One of West Virginia’s best kept secrets isn’t so much “off the beaten path” as it is along the beaten path. Putnam County sits alongside I-64 between Huntington and Charleston and is a perfect spot if you want easy access to those cities, but to experience small town charm with lots of can’t-miss activities. Here’s our 48 Hour Guide to some of Putnam County’s unique offerings.
Explore Eleanor Park Biking/Hiking Trails & Valley Park
Is there any better way to start your day than with a long, relaxing walk or bike ride? Get that blood pumping before a packed day around Putnam County on the gorgeous Elanor Park biking and hiking trails. Located in the town of Eleanor, there are 18 miles of excellently maintained bike trails just waiting to be explored by you and your family. The trail is appropriate for all levels of riding from beginner to expert, but as a note, they do require a moderate skill level for the most technical areas. The trailhead is located by the shelter near the front of the park. A kiosk beside the trailhead contains a map of the entire course, along with signage instructions. It’s not all hiking and biking at Eleanor Park though, there is also a playground and an 18-hole frisbee golf course ready to be enjoyed.
Hurricane also has a wonderful area for recreation, Valley Park, which has a 1 mile walking trail, tennis courts, baseball fields, soccer pitch, and picnic areas for rental. When the weather is warm, check out the wave pool, which is a perfect (and cheap!) way to beat the heat. It’s $10 for adults, $8 for children 5-11, and free for children 4 and under. Valley Park also boasts an 18-hole disc golf course designed by PDGA 3-time world champion Johnny Sias.
Gritt’s Farm Visit
What would a trip to gorgeous, green Putnam County be without a little agritourism? Gritt’s Farm is more than the Fun Farm, a fall funland of delights open in September and October. Gritt’s Farm is 400 combined acres in Buffalo and is open year-round. The farm has seasonal produce, shrubbery, and flowers. The farm has been operating in the Kanawha Valley since 1927 and is currently owned by the fourth generation of the Gritt family. Once a month from April until September, Gritt’s hosts a farm to table culinary event. These farm to table events feature fresh ingredients from the farm prepared by local chefs and are an absolute must if you’re lucky enough to be in town for one. Check their website for dates and times.
In the off season, you can explore the north side of the county by following the Rivers to Ridges Scenic Byway, highlighting cultural and historic stops along Rt. 62 from Nitro to Point Pleasant.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
Putnam County is located along the banks of the Kanawha River, which also provides a lot of recreation opportunities. Stand Up Paddleboarding is one of the best ways to get up and down the river, and an evening trip on the river is hard to beat. We recommend using Appalachian Boarding Company, where you can get a guided tour and rent all the equipment you’ll need. Evan Young is a great guide, whether you’re a first timer or an experienced SUP’er. Our class had a mix of veterans and newbies, and everyone was free to get around at their own pace and paddle wherever their fancy took them. 4 hour guided tours are $70 per person and children under 12 years old are $55. 4-hour board rentals are $45. Appalachian Boarding Company also offers 8 hour tours as well as overnight board rentals, and rentals on other equipment like wet suits.
Explore Main Street Hurricane Shops/Restaurants
After a good night’s rest, make your way over to charming, quaint downtown Hurricane for some handmade, local products at one of the shops in town. Be sure to check out Bear Wood Company which has wood art from reclaimed pieces and have a large variety of pieces, including beer flights shaped like states. If they don’t have your home state, they do take special orders and will make one for you.
If you’re looking for some new clothes, accessories, or household items, check out Hidden Creek Mercantile, located in a building dating back to 1890. Hidden Creek is a hub for local artisans and they have a wide selection of shirts, jewelry, and paintings. The assortment is varied and you’ll just have to stop in to check out the wide variety of pieces. The perfect item is waiting for you!
Blenko Glass Tour
Since you’re spending a little hard-earned money, venture over to neighboring Milton in Cabell County and tour the Blenko Glass Company. William J. Blenko founded the glass making company back in 1921, and pieces are still being handblown to this day under the supervision of John W. Blenko, the company’s president and William’s great grandson. You can peek in on workers handmaking vases, decanters, bowls, along with other pieces. You can also walk around the property and see thousands of Blenko pieces on display and for sale in the gift shop. Blenko Glass Company is open for tours Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm and Sunday from 12pm to 5pm and is closed on major holidays.
Any good trip needs a proverbial nightcap, and the perfect spot to savor your last few hours in Putnam County is the Pallet Bar in Teays Valley. Pallet Bar offers a wide variety of beers on tap, many of which are brewed in West Virginia. It’s a friendly space with a bar and plenty of tables no matter how big your crew is. On top of a rotating tap of tasty brews, Pallet Bar also hosts live music, comedy, trivia, and plenty of other events. Check out their Facebook page for a list of upcoming happenings. It’s a great atmosphere with a wide selection of beers to try. You may not want to leave!
Whew. That is two action-packed days of outdoor adventure, exploring, shopping, and learning, so you’ll work up quite the appetite. Don’t worry —- Putnam County has an abundance of dining options, which you can read about here.
Written by Tyler Phillips