Although we had already experienced quite a bit of West Virginia, we never had been to the far west – which is exactly where we went on our latest road trip. Logan, West Virginia, home of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, and our trip’s bucket list destination! We were invited out to Logan by the West Virginia Department of Tourism and Hatfield McCoy Trails to experience the trails first-hand, try the local food, get to know the amazing people in the area, and even attend a couple of festivals happening back-to-back on this beautiful, sunny weekend. To say that we were excited about this trip was definitely an understatement.
Getting To Know Logan County, West Virginia
Logan County (and the adjacent Mingo County) has been historically a coal mining and timber harvesting region but has flourished into quite the tourist destination in the last few decades. The local leaders had the foresight to diversify the region’s industry, as the coal and timber jobs wouldn’t be enough for the growing population. The transition to becoming a tourist destination leaned heavily into the region’s dense history and natural beauty, showcased through the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Systems (HMT). People visit from near and far to ride the 1000+ miles of motorized trails through the history-packed wilderness of West Virginia.
After a quick pit stop at Tudor’s Biscuit World (an absolute must-try – pro tip: these biscuits are giant, and two biscuit sandos are too much), we started our journey at the Country Roads Byway Visitors Center. We met some helpful employees and could take in some of the town’s history through some exhibits they had set up. With all the information we needed, our next stop was Matewan – where we had an extraordinary experience planned.
Next Stop - Matewan
There are two routes when driving to Matewan from Logan: one being scenic and the other more highway driving. We opted for the scenic, more mountainous drive and were thankful we did. We got to see some gorgeous fall-colored mountains and valleys, small towns, and the Hatfield Cemetery (which has the tomb and impressive marble statue of the notorious Anderson “Devils Anse” Hatfield).
And To The Ride You Could Never Forget
While we started becoming more acquainted with the area’s history and the Hatfield-McCoy Feud, we would soon experience the historic sites and their surrounding facts and legends on a boat! Keith Gibson, the owner-operator of the Hatfield-McCoy Airboat Tours, took us on a ride we will never forget. From the moment you meet with Keith in the town of Matewan to the last minute you disembark the airboat, you will be overwhelmed with the incredibly unique experience. Just being in the presence of Keith walking through Matewan – he can’t help but tell you where the Matewan Massacre took place, where the coal-miners union was formed (hint: in a current coffee shop), and so much more about Matewan and the family feud. Riding on the airboat is an entirely out-of-this-world experience that was almost too much simultaneous awesomeness; you don’t know where to look first! This thing has a corvette motor hooked up to a giant fan that can float over any thin layer of water and has a smoother ride than any boat we’ve been on. You get to cruise calmly or even take exhilarating-fast turns (if desired) while Keith points out wildlife, the points of interest in the Hatfield-McCoy feudal history, and just the simple beauty of the Tug River. The Tug separates WV and KY – also, every single person you float by will at least wave hello, if not holler out a friendly greeting. The ride is safe for all ages; you barely get wet, and getting on and off the boat is a breeze.
Afterward, we walked through town and met locals who owned some of the businesses in downtown Matewan, including the owner Wingo’s Grill which had the absolutely best-smelling BBQ on the smoker outside. If you’re looking for some other tasty places to eat, you can grab some Mexican food at Mi Pueblito, grab a beer at the Trailhead Bar & Grill, and start or end your day with a coffee and a yummy treat at Chit and Chat Coffee Shop.
We drove the alternate route back to Logan, which is excellent if you need to stop at a supermarket on the way back down. Before finally making it to our home for the night, we stopped at Chirico’s Italian Restaurant, where we had some foods we had never tried before – highlights for us were the Frankwich and the Pizza Baked Lasagna. Both are good, but the Frankwich was a home run – almost an amalgam of a calzone with a ham sandwich; it is only made at Chirico’s and worth the try.
Where to Stay in Logan County
One of the best things about Logan was the sheer amount of good food, amenities, and even the amount of lodging options. While there are a lot of hotels, camping, and even luxury cabin rental choices around Logan, we found an absolute gem of a spot by checking into the Appalachian Outpost. These cabins are basically brand new and are immaculately clean with all the amenities you could need. The fire pits outside each patio were a nice touch; all the guests out by their fires at night intermingling with fellow trail riders was such a fun atmosphere. While they are still building out – they are on their way to becoming a one-stop shop for literally everything you would need on a trip to the HMT (e.g., laundry, gas station, coffee, ice cream, rentals, etc.). It’s more of a country resort than just a cabin rental.
Where to Eat
While calling the Appalachian Outpost home – The Broken Axle was our second home on the property. This restaurant had the absolute friendliest crew and the most well-thought-out, modern gastro-pub food with a WV twist (hands down, the best salads we’ve had since coming east from Los Angeles). Warning: if you get the Appetizer Sampler, literally every person who walks by asks you what you have ordered. It is an absolutely over-the-top display of perfectly-fried decadent deliciousness – bring your appetite and probably a few friends! They have the most fabulous wall art, axe-throwing, darts, pool table, live music, karaoke – ok, I’ll stop. No wonder it’s constantly buzzing with people – especially during the busy weekends with all the trail riders staying at the Appalachian Outpost. You will see rows of side-by-sides and ATVs parked in front at all times during the weekend.
