We’re continually on the hunt for experiences that add richness to our lives. In the spirit of the revival of road trips, we are proud to feature a monthly section featuring destinations within driving distance of Charleston. We feel that our smart and savvy readers will find these trips interesting and entertaining.
McDowell County, WV
Driving two hours and ten minutes south of Charleston brings you to Welch, WV, the county seat of McDowell County. Home to famed comedian and entertainer Steve Harvey and one of the most rugged areas in the Southern West Virginia coalfields, McDowell County (Welch) is a lesser-known part of the state but one worth visiting. Here is what you may want to see and do in this Hatfield-McCoy region of 3,590 people.
What to see…
While this area is rural, it is a lovely countryside, offering many places for fishing (along the Tug Fork River), hunting, and ATV riding. It is in a prime location for hitting the Hatfield-McCoy trails. You’ll be shocked at how out of staters you’ll find in this region—the ATV trails are some of the best in the nation.
You can bring your own ATV, dirtbike, or UTV or rent them at several places in McDowell County. There are hundreds of miles of trails in the area, many connecting. “Muddin’” has never been more fun than on the Indian Ridge, Pinnacle Creek, Pocahontas, and Warrior Trails.
If you like golf, Blackwolf Links, near Gary, offers a challenging course and well-groomed greens.
History lovers will appreciate the Kimball Caboose, French Gratitude Train, McDowell County Coal Miner Memorial, and the small but mighty museum inside the McDowell County CVB at 143 Wyoming Street. My favorite is the Kimball World War I Memorial, built to honor African-American veterans of World War I.
Come for the annual reenactment of Terror on the Tug at McArts Amphitheater (Mt View High School) each June, a play about the coal mining wars in WV.
Kids will enjoy a huge pool in the summer months and Pocahontas Movie Theatre year-round. Shop for treasures at The Hope Chest in downtown Welch.
If you read the book, The Glass Castle, a best-seller by Jeannette Walls, part of the story takes place in Welch.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN WELCH AND NEARBY AREAS
Grab a cooked-to-order, hearty breakfast, tasty lunch, or dinner until 8 PM at the full-service Coal Camp Cafe (Ashland Company Store). The omelets are divine…and served on Fiesta dishes, made in West Virginia. Coal Camp Cafe is closed on Sunday.
The Sterling Drive-In is excellent any time of day (and breakfast is served all day) for sandwiches, burgers, salads, and home-cooked dinners. The spaghetti with meat sauce is delicious, but save room for a banana split or ice cream sundae. You can dine in or use curb service; a local museum (McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame) is inside.
Another favorite in Welch is Spike’s Dog House, also closed on Sunday. Spike’s menu features raved-about Philly cheesesteaks, hotdogs, pizza, and brown beans & cornbread, a WV classic.
Ya’sou Restaurant (in Kimball) specializes in Greek cuisine (salads, gyros, spanakopita, etc.) but also offers chicken strips, wings, burgers, pork bbq, and more. The fried apple pie à la mode is sensational!
You’ll also find several fast-food choices like KFC and Pizza Hut.
WHERE TO STAY…
You’ll find several cabins and homes for rent in McDowell County, but I would head straight for Ashland Resort in Northfork. This campground amid 1600 acres of private hardwood forest offers RV spots and fantastic cabins. It is a great place to get away from it all, but also a primo spot for jumping on the nearby Indian Ridge Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail.
Ashland’s Deluxe Cottages offer kitchenettes, a table & chairs, a spacious bathroom, LCD TV, a double bunk bed, and a separate queen bedroom that could be shut off from the main space. Outside is a covered porch with a swing, picnic table, a fire ring, and charcoal grill. Two lodges sleep six or eight. Bring your own linens. Pets are allowed.
A little further up the road is Jacobs Creek Campground, minutes to Warrior Trail.