Scenic Back Road Drives
Hinton, Princeton and Bluefield areas.
Summers County's county seat is the town of Hinton, about an hour southeast of the AAA Adventure Outdoors. In addition to Hinton itself, there's lots to see and do in and around Summers County. There's the John Henry statue and the Big Bend Tunnel near Talcott and the Pence Spring Hotel/Prison/Hotel just down the road. Sandstone Falls is a gorgeous river-wide waterfall on the New River just north of Hinton. In addition, there are two state parks in the area, Bluestone State Park and Pipestem State Park. Pipestem features an alpine tram that takes you down to a lodge on the Bluestone River. That park also has a huge herd of deer which are always highly visible in early morning or early evening.
You can reach Summers County from the AAA Adventure Outdoors by go south on US 19 and get on the WV Turnpike at exit 48 in North Beckley. Follow the signs to I-64 East, go about 18 miles and exit on Route 20 at Sandstone. Follow Rt. 20 to the town of Hinton. A few miles before you reach Hinton, stop and check out Sandstone Falls, a magnificent river-wide waterfall. The National Park Service has built walkways to make the falls accessible. Don't miss seeing Sandstone Falls.
Both the John Henry statue (in Talcott) and the Pence Springs Hotel are just east of Hinton on Route 3. If you go west on Route 3, you'll take a very scenic route to the northwest and rejoin I-64 just south of Beckley
If you'd like a little more back roads touring, get on Route 20 at Hinton and head south. You'll pass the Bluestone Dam, where the New River's flow is controlled, and then hit Pipestem State Park a few miles south of the dam. Route 20 continues south through the town of Athens, home of Concord College, before joining the West Virginia Turnpike (I-77) just north of Princeton.
From the junction of Rt. 20 and I-77, you can turn northbound and head back toward Beckley and Oak Hill or you can turn south and take in the attractions around Princeton and Bluefield. If you decide to check out the latter, drive about 5 miles south on I-77 and exit at US 460 and go west into Princeton.
Both Princeton and Bluefield have Appalachian League baseball during the summer. This is rookie league ball, played in terrific little stadiums that give you the feel of ol' time baseball. No astro-turf here!
West of Bluefield, just off US 52, is Bramwell, the "Town of Millionaires." The wealthy operators of the rich Pocahontas coalfields in the area built their personal homes alongside the Bluestone River in the town of Bramwell. Curiously, the people who made their considerable fortunes mining coal chose to live in the one part of the area where there was no coal
a much nicer place to live. Most of the old mansions are still standing and many have been rehabilitated by their current owners. Bramwell is very proud of its history and tourists are welcome to drive or stroll its streets and get the feeling for how the "good life" was led a century ago.
Just south of Bluefield, Virginia (yes, there are two Bluefields
one in West Virginia and one in Virginia), is the Pocahontas mine. This famous mine, with its 13-foot seam of coal, is open to the public. Visitors can get a feel of what mining was like by actually walking underground and checking out the mining exhibits.