Elkins, West Virginia, is a small town of about 6,000 located in east-central West Virginia. This outdoorsmen’s paradise is in close proximity to a multitude of activities and fantastic mountain views. A four-season destination, it offers everything you could want in an outdoor playground. There’s world-class hiking, trout fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing, rafting, and skiing, plus plenty of gorgeous spots to take in the fall foliage.
Here are nine reasons you’ll love Elkins, West Virginia — on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest — in no particular order.
I was invited to experience Elkins, West Virginia, but all opinions are my own.
1. Joey’s Bike Shop
We grabbed our bikes in downtown Elkins at Joey’s Bike Shop, where we had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with the crew. Joey and his wife, Mandy, owners of this local bike shop for about 15 years, are very enthusiastic bikers. Joey said he especially loves to race mountain bikes and even races with a team. The shop itself is a charming, old-school shop full of all kinds of cool bikes with classic ones lining the walls. My favorite is the cruiser draped in Christmas lights, which is a perfect addition to this sweet bike shop.
These old bikes took me back to my glory days of cruising down the road on my Schwinn, with playing cards clothespinned to the spokes, making the perfect motorcycle sound. Joey outfitted us in a couple of new bikes and helmets and filled us in on the Allegheny Highlands Trail. We learned that the trailhead is just across the street from the shop, near the train station.
Open Monday through Saturday, Joey’s Bike Shop handles sales and services of all types of bikes. You can also rent bikes from Joey’s. His work is well-known around Elkins and he has customers that travel from neighboring states. I unapologetically peppered Joey with questions about what to see and do around town because Joey’s is the kind of place you want to linger and chat for a while. He gave us a few recommendations about where to eat, and where to hike. He also filled us in on a couple of things Elkins is known for.
2. Forks Inn
I’d return to Elkins if only to experience Forks Inn restaurant again. The intimate, reservation-only restaurant is tucked away on the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, about 3 miles from Elkins, atop Kelly Mountain. This family-run, gourmet spot offers a French-inspired menu with nods to the owners’ Appalachian roots. Did I mention the views? Forks has what has to be the most stunning views in the county. Whether looking out through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the dining room, or from the outdoor heated deck, glorious views of the mountains abound. The scenery just doesn’t get much better than this.
Fork’s has a traditional menu along with a multi-course tasting menu. Per usual, we started with drinks. I wasn’t prepared to love my cocktail selection as much as I did. My before-dinner lavender martini was the best I’ve ever had. The vodka-infused lavender was so flavorful with the perfect smooth finish that, of course, I had to have two!
For dinner, I selected the six-course tasting experience, which includes an appetizer, soup, salad, sorbet, entrée, and dessert. It’s a lot of food to be sure, but I was anxious to give my first tasting menu a try. While everything was fresh and stunningly presented, what stood out to me most was the cottage cheese soup. I was mystified as to how the chef prepared such a creamy, rich, delightful soup from cottage cheese. If you’re in search of a place that has a wildly imaginative yet not intimidating menu, Forks Inn is your place.
3. Shopping In Downtown Elkins
The Artists At Work is a cool cooperative gallery where local artists showcase their creations. From jewelry to gorgeous ceramic, wood, and glass masterpieces, you’ll find many handmade treasures here. We also discovered cute shops in downtown Elkins. Especially high on the list is the Delmonte Market, a boutique full of home décor, artisanal foods, and lots of handmade items. At the thrift store downtown, we found a pair of white majorette boots perfect for my friend’s pint-sized granddaughter.
4. Cabins Of Kelly Mountains
If you’re an outdoor lover but want a place that feels like home, you’ll love the Cabins of Kelly Mountain. Situated at the edge of the Monongahela National Forest, the Cabins of Kelly Mountain offer a secluded stay amid the forest, yet you’re conveniently just minutes away from downtown Elkins.
We loved our two-bed cabin with views of the forest. The hot tub on the deck and the full sauna inside were totally unexpected but very appreciated. I loved the convenience of the full kitchen. It’s awesome to have the flexibility to whip up eggs and coffee for breakfast or make some popcorn for a late-night snack.
The owners have seemingly thought of everything here including luxurious soaps in the bathroom, plenty of coffee in the kitchen, and games for the kids. If you’re looking for a secluded spot with all the comforts of home, the Cabins of Kelly Mountains will win you over.
5. Tip Top Coffee
Grab your cup of joe at Tip Top Coffee and relax for a while. This downtown shop is quite possibly the quaintest place in Elkins. Completely revamped with a retro-modern flair, this coffee shop is cozy and comfortable, too. My go-to vanilla latte was expertly prepared, complete with beautiful flower art. My scone that accompanied my coffee tasted super fresh, which makes sense because they’re made in nearby Buckhannon, West Virginia.
6. Smoke On The Water
I’m always ready for barbecue. By the looks of the crowded parking lot at Smoke On The Water, plenty of others were ready to dig in as well. The large restaurant was bustling when we arrived on a recent Saturday night. Inside, we sat in the large bar area and settled in. My half-barbecue chicken dinner had the sweet, smoky barbecue flavor that I was craving.
As good as the barbecue was, sometimes, it’s the sides that win me over. Smoke On the Water offers all the traditional barbecue sides including creamy mac and cheese, beans, baked sweet potato, and my favorite, hushpuppies. A bonus for all dog lovers is the large pet-friendly outdoor seating area.
7. CJ Maggie’s
If you’re looking for a huge variety of items on the menu to choose from, CJ Maggie’s is the place to go in Elkins. This cozy restaurant, with private booths and tables, has one of the most extensive menus I’ve seen. We sampled lots of yummy dishes, with French onion soup, chili, nachos, and Caesar salads topping the list. This family-friendly restaurant in downtown Elkins offer’s a large variety of tasty food at reasonable prices.
Pro Tip: Make sure you try the homemade ice cream. The mint is fantastic.
8. Great Harvest Bread
Great Harvest Bread is a casual, strip-mall spot that serves delicious breakfast, lunch, and baked goods. My giant cinnamon roll was delish, as were the breads we tried. My favorite was the tomato garlic pesto asiago bread. All the baked goods are made in-house daily so it’s no wonder they’re so scrumptious.
9. Thomas, West Virginia
Take the spectacular drive up the mountain to nearby Thomas, West Virginia. Here you can listen to authentic Appalachian music at the Purple Fiddle, check out locally made art at the galleries, or shop until you drop at some of the unique shops clustered on Front Street. The drive from Elkins takes about 45 minutes and is full of beautiful West Virginia mountain views. You’ll want to stop along the way to take breathtaking photos of the area. You can also stretch your legs with a hike through the Davis parks. This short side trip was one of the best things we did on our visit to Elkins and I can’t wait to go back.
What To Do In Elkins According To A Local
The Mountain State Forest Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the state, is where more than 75,000 people converge in Elkins and do foresty things amid the fall foliage. Joey from Joey’s Bikes also mentioned the Ramps and Rails Annual Festival, held each April, where you can try delicious varieties of ramp-themed foods and hop on a steam locomotive train. The Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad operates historic steam-driven trains that depart Elkins for trips through the Monongahela National Forest and the Greenbrier, Tygarts Valley, and Shaver’s Fork Rivers. This is the kind of small-town fun you can experience in Elkins.