After a tiresome day, we slept like logs in our warm, cozy cabin and woke up excited to finally get on the trails! But first, why wouldn’t we stop for breakfast and coffee?
We wanted something light to grab and go – Nu-Era Bakery was a no-brainer. The business has only changed ownership once, in 1996, which was more like passing the torch. This place has been open since 1940 and is literally a historical landmark, and the new owners carry on its legacy with great respect and love. Picking just a few pastries from the staggering number of choices was tough, but we ended up with a cream horn, a blueberry cake donut, and the local favorite – the Bismarck. The Bismarck is a freshly-made doughnut topped with chocolate icing and a dot of sweet buttercream. There is something about being in a bustling bakery with bountiful bonbons. Everyone who walked in seemed to know each other and gave each other and all the staff familiar greetings.
With the confections curiously concealed, we headed to Hot Cup Coffee, only about a block down the street. There is so much to say about this place, which is apparent the moment you step inside. But let’s talk about the coffee – this might be the only coffee house in town where a coffee snob or hipster would find themselves, and the barista knows the difference between a Gibraltar and a cortado. They also have a full menu of coffee- and non-coffee-based beverages, many of them with fun themes (e.g., ButterBeer). This brings us to the actual space the coffee shop is in: they have local art on the walls, always have seasonal decorations, and HAVE A HARRY POTTER THEMED UNDER-THE-STAIRS-ROOM alongside a lot of other film memorabilia. It also has a very inclusive feel; it’s a safe space for everyone to enjoy – a judgment-free zone with espresso.
We geared up to document a possibly wet, probably cold, but maybe hot, and hopefully muddy ride. For those unacquainted with
We geared up to document a possibly wet, probably cold, but maybe hot, and hopefully muddy ride. For those unacquainted with West Virginia’s weather – especially when you’re in the more exposed, mountainous regions – it’s always a good idea to always dress in layers. It can be warm for one minute in the sunshine and get cold quickly in shady and windy areas.
Experiencing The Hatfield and McCoys Trail First-Hand
The HMT offers over 1000+ miles of scenic trails suitable for most Off-Road Vehicles or colloquially known simply as “machines.” All kinds of side-by-sides, ATVs, UTVs, and even dirt bikes can ride parts of the trails meant for novice drivers all the way to single-track trails for the technically-skilled drivers seeking a challenge. Drivers come from around the US and even internationally to ride these trails, seeking new adventures and visiting the many restored historical sites that were made infamous by the Hatfield-McCoy family feud. Of course, it helps that the HMT also offers access to machine-friendly towns like Gilbert, Man, and Matewan, to name a few – they are ever expanding in their offerings to trail riders.
We settled into our machine (a very comfortable four-seater) that was operated by an expert driver and guide (Thanks Rick! As we have questionable histories as ATV-drivers). We were lucky enough to ride on one of the most popular and sought-after trails – The Rockhouse Trail. It offers over 100 miles of interconnected trails of varying difficulties, with direct access to the Man and Gilbert. Although we were out riding for a few hours – we experienced it all: we had to go through some wet conditions, saw a beautiful waterfall, drove by some old abandoned mines, talked to a myriad of fellow trail-riders, and experienced the backwoods of West Virginia in a really unique and fun way. When we got to the precipice of our trail ride, we were treated to breathtaking and sweeping views of the Appalachians, with the colors of fall beginning to bloom throughout the mountains and valleys. We came back down with a little more speed and vigor now that we had gotten used to the bumps and bruises of the trails – our hearts were full, but our stomach’s empty from the exhilarating excursion.
Before getting ready for our evening activity, we headed back to The Broken Axle for the best darn salad money could buy. Well-fed, somewhat rested, and wearing our Saturday night party outfits (our limited road trip wardrobe means they are pretty similar to all our other ‘fits), we headed to the airport for our special event for the night.
The Hatfield and McCoy Fire and Ice Festival
The Sixth Annual WV Fire & Ice Festival featured craft beer and local wine tasting, a chili cook-off competition, food vendors, and live music. As exciting as this jam-packed evening festival sounds –the venue made it so much more special – it was literally on the mountaintop airport (Logan County Airport). They had a spectacular turnout, with many of the town’s local businesses and clubs bringing their hours of hard work and love in the form of massive chili bowls with all the accouterments. All the festival attendees were encouraged to taste all the different chili entrants and then cast their votes for the people’s choice prize. Then there were the ‘professional’ chili judges who tasted, smelled, and admired all the chili entries through a strict chili scoring lens. Faith was chosen as a special guest judge and helped decide the fate of this year’s chili contest! They were even giving out free t-shirts, various merch, and company swag. We even bought the most amazing cinnamon roll from one of the local food trucks on location. The craft beer and local wine-tasting setups were terrific – never having to wait too long in line with over 12 tapped beers with eager volunteers waiting to fill your beers. It was exactly how you would imagine a small-town festival – everyone knew each other, good food, good drinks, and good times. They loved having out-of-towners visit – I don’t think we’ve been anywhere with such a welcoming vibe as West Virginia; we especially felt the hospitality that night.
