferry is home of the aforementioned National Historical Park. You can find a number of museums, the John Brown’s Fort, and information on the Appalachian Trail right in town. If you head over in autumn, then you can view gorgeous colors around the Blue Ridge Mountains.

One of the best parts of West Virginia is the climate. It’s easier to plan a trip at any time of the year, but the best months are in spring and fall. Winters do get a bit chilly, and summers run quite a bit hotter than residents from other parts of the country might be accustomed to. No matter when you come to West Virginia, you’ll find something to do.

Preserve to Protect: A How-to Guide

Let’s face it: we’re part of one of the most uniquely wasteful societies in the world. Part of the ironic reason behind this is the increasingly complex way we manage our resources. The more we have available to us, the more we’re likely to consume. While that might be fine at home in the kitchen, it’s most definitely preferable to keep human impact as far away from natural preserves as possible. When you’re out for a hike or camping in the woods, you don’t want to see evidence that people were there before you.

Out of respect, here are a few of the things you can do to help keep nature at its finest:

If you’re on a backpacking excursion or simply taking a short hike, the smell of smoke can somewhat crush the feel of the great outdoors. While everyone loves a fire when camping, it’s better for the environment–and everyone else–if they’re kept small. When temperatures climb, check with local forest rangers to see if you’re allowed a fire.

When you do start a fire, be sure that it’s far enough away from dry brush that it won’t find its way elsewhere. When you go to sleep, take care to smother the fire completely. A lot of forest fires have been started after unwary campers failed to completely put out the embers beneath the top layer of ash. Be careful.

Don’t litter! Failing to pick up trash can hurt the wildlife, and any items you leave behind might stay there for years if they can’t decompose properly. Maintain a proper carry-in carry-out policy when outdoors. The general rule of thumb is simple: if you brought it with you, then don’t leave it behind. If you’re out backpacking or camping, then don’t forget to bring a trash bag.

When you’re on a trail, the best path is straight forward. When you step off the trail, you can errode the area around the trail and inadvertently make it grow in size. Sometimes you share your outdoors excursion with shockingly fragile ecosystems, and these are often endangered by hikers that wander off the path because of mud or other obstacles. Wear the proper footwear, and when possible, bypass the obstacle by going over.

This one’s important: make sure your food is contained to a bear bag or box. Leaving food out in the open can attract potentially dangerous wildlife, or help them rely on humans as a potential food source. No one wants a black bear wandering into camp because he’s used to getting a free meal. Keep safe, and be smart!

What is Hickory Creek Wilderness

Covering an area of over 8,600 acres, the Hickory Creek Wilderness is one of only two specifically designated wilderness areas in the state of Pennsylvania with the entirety of its property located within the state borders. It was designated Hickory Creek in 1984 by Congress, and it is currently part of a system of 109 million acres of land protected under the National Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 while being managed by the state’s Forest Service.

Located within the Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern part of Pennsylvania, the Hickory Creek Wilderness boasts lush and dense wooded areas abundant with northern hardwoods and hemlock as well as a forest floor of flowers, ferns, shrubs and mosses. Wildlife within the designated wilderness area includes relatively high populations of bear, deer and wild turkey. The wilderness also supports a 12-mile loop of a hiking trail with a dedicated trail head located off State Route 2002, accessible only on foot.

Because the wilderness area is a potential home to endangered species of plants and animals and is protected under the National Wilderness Preservation Act, several stipulations about utilizing the services of Hickory Creek are set in place so as to detract from the integrity of the ecosystems as little as possible. Forest Service employees and wilderness managers often encourage hikers and backpackers to employ “Leave No Trace” techniques. Many of these techniques reduce waste products being left or disposed of within the wilderness to avoid disturbing aforementioned ecosystems by minimizing human activity on the grounds. Others include some of the following:

  • Repackage food to avoid waste
  • Use dedicated camping sites rather than establishing your own, and keep campsites small – utilize areas free of vegetation
  • Set camp at least 200 feet away from riparian areas (banks of rivers or streams), bury human waste 6-8 inches underground and following the same distance protocols
  • Keep fires small, use only sticks on the forest floor that can be broken by hand
  • Do not approach or follow wildlife – observe and admire from a distance

