Play outside on Hardy County’s numerous trails and 4 rivers

Susan Kim

Trails lead to great views of the mountains and valleys of Hardy County, W.Va.

The trails and rivers of West Virginia’s Hardy County are inviting you to come, unplug, and play outside. Whether it’s fishing, birdwatching, hiking, biking, horseback riding, or just finding a quiet spot for a picnic, the small towns will welcome you with a non-commercialized, down-home feeling. The locals will tell you it’s the “Hardy effect.”

Located in the eastern Appalachian Mountains, Hardy County is less than a three-hour drive from Washington, D.C. Four rivers run through the county: the South Branch of the Potomac, the South Fork, Lost River, and Cacapon River.

A trail in the forest and a swinging bridge are elements that create the “Hardy effect.”

Into the woods

The 3,712-acre Lost River State Park and the George Washington National Forest hold miles of hiking trails. The Trout Pond Recreation Area, one of the most scenic in the Mid-Atlantic, is located in a valley with Rockcliff Lake, a manmade beach, campground, and many interconnecting hiking trails. The Hawk Recreation Area offers easy access to West Virginia’s segment of the Tuscarora Trail, a split-off of the Appalachian Trail.

The easiest hikes include the Rock Cliff Lake Trail at Trout Pond Recreation Area and Cranny Crow in Lost River State Park, where you’ll be rewarded with views of the park from 3,200 feet.

Insider tip: If you’re looking for great family recreational activities, Lost River State Park offers an outdoor swimming pool, tennis and volleyball courts, an archery range, badminton, and horseshoes.

On the water

A cabin in the woods makes a great getaway and a restful place to experience the “Hardy effect.”

You can feel the “Hardy effect” on the water, too. With its many lakes, creeks, and streams, Hardy County is full of good fishing spots, particularly for trout. Kimsey Run Lake has plenty of trout, bass, and panfish. Trout-stocking season is March through May. A rock levee extends more than 400 feet into the lake, providing an excellent location for bank anglers.

Warden Lake, a reservoir on Moores Run near Wardensville in northern Hardy County, is also a popular fishing spot. The lake is a warm-water fishery for largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, and northern pike. Trout are also stocked once in February and biweekly March through May.

Local outfitters rent canoes and kayaks, and offer a variety of guided trips for paddlers.

Lost River Outfitters hosts fishing — including fly fishing — and bird hunting trips.

Lost River Eco Tours has kayak trips ranging from 3 to 11 1/2 miles. If a calm evening on the water is more your speed, try the sunset paddle.

Eagles Nest Outfitters offers 12 scenic river trips with more than 80 miles of river to choose from, whether you are kayaking, canoeing, rafting, or fishing. Eagles Nest also offers camping at its base with bathroom facilities, campfire, and patio use.

Most outfitters also rent tubes for floating, and most everyone in Hardy County can guide you to a good swimming hole.

The Trough General Store and Canoe Rentals is located at the mouth of a 6-mile stretch of the South Branch of the Potomac River, north of Moorefield. You can rent a canoe, or pick up snacks, drinks, bait, and ice. You can park at the store and canoe back to your vehicle, or reserve a shuttle from owners Jerry and Sabrina Dean.

Back on land

Visit the Hidden Trails Stables for guided family-friendly horseback trail rides. Located in the Lost River State Park, the stables offer rides that range from a half-hour to a two-hours through the shaded trails in the park.

Hardy County has some monster hills, and drivers here are used to sharing the road with cyclists. Lost River Barn — also known as Raw Talent Ranch — on Branch Mountain has hosted world-class competitive athletes and professional cyclists, including members of Tour de France teams, former Olympians, and national champions.

The Lost River Grill is known for its classic comfort foods, including  meatloaf, hand-cut steaks, seafood, and cream pies. The Lost River Bed & Breakfast is a renovated 1920s, four-bedroom farm house. 


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