North Fork Valley Canopy Tour and Via Ferrata
West Virginia offers it’s share of great outdoor adventures for those who are willing to look for them. It is a rugged state (for the East anyway) and is endowed with better wilderness than you might imagine. Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center to enjoy two outdoor adventures – the North Fork Valley Canopy Tour and the Via Ferrata. Both were well done and enjoyable.
Nelson Rocks is located about 3 hours from Washington, DC, deep inside West Virginia. It features some very strange rock formations with two parallel vertical fins of rock that stick out of the mountaintop. In this part of the country it is pretty unique!
Both adventures begin at a new looking visitor’s center. Check-in went smoothly and I had no complaints on either day. It worked out better with my schedule to do the canopy tour first, then the Via Ferrata the following day, so let’s get to the zip lines!
The canopy tour course itself is a lot of fun and well laid out. The zips start easily and gradually build as you work your way along. It is broken roughly into two sections by the terrain with a total of 12 zip lines, plus a few strategically placed bridges. The course ends with a nice rappel and a short walk back to the visitor’s center. The guides said that the longest zip is close to 700 feet and all the zips added together are about a mile – totally respectable. As mentioned above, the scenery is pretty impressive for this part of the country with craggy rock outcrops and plenty of dense forest. The guides were friendly and had a wealth of knowledge about the surrounding landscape, if you asked. They were not as talkative as some I have been with, but it is nice to enjoy an outdoor experience without a constant narration so they hit the mark for me. The only negative during my visit was the humidity – it was like a wet blanket for someone who spends a good bit of time in the West.
The price for the canopy tour was about $100 and well worth it. They mentioned that in the winter they offer a lower price. I think this course would be a blast in the winter so if you find yourself in the region remember to check it out.
The next day I tried something new – the Via Ferrata. In Italian it means “Iron Road” and they are very popular in the rugged areas of the alps. Basically it is a hiking trail on steroids through terrain that would require technical climbing otherwise. Using a series of cables, ladders and anchors, you make your way along the course while enjoying great views and exposure usually reserved for rock climbers. The entire course is about 3 and a half miles long and very exposed as it traverses the rugged rock fins I described above. It includes a long and high suspension bridge between the fins that gives you a little taste of Europe, at least for a few minutes!
The cost of the Via Ferrata is a bit steep at around $113, but it is unique for this region. If you are a rock climber, or someone who is comfortable traversing steep terrain, it might be a bit pedestrian for you. However, for mere mortals who would like a taste of the vertical world in a controlled setting, it rocks.
For more information, please visit http://www.nelsonrocksoutdoorcenter.com or call (877) 435-4842.