There are many other conditions to follow regarding “Leave No Trace” techniques, all of which are accessible online.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 was designed and signed into law for the purpose of preserving select areas of nature “where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” In the interest of maintaining some form of wilderness for generations to come, Congress had designated the 100 million plus acres of land protected under the Act for the sake of protecting it from development on any urban scale “for the permanent good of the whole people.” While the wilderness areas can be utilized and enjoyed for recreational purposes by the general population, the Act only allows development within the areas that could benefit and enhance these recreational activities while still maintaining the general integrity of the nature and inlaying ecosystems. Under this Act, wilderness areas like the Hickory Creek Wilderness within the Allegheny National Forest can endure and thrive amid urban development and modern-day commercialization of the United States, allowing consumers to enjoy such wild and natural areas for years to come.

Ultimate Wilderness Hikes

In an age where the world seems like such a small place and everyone is so closely connected thanks to technology and the Internet, sometimes all you want to do is get out to the middle of nowhere so you can breathe just a little bit. And there aren’t many experiences that beat that than simply taking a trip out into the wilderness – getting some fresh air or reconnecting with nature, some people might say – for the ultimate hike.

And when it comes to nature in particular, the venues are almost limitless in terms of places to explore. Forests, mountains, vast expanses of plains, deserts – all of these are within reach in the continental United States, and many of them are safe and easily accessible for the outdoors layman or the seasoned hiker or backpacker.

For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, the state of Washington boasts two of the best and most scenic wilderness trails the country has to offer: the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through the Pasayten Wilderness, and Olympic National Park, which sports a 34 mile trail from Dosewallips to Lake Quinault. Similar to its lengthy East Coast cousin, the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail sports a thru-hike that runs from Mexico all the way to Canada and can take an estimated 5 months to traverse in one span. For those of you who aren’t looking for quite that much adventure at one time, the Pasayten Wilderness still offers plentiful routes for comfortable day hikes while giving some of the best scenery the Pacific Northwest can offer, including North Cascades National Park where you can see glaciers – yes, glaciers.

Jumping across the country, I mentioned earlier the Appalachian Trail. Spanning nearly 2,200 miles and crossing through 14 different state borders, the Appalachian Trail is the crown jewel of American thru-hikes. It offers diverse levels of elevation (and traversing difficulty) at various points which makes for breath-taking and awe-inspiring views, and the immense stretch of hike-only foot paths is easily broken into dozens upon dozens of noteworthy day hike trails, not least among them the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Tennessee, Bear Mountain in New York and Baxter State Park in Maine.

For the ultimate hiker, however, going off the beaten path may just be the last resort you’ve been seeking. A trail that is not even a trail, the Gates of the Arctic National Park and the Mollie Beattie Wilderness offer the “Caribou Trail,” a real-to-life migration trail for Alaska’s wildlife. Exceedingly noteworthy is the park’s complete lack of actual trail heads or trails in general, so this sort of venture is best reserved for the most experienced and seasoned veterans among hikers and backpackers. However, to dismiss the beauty of Alaskan nature when discussing prime hiking and backpacking trails is virtually a crime in and of itself.

Many other trails and thru-hikes exist within the continental United States, each as scenic and inspiring as the last. The Anhinga Trail and Wilderness Waterway Trail will guide you through the Floridian Everglades, the Continental Divide Trail running from New Mexico to Montana navigates through the Rocky Mountain range and into Glacier National Park, and Utah sports the Zion Wilderness and Arches National Park, connecting with the Angel’s Landing Trail and Devil’s Garden Trail respectively.

Otis G. Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness

When you have one of the smallest wilderness areas in the world, it only makes sense to have one of the longest names for a wilderness area to fill the space, both in words and in syllables.

Fire Island is a very important barrier island that shields Long Island, New York, from much of the ravages of the Atlantic Ocean. It paid a bit of a price for its role as protectorate during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Part of Fire Island that took a lot of the storm was the part that was along the southern and eastern shore of Fire Island, a small strip of land called the Otis G. Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, designated by Congress as a federal wilderness area in 1980.

