International Master Gardener Conference 2011

Allegheny Highlands
Post Tour

October 14-17


  • Early Bird Registration by June 9: $390.00 per person based on double occupancy; $520.00 single occupancy
  • Registration after June 9: $430.00 per person based on double occupancy; $560.00 single occupancy
  • Tour includes: three nights lodging, two breakfasts, one lunch, tickets for American Mountain Theatre, Purple Fiddle, and Avian Center program and tour fees


Activity Level: Moderate to intermediate

Fall is the best time to see the beautiful forest of West Virginia! This post-conference tour travels through West Virginia’s beautiful highlands, where there are more designated wilderness areas than traffic lights. You’ll be traveling through the 800,000 acre Monongahela National Forest during the majority of this tour.

The tour will depart Charleston Friday afternoon and travel to Elkins for check-in and dinner on your own. After dinner the group will be treated to a Branson-style family music and comedy show at the American Mountain Theatre in the Historic Rail Yard.

SenecaRocksFall-sjs (Small) After Saturday’s breakfast on your own we’ll drive to Seneca Rocks, one of the best known landmarks in West Virginia. This spectacular, 900 foot, vertical rock outcropping along the North Fork River is considered the premier rock climbing destination in the East. There will be plenty of time to visit the Discovery Center and gift shop and walk next door to the Sites’ Homestead, an early 19th century house with heritage garden.

After lunch on your own at the Harper Country Store, we’ll drive thirty miles north (one-hour drive time—-these are mountain miles!) to Blackwater Falls State Park. Situated on an eight-mile gorge lined with rhododendron and hemlock, its scenery surely inspired the description often used in describing West Virginia… “terrible beauty.” After checking in for a two-night stay, choose between a bus tour of the park, including a visit to the spectacular 63 foot falls, or, a 1.5 mile intermediate hike with the park naturalist on the Elakala Trail. This trail was voted one of the top 10 hiking trails in the east for scenic beauty. After dinner on your own at the lodge, it’s off to enjoy an evening of traditional music at the Purple Fiddle, where dessert, gourmet coffees, teas and microbrews are available.

DollySodsWilderness-sjs20 (Small) Sunday we drive to Canaan Valley. Nestled in a bowl surrounded by Allegheny peaks, it is the highest valley east of the Mississippi (3,200 feet) and home of the 500th National Wildlife Refuge. After a visit to the visitors’ center, we will take a chairlift ride to the top of Blackbird Knob in Timberline Ski Area. From the mountaintop, enjoy an interpretive hike into the pristine backcountry of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. With elevations of over 4,000 feet, this area has a unique ecosystem of bogs and heaths which are usually found further north in Canada.

After lunch we drive to Thomas, where we can shop at MountainMade, a juried gallery housed in the former Buxton and Landstreet Mine Headquarters. It features traditional arts and crafts such as: handmade furniture, quilts, candles and glass. From there, we will join a geologist from the non-profit Northfork Watershed Project for an easy walk along the north fork of the Blackwater River. This is a gorgeous river impacted by a large underground mine. Hear about efforts to restore this stream, help take water quality samples, view a wetlands bio-remediation project installed by WVU, see beautiful Douglas Falls and learn a little local history along the way. After dinner back at the lodge, enjoy a program by the Three Rivers Avian Center called “Wings of Wonder,” featuring live raptors.

After checking out on Monday we start the drive back to Charleston with a stop in Cathedral State Forest. The park superintendent will lead a tour of this forest which contains the last remaining virgin timber in West Virginia. From there, we travel along scenic Route 50, then I-79 to Charleston with a scheduled arrival of 4 p.m.


Friday, October 14

2 p.m. – Depart Charleston for Elkins with following activities:

  • Check-in at the Super 8
  • Dinner on your own
  • Music and comedy show at the American Mountain Theatre

Saturday, October 15

Breakfast on your own at Bob Evans

9 a.m. – Depart for the day’s activities which include:

  • Seneca Rocks
  • Sites’ Homestead
  • Stop at Harper Country Store for lunch on your own
  • Travel to Blackwater Falls State Park for check-in at lodge
  • Choice of bus tour of park or hike with park naturalist
  • Dinner on your own at park lodge
  • Evening of traditional music at Purple Fiddle

Sunday, October 16

Breakfast bar at lodge

9 a.m. – Depart for Canaan Valley where activities will include:

  • Visitors’ Center of the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge
  • Chairlift at Blackbird Knob with hike into Dolly Sods
  • Box lunch
  • Shopping at MountainMade
  • Hike the Northfork of Blackwater River and Douglas Falls
  • Dinner on your own at Sirianni’s Italian Restaurant or the Blackwater Lodge
  • After dinner program by the Three Rivers Avian Center featuring live raptors

Monday, October 17

Breakfast bar at park lodge and check-out with departure at 9 a.m. Day’s activities include:

  • Cathedral State Park and hike with park naturalist
  • Scenic drive to Charleston with a stop for lunch on your own
  • Arrive in Charleston by 4 p.m.