With a night of too much spicy chili and just enough craft beers under our belts, we retired again to the Appalachian Outpost and even had a chance to catch a few karaoke songs at the Broken Axle (never a dull moment). The morning at the Outpost was ablaze with trail riders gearing up their machines and getting themselves and their families ready for a jam-packed day on the trails, followed by a celebration of all things off-road at the National Trailfest Event.
Chief Logan State Park
Before heading to Gilbert for the National Trailfest, we wanted to explore the area a little more, so we planned a quick hike and some relaxation time in the nearby Chief Logan State Park. We were lucky enough to stop and get a to-go lunch at the Four Seasons Country Market. Honestly, with the number of floral displays, seasonal decorations, farm fresh produce and foodstuffs, and even a petting zoo – it was hard not to spend even more time there. Next, we took our lunch to the nearby Chief Logan State Park and enjoyed the park’s green areas while we picnicked and listened to the fun being had by the family celebrating a birthday. After our little picnic, we hurriedly hiked through the Cliffside trail that bordered the park to get our bodies moving. We opted to only squeeze in a mile today to not tire ourselves out for the National Trailfest Event.
One of the best parts about Trailfest every year is the parade of decorated ATVs and side-by-sides. However, before the parade began, we needed to pick up our event passes and one more quick pitstop to take in some more history. Hatfield-McCoy Distillery combined the hometown feel of a bar (where everybody knows your name) with lots of friendly banter and even bigger flavors. Owner-operator Chad Bishop, married into the Hatfield family, appropriately carries the legacy of distilling moonshine and corn whiskey in Gilbert, WV. We had a few free samples of different flavored moonshine and even ordered a beautifully-basic burger, which was what we needed to get us through the night.
Gilbert National TrailFest
Held in the charming town of Gilbert, WV, each October, The National Trailfest combines a jam-packed weekend of a “Las Vegas” night, an on-trail scavenger hunt, and an otherwise schedule full of trial-riding-related activities. We walked back down from the high hill the distillery was on and walked right into the route of the Trailfest parade. We saw some hilarious and very impressively decorated machines and cars alike. Some of the standouts included the Mystery Machine from Scooby-Doo, the many machines adorned with local school pride (go Lions!), and some just had a vibe with loud music and mud all over them. But one thing everyone had in common – was having a good time, waving, and smiling. It’s hard not to be cheesin’ at a parade!
After walking past what felt like miles of decked-out machines, we checked in and made it through the security and gates. At this point, we had so many wristbands from all our activities I felt like we were on a wild weekend-one Coachella adventure. There was so much going on that we didn’t know where to start. Then the motocross stunts began, and it was obvious where we had to take our attention. After about twenty minutes of watching this coordinated trio flipping their hundreds-of-pound machines through the air with ease, the drag racing strip and mud-laden obstacle course were fully operational. The rest of the night, we spent getting various fun foods from all the local vendors, watching everyone getting muddy from the “splash zone” (they had an area set up with eager bystanders encouraging the machine drivers to spray them more mud!). Nearing the end of the night, we decided to throw caution to the wind – in one final glorious moment – we got positively drenched with a heavy dose of mud. The night ended with a beautiful display of fireworks and everyone leaving the festival in a parade-like fashion with happy bellies and high spirits.
We could not have chosen a better weekend to experience Logan and its surrounding areas. While we did time our trip to experience the fantastic festivals, I can imagine any random weekend during the Hatfield-McCoy open season being an absolute blast. Some might even prefer a slower weekend, so you have the trails all to themselves. But the HMT covers so many miles that it is easy not to be nearby other riders. Logan and the interconnected ATV-friendly, trail-towns are expanding with even more fun activities, amenities, lodging, and various stores to become more family-friendly. It doesn’t always have to be only the boys going out to the trails, but riders and tourists of all ages, genders, and walks of life who will find out why they call this place Almost Heaven, West Virginia.
- Country Roads. Take Me Home.
PrettylilWestVirginia - Downloadable Google Map
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PrettylilWestVirginia is my downloadable Google map of the coolest places to visit around the beautiful state of West Virginia!
Let’s be honest, no one has the time to spend reading blog after blog and scrolling through Instagram to land of these locations. Skip the scrolling and start living. Once you download my PrettylilWestVirginia map or any of my other Google Maps, you’ll add the freedom to just get in your car and go.
Hike up to old fire towers, go off-roading on the Hatfield–McCoy trails, see the tallest waterfall in the Northeast, explore my favorite photography spots, and escape to the places never even knew existed right at your fingertips. There’s so much to discover in the hills of West Virginia.
I’ve spent countless hours researching and tracking all of my stops around West Virginia I’ve vetted the best destinations and most instagrammable photo opts for you to take with you on your travels. These are the maps that I use for all of my road trip planning.
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