Fire Island itself is a very narrow, 32-mile-long island just off the southern part of Long Island. The island itself is no more than a half-mile wide at one point, and as narrow as just 200 yards. About seven miles of this island on the eastern part is designated part of the Otis Pike Wilderness, from the visitor center to the west all the way to Watch Hill on the east. A couple of private beaches on the far eastern side of the island are not part of the wilderness and essentially make the easternmost boundary.

The wilderness area was named after former New York congressman Otis G. Pike, who headed up the initiative to create the wilderness and have it protected by the National Park Service. At just more than 2 square miles (about 1,400 aces), it is one of the smallest wilderness areas the NPS operates and is the only wilderness area in all of New York state.

The original wilderness was about 1,363 acres when created in 1980, and about 17 more acres were potentially available to be included at a later date should they meet federal wilderness standards.  Most of that was noted as compliant by the Federal Register in 1999, then the last acre was added in 2015 after Hurricane Sandy wiped out remaining structures on the land, and it was incorporated into the Otis Pike wilderness area.

While not very large as a wilderness area, the Otis G. Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness is packed with nature and outdoor activities for most tastes. There is backcountry camping available, as well as hiking along the old Burma Road. The terrain is varied, with pine forest, a grassy wetland, sand dunes – all of which provide habitat for white-tailed deer, herons and various waterfowl that use the wilderness as a “rest stop” on its usual migratory path.

If you are someone who likes to do some saltwater and/or ocean fishing, the Otis G. Pike Wilderness provides opportunities for anglers to angle for bluefish, striped bass or winter flounder among several other saltwater species that roam around Long Island. Though it is a tiny wilderness spot, the Otis G. Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness is a vibrant space to get a wilderness experience just 50 miles from Manhattan.

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

If you believe everything told to you, we have some swampland in New Jersey to sell you.

We always laugh over that joke, making fun of some of our ability to be deceived and willingness to believe even the most absurd statements.

We can laugh because we all know that either we don’t actually own that bridge or swampland that we claim we’ll sell, or that the very item doesn’t even exist.

Technically, though, there is swampland in New Jersey, and technically we do own it as it is part of the public lands. Say hello to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, New Jersey.

Spreading out over nearly 8,000 acres, the Great Swamp is located about 25 miles west of New York City and is reportedly a rest and feeding base for nearly 250 bird species.  The refuge was designated a national wilderness through an act of Congress in 1960, and it was declared a national landmark in 1966 due to being “an exceptional example of the natural history of the United States.”

The refuge has such diversity in habitats that varied animals like fox, muskrat, deer, turtle, frog, bird and fish populate the area. The swampland is actually a leftover of the Glacial Lake Passaic, which was a 300-square-mile lake that covered northern New Jersey about 12,000-15,000 years ago.  The lake came from melting ice off the Wisconsin Glacier and built up due to a plugged outlet, and the water finally released from the area at a higher altitude than the original outlet. The refuge contains part of the Great Swamp watershed that leads into the Passaic River.

The wilderness has a variety of lands, from marshes to wet meadows to swamp woods to oak-covered ridges. The refuge is home to nearly 40 species of mammals, including the rare Indiana bat, which is on an endangered species list. There are also blue-spotted salamanders and rare bog turtles which call the refuge home as well.

There are more than eight miles of trails in the refuge for ample hiking opportunities, but only during daylight hours. Camping and picnicking are reportedly prohibited anywhere in the wilderness area. The refuge was established after an outpouring of support in saving it from development of what would have been a major airport. Later, in 1968, the eastern part of the wilderness area became the first designated wilderness area to be under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Yes, believe it or not, Florida does not have a monopoly on swampland. With the last Ice Age dropping glaciers as far south as the Atlantic seaboard, swamplands have been prevalent in certain areas of the country. New Jersey’s Great Swamp refuge is perhaps one of the better-maintained primitive lands that give us a view into what that part of the country may have looked like just after the big glacier melt.

It is a piece of history. Or pre-history, if you would rather.