Explore Your Public Lands

West Virginia’ public lands are undoubtedly what makes the Mountain State so “wild and wonderful.” YOU own 1.2 million acres of public land in WV, so get out and enjoy every one! Hopefully by developing a bond and a story with these lands — finding your own special place and slice of ‘almost heaven’ — you will want to protect these lands for future generations. If so, you can get informed on the issues and get involved with the West Virginians for Public Lands alliance by signing up for our e-news:

Public Land: Monongahela National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Jefferson National Forest

Managed By: United States Forest Service. National Forests are divided into Ranger Districts for local management. Hunting and fishing on National Forests are managed in cooperation with WV DNR.

Acreage: 920,000 acres in the Monongahela National Forest and 124,000 acres combined in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

Things to Do: National Forests are managed for multiple uses and there are a variety of activities available on each Forest. Check with the Ranger District for regulations and maps pertaining to hunting, biking, fishing, backpacking, camping, climbing, and equestrian use. Areas of interest on the Monongahela include a drive on the Highland Scenic Highway or up to Spruce Knob (WV’s highest point), Gaudineer Knob’s old-growth spruce forest, and the Civil War forts high on Cheat Mountain. Trout Pond, on the George Washington National Forest, is West Virginia’s only natural lake. For the ultimate adventure, consider a “thru-hike” of the Allegheny Trail, which runs over 300 miles through the Jefferson and Monongahela National Forests.

National Forest Visitor centers are available at Cranberry Glades — known for rare plants typically found in Canada — and Seneca Rocks, a 900-ft fin of rugged sandstone popular with rock climbers.

Did You Know: The Roadless Rule protects some of the most iconic backcountry in WV’s National Forests, including Seneca Creek, North Mountain, Roaring Plains, Trout Run Valley, and the Falls of Hills Creek.

Agency Links:
Monongahela National Forest

George Washington & Jefferson National Forest

Public Land: New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, and Bluestone National Scenic River

Managed By: National Park Service. Hunting and fishing on public lands are managed in cooperation with WV DNR.

Acreage: 53,000 acres in the New River Gorge, 4,500 acres in the Gauley River National Recreation Area, and 3,000 acres along the Bluestone River.

Things to Do: The three rivers managed by the National Park Service offer a variety of recreation to locals and visitors alike. The Gauley is famous for its world-class whitewater, the Bluestone for its rugged and remote seclusion. The New River Gorge preserves the areas’ rich coal mine and railroad history, interspersed with excellent hiking, biking, paddling, camping, and sightseeing opportunities. ‘Must sees’ include Sandstone Falls, Grandview, one of the coal mining ghost towns, and a hike along either the top or the bottom of the Gorge.

Did You Know: The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for most of the river access for paddlers on the New and Gauley Rivers.

Agency Links:
New River Gorge National River

Gauley River National Recreation Area

Bluestone National Scenic River

Public Land: Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

Managed By: United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunting and fishing on National Wildlife Refuges  are managed in cooperation with WV DNR.

Acreage: 16,000 acres in Canaan Valley and 6,000 acres on 22 islands in the Ohio River.

Things to Do: National Wildlife Refuges are managed for wildlife habitat and wildlife-based recreation. Opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, hunting, and fishing are available. Camping and overnight stays are usually prohibited to protect wildlife, check with the USFWS for specific regulations. Learn about wildlife at the visitor centers. Beyond the visitor center at Williamstown, getting to the Ohio River Islands is challenging — only Middle Island near St. Marys has pedestrian access.

Did You Know: Every acre of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge was purchased with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Agency Links:
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Public Land: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Managed By: National Park Service

Acreage: 2,540

Things to Do: Harpers Ferry National Historical Park preserves the rich history of America at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in the easternmost point of West Virginia. Originally the site of a federal armory, Harpers Ferry became infamous during John Brown’s Raid, a flashpoint in the growing conflict that sparked the Civil War. Harpers Ferry changed hands seven times in battles during the Civil War itself. Today, it protects sites important to the Civil Rights Movement and provides an historically immersive experience. Many recreational activities, quaint small businesses, and educational events are available to visitors to Harpers Ferry.

Agency Links:
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park

Public Land: WV State Parks and WV State Forests

Managed By: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources

Acreage: 74,600 acres in 37 state parks and 71,700 acres in 7 state forests.

Things to Do: West Virginia’s state parks and forest are popular for recreation of all kinds. State parks offer diverse opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and history. Some state parks are resorts that include lodging, dining, golf, and other recreational activities. Take a ride on the Cass Scenic Railroad, visit a Civil War battlefield or a frontier fort, walk through an old growth hemlock forest, or enjoy a cabin retreat.

State forests are managed for multiple uses, including commercial timber production, recreation and hunting opportunities. Primitive camping, hiking, and mountain biking trails are available too. Many state forests contain historic structures and facilities dating to the 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps.

Agency Links:
WV State Parks

WV State Forests

Public Land: Wildlife Management Area

Managed By: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources

Acreage: 393,000 acres in 78 Wildlife Management Areas

Things to Do: Wildlife Management Areas are primarily used to provide accessible hunting and fishing opportunities for sportsmen and women across the state. Many were purchased in whole or part with fees or taxes from hunting and fishing licenses and equipment. Some areas allow camping and other recreational activities, check with the WVDNR for regulations and maps specific to each WMA.

Agency Links:
Wildlife Management Areas by District (list and state map)

General Wildlife Management Area Regulations

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