Potomac Highlands

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The Potomac Highlands region is in eastern West Virginia. Like the name of the region suggests the two dominant features are the Potomac River and the Appalachian Mountains providing hiking and rafting opportunities throughout the region. The proximity to the nation's capital also gives this area a strong civil war history.



While this region isn't officially subdivided on this website, it is important to note that there is a drastic geographic change from east to west. The eastern counties in the panhandle are known for rolling/jagged hills that give them a strong agricultural feel while the western counties lay claim to some of the tallest mountains in the eastern United States. Highlighting this contrast, both the highest point in the state (Spruce Knob - 4,863 ft) and the lowest point in the state (Potomac River at Virginia border - 240 ft) can be found in the Potomac Highlands.


  • Charles Town - founded by George Washington's brother, now with a nearby casino/racetrack
  • Davis - the highest incorporated town in the state of West Virginia has an elevation of 3,200 feet.
  • Elkins - a fairly large town surrounded by mountains, a great base for outdoor activities
  • Harpers Ferry - a popular destination for Civil War buffs, hiking, and rafting
  • Martinsburg - largest city in this region and 9th largest in the state
  • Romney - the oldest town in West Virginia
  • (Keyser) - The county seat of Mineral Co.

Other destinations[edit]

  • Appalachian Trail - The Appalachian Trail may not have a very extensive part of the trail in West Virginia (only 4 miles), but this section is relatively easy for novices (only a difficulty rating of 2-3 out of 10) and easy accessable from Harpers Ferry. Also the Appalachian Trail headquarters is only a quarter mile away from the trail in Harpers Ferry.


The Potomac Highlands of West Virginia is a large region comprised of 11 counties. This region is filled with hills and mountains that provide remarkable beauty, but at the same time make travel by land difficult. Counties that seem very close on a map are much more distant as far as travel time, and some areas in West Virginia are more closely related and connected to nearby cities in neighboring states. Mountains that run north/south that have been barriers during the Civil War are still barriers today and they continue to limit east/west travel options. For example, the Appalachian Mountains and I-81 (this region's only interstate highway) keep Martinsburg, WV more closely connected to Hagerstown, MD than Berkely, Springs, WV. However, this lack of interstate highways provides for more relaxed, scenic travel along smaller highways and county roads.

One of the best ways to experience the Potomac Highlands is to leave the main roads behind and travel along the more local roads. They provide spectacular off the beaten path views or winding roads clinging to pristine creeks and rivers. While some roads are more spectacular than others, each winding Potomac Highlands road has its moments. Turn off the GPS for a little while and bring a camera.


Get in[edit]

The Potomac Highlands region has no airports with commercial flights and has no cities served by long distance bus service. The best ways to enter the region are by car or train. If you are traveling from far away, the closest airports would be Dulles International Airport west of Washington, D.C. about an hour drive from Harpers Ferry or the Morgantown Municipal Airport in Morgantown, WV about 2 hours from Elkins. If you are flying in and you would like to get in by rail, the Ronald Reagan National Airport also in Washington, DC has an adjacent Metro station where you can then use the Yellow Line and then the Red Line to connect with Amtrak in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station.

By car[edit]

Getting in to the eastern panhandle's largest city Martinsburg can be accomplished easily by traveling on interstate I-81. To travel to any of the smaller towns in the eastern section of this region you will have to leave the interstate highways.

Getting in to the western section of this region can be a little more difficult and requires leaving the familiar interstate highways.

  • From I-81 in Virginia you can then travel west on either US Route 50 towards Romney, VA SR 55/US Route 48 towards Moorefield, US Route 33 towards Seneca Rocks, or VA SR 39/WV SR 39 to Marlinton.
  • From I-68 you can travel south from Maryland on US 220 to Keyser.
  • From I-79 you can travel east on US 33 towards Elkins.

By train[edit]

Amtrak [1] offers one routes that travels through the Potomac Highlands.
The Maryland Rail Commuter [2] ferries passengers between Martinsburg and Washington, D.C. on weekdays.

