Gristmill Guide for Nature Lover's
Nestled deep within the George Washington National Forest, we are perfectly situated for a nature lover's vacation! Within 50 miles of the inn you can visit a bog much like you’d find in the Northern Tundra, you can take a hike and see ancient ocean fossils, or you can walk a loop in a designated bird-sanctuary and be charmed by their beautiful songs. Here is our guide perfect for Nature Lovers!
After a restful night’s sleep, and a filling breakfast in bed, jump in your car and head west on Route 39 over to our neighbors in West Virginia. Make sure to ask us ahead of time for a picnic lunch to take with you on this journey as there are many great picnic spots and overlooks that are perfect for a roadside lunch. First stop on this trek is Cranberry Glades Botanical Area located in the Monogahela National Forest. This ½ mile nature walk on a boardwalk in the bog is full of flora and fauna. Allow for at least an hour to take this walk nice and slow so you can stop and take in all the wildlife. The “glades” is at an elevation of 3400 feet, and they resemble an arctic Tundra misplaced in these southern mountains. You’ll find many of the same plants, birds, mammals and even reindeer moss which are commonly found in bogs of the far north. Be on the lookout for interesting flesh-eating plants, blue crayfish, and even flying mice! This place is handicap accessible, dog and kid-friendly.
After taking in all the wonderful nature in the bog take the scenic route back to the inn. Turn left (north) on Route 150 and drive on the West Virginia Scenic Highway. You’ll be high above on this drive, so make sure to stop at all the lookouts to take in the sights. This is a great spot for the picnic we mentioned. There are also a lot of trails off of this byway, so if you enjoy walking/hiking there many great spots. You can also take the one and only exit for the Tea Creek area. This a nice little spot for fishing if you brought you gear.
After lunch you can either head back to the Inn going through Marlinton and do quick visit to Watoga State Park for a little hiking, or you can drive north toward Snowshoe and head back via Route 66 and the railroad town of Cass. If you opt for Cass try to time it so that you can take a ride on their steam engine and roar through the mountains. This is a fun adventure for any age.
**If you visit in the spring you are right in the middle of ramp season. Kate goes foraging for ramps every year in that area. See if she'll share her favorite spots!
Once you finally make your way back to the inn relax by one of our outdoor firepits before heading to the Waterwheel Restaurant for dinner.
This day is for the birds, but only in the best way possible! Since you’ve mastered nature over in West Virginia, stay closer to home with a day of amazing birding hot spots that are in Bath County. Be sure to bring your binoculars so that you can spot some of the gorgeous birds who reside here. The Allegheny Highlands are an official Audubon Society Bird Sanctuary. That means we have some amazing species in these largely protected mountains we call home.
Here is a list of places you can visit and links to the birds you might find there. Can you spot them all?
• Deerlick Trail
• Douthat State Park
• Hidden Valley Trail
• Ingalls Overlook Trail
• Lake Moomaw
After birding, take a nature walk on the Bear Loop Trail, part of Nature Conservancy land on the Warm Springs Mountain Preserve. This is a 3-mile loop that is relatively flat with several overlooks offering stunning panoramic views. There are interpretive signs highlighting the mountain’s diverse wildlife species and habitats in addition to the TNC’s efforts to restore the region’s fire-adapted oak and pine forests.