Escape to Hardy County, West Virginia
Planning an escape from the everyday? Come to Hardy County where you can wander over country roads and hike mountain trails, fish, paddle, and swim in rivers, runs and lakes, and explore our history and yours. No matter where you are in Hardy County, you’ll experience the natural beauty and the genuine hospitality of “Almost Heaven” West Virginia, the heart of Appalachia.
About a 2 ¼ hour drive from the DC Metro area or from Charlottesville, VA, Hardy County offers rivers that are seasonally gentle or whitewater, lakes and mountain streams waiting to be fished, and even a sandy-beached lake for swimming. The Trough, accessible only by water, is a 6-mile gorge on the South Branch of the Potomac River with bald eagles often seen soaring overhead. There are numerous places along the South Branch to launch your canoe or kayak and a new outfitter (Breezewood Adventures) has opened south of Moorefield.
The South Fork is also a favorite seasonal float and fishing river. The Lost River wanders through the Valley before it disappears underground at the Lost River Sinks and emerges as the Cacapon River. Whether you are spinning or fly fishing, in Hardy County’s waterways you’ll find a variety of native and stocked trout, bass, catfish, pike, and bluegill. And if you’re looking for something unusual to do, you can search for fossils deposited 390 million years ago by an ancient sea that carved out the mountains and our many riverbeds.
The George Washington National Forest is where you’ll find Trout Pond Recreation Area, home to Rock Cliff Lake and Trout Pond. Get up early to watch the morning mist lift off Trout Pond, the only natural lake in West Virginia and home to native brook trout. Boat and fish on the 17-acre manmade Rock Cliff Lake or sunbathe on the sandy lake-side beach while kids splash in the swimming area. Campsites and picnic tables are available and don’t forget your binoculars when you pack, because this area is great for bird watching, too.
Enjoy hiking? The Trout Pond Loop Trail is an easy 4-mile hike, and the more challenging climbs lead to vistas of the lakes and distant ridge tops. This area of the GWNF, the Lee Ranger District, is where hiking and mountain bike trails abound. Primitive campsites are scattered throughout the National Forest and numerous privately owned vacation rental cabins and inns are nearby.
Lost River State Park has several unforgettable vistas including Cranny Crow Overlook with its impressive five county view. Hike to these heights or experience them on horseback lead by a guide from Hidden Trails Stables (open seasonally). Or bring your own mount and ride the designated trails after registering at the Park Office.
The Park, built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, is a quiet 3,900-acre forest with 26 furnished, updated cabins and some rustic camping areas. You can hike or ride a horse to the primitive Lost River Fire Tower Cabin, now offered for overnight stays. A ballfield, playgrounds, and swimming pool, as well as naturalist programs, are also available.
World class cyclists have discovered that Hardy County is ideal for pedaling mountain roads and winding dirt trails. Raw Talent Ranch hosts tours, team training camps, and family getaways. Join in trail building days with Lost River Trails Coalition, a group working with Lost River State Park to repair and expand mountain bike trails in the park and nearby National Forest.
In addition to the CCC era structures, other 18th and 19th century historic sites are located in the Park. Explore Hardy County’s history where there are 26 structures or districts on the National Register of Historic Places and historic sites from the French and Indian, Revolutionary, and Civil Wars. A Heritage Trail is being developed and will be available in 2022.
Historic Moorefield, located at the confluence of the South Fork and South Branch Rivers, features numerous 18th and 19th century structures including the Robert Higgins House, built in c.1787-90. Currently being restored, it will open in May 2022 as a small museum and visitors center. The Hardy County Historical Society Museum is located a block away. In Wardensville, there are several historic buildings including a tiny stone structure, built c.1830, that was converted from a blacksmith shop to the town jail in the early 20th century. And just outside of town are two 18th century iron furnaces.
The Lost River Artisans Marketplace, where regional artists sell and exhibit their artwork, features a small farming and textile museum run by the Lost River Education Foundation. And while you are there, be sure to pick up a Hardy County Barn Quilt Trail map. Many of these historic sites are featured in the Heritage Weekend festivities held the last weekend in September.
In Moorefield, you can play a round of golf at nearby Valley View Golf Course, then visit West-Whitehill Winery for a tour and tasting or experience a small-town parade and Independence Day fireworks. Have a lunch at the local pupuseria after a game of volleyball or tennis at the town park. Or, before you go to the community theater or the movies, enjoy a sizzling steak and a glass of wine or succulent fried chicken and a cold beer at one of the restaurants in town.
Hardy County is the number one agricultural producing county in WV, and it is evidenced in our many farm markets. Wardensville Garden Market, Watermark Farms, the White Barn Farm Market, South Branch Meat & Cattle Company, Buena Vista Farm, Weese Farm, Country Roads, and Lost River Farmers Market are just a few of the markets that offer everything from grass-fed beef to pick-your-own strawberries, organic produce, and fresh baked goods – just what you need for the weekend or to take home.
Shopping in Hardy County can be a unique experience. In addition to the farm markets, explore a modern take on the traditional general store. From the South Fork General Store in Peru (pronounced Pea-Rew) to the Lost River General Store and the Lost River Trading Post, you will find artwork and handmade crafts, antiques, American-made products, made to order food, amazing coffee, and craft beverages. Finally, you can end your day with a candlelight dinner, a glass of wine or a cold beer at one of the Valley’s restaurants.
There is so much to keep you busy with plenty of adventures left over for the next day, and the next, too. So, plan to stay the night or the whole week! Check https://visithardywv.com and Visit Hardy on Facebook and Instagram for all our travel information including links to our hotel/motels, local inns, and vacation cabins.