Get around[edit]

The best way to get around the Potomac Highlands is to drive. Cites and landmarks worth seeing in this region are spread out making travel by car ideal.

Public Transportation[edit]

There are some forms of public transportation (see below), but they don't provide frequent service typical of major public transportation systems. The public transportation maps, schedules, and bus stop signage are not meant for people foreign to this region. Neither is the service, since it generally travels to shopping plazas, local hospitals, or major employers. In case it is helpful or necessary, here are the regional public transportation providers.

  • Country Roads Transit [3] - Located in Randolph and Upshur counties, but mainly provides public transportation to Elkins. Travel between other Potomac Highlands locations does not occur frequently.
  • Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority[4] - Know as Pan Tran for short, this is a bus service that only operates in the two eastern-most counties in this region, Jefferson and Berkeley. Pan Tran provides service between Harpers Ferry, Charles Town, Martinsburg, and Sheperdstown.
  • Potomac Valley Transit Authority [5] - This bus service is much more extensive than Pan Tran or Country Roads Transit with a total of 10 different bus lines between different towns. Yet the system is still probably inadequate for the use of visitors, since the quantity of service is normally only about 1 to 4 times a day. The PVTA serves the counties of Mineral, Hampshire, Hardy, Grant, and Pendelton with service that extends to Cumberland, MD and Harrisonburg, VA.

See[edit][add listing]

Blackwater Falls State Park

Seneca Rocks

National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV


Do[edit][add listing]

Celebrate Fasnacht in Helvetia, WV. This is a holiday with Swiss roots celebrated before Ash Wednesday (Mardi Gras's Fat Tuesday) that culminates with the burning of Old Man Winter. Participants create intricate paper mache masks for a parade through town and a masked ball.


The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV

Contemporary American Theater Festival at Shepard University and the Shepherdstown Film Society both in Shepherdstown, WV

Pocahontas County Opera House in Marlinton, WV

American Mountain Theater in Elkins, WV

The Old Opera House in Charles Town, WV

Apollo Theatre in Martinsburg, WV

Hollywood Casino and Racetrack in Charles Town, WV - Watch exciting horse races, play slots or table games, or just stop in for the restaurants and entertainment.

Scenic Railways[edit]

  • Potomac Eagle departs from Wappocomo Station just north of Romney, WV and travel 3 HR round trip along the South Branch Potomac River.
  • Tygart Flyer departs from Elkins, WV (Approx. 4 HR round trip)
  • Cheat Mountain Salamander departs from Elkins, WV for a 9 HR round trip or departing from the Cheat Bridge Station for a 3 HR round trip.
  • Durbin Rocket departs from Durbin, WV for a 2 HR round trip on a rare steam locomotive.

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Potomac Highlands Winery[6] made in Keyser, WV

Blackwater Brewing Company[7] in Davis, WV

Lost River Brewing Company [8] in Wardensville, WV.

Mountain State Brewing [9] has the largest full-scale micro-brewery in the state of West Virginia in the small town of Thomas. You can also find their beers on tap at a long list of restaurants in the in Potomac Highlands in towns like Davis, Elkins, Harpers Ferry, and Sheperdstown.

West-Whitehill Winery [10] in Moorefield, WV.

Stay safe[edit]

Be careful while driving on mountain roads. The weather can be unpredictable and can change very quickly. The current weather may be fine in the valley, but the weather in higher elevations can be much different. Rain, snow, fog, and high winds can catch you off guard when you reach the top of a local mountain in the Potomac Highlands, and windy roads can combine with treacherous weather to create difficult driving. Additionally, high winds and just a small snowfall may create large snowdrifts.

Get out[edit]

  • Mountains and Lakes Country in West Virginia - known for the West Virginia University and the Mountaineers in Morgantown and this region also features the majority of the covered bridges in West Virginia.
  • Northern Virginia combines capital attractions like the Arlington National Cemetery, some of the nations most diverse restaurants, and Loudoun County's wine country.
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