A Weekend on White Horse Mountain

You helped save White Horse Mountain for the Potomac - and for the people. Here’s how to enjoy it.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF WILLIAM MACFARLAND, WWW.MACFARLANDPHOTO.NET.

       

On a mountain in Hampshire County, West Virginia, bobcats and black bears roam under 1730 acres of hardwood forests. Bald eagles flying overhead look out over the meandering South Branch Potomac River, where a network of protected land keeps the fish they feed on healthy. Tawny white-tailed deer and brilliant scarlet tanagers drink from 3 miles of perennial streams and 4 miles of ephemeral streams that trickle past delicate, rare wildflowers into the Potomac — and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. This wild wonderland is White Horse Mountain.

Five years ago, it was owned by developers who planned to raze the intact forest and construct 70 homes. Instead, with the help of generous advocates and donors, Potomac Conservancy purchased and permanently protected the land with a conservation easement. In May 2018, the land was officially transferred to the state of West Virginia and and is now open to the public for recreation!

We fought to preserve the mountain’s wildlife habitat, forests, and streams for their conservation value, but also so that people could connect with one of the wildest parts of our watershed. So next time you’re heading to our headwaters state, skip Harpers Ferry and partake in one of the many activities White Horse Mountain offers (yes, horseback riding is one of them!).

Getting There

White Horse Mountain is about a 2.5 hour drive from downtown Washington, DC, making it an easy day or weekend trip from all over our watershed. The journey will also give you the chance to explore the beauty of our upstream lands.

Driving Directions:
When searching for online directions, please note that the name, “White Horse Mountain” does not appear on topographic or satellite maps. Search for “Springfield Wildlife Management Area,” to locate White Horse Mountain.

**IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources opened the property for hunting on September 1, 2018. Before planning your excursion on the mountain, please take a moment to review the updated hunting season dates/times here. Everyone can still enjoy the land year-round, but during active hunting seasons, we advise that you wear blaze orange apparel. For hunting regulations on Wildlife Management Areas and safety information, contact the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources with any questions.

Where to Stay

Why not make a road trip of your adventure to White Horse? If you’re coming from downstream, you could pass through and stay in the lovely, historic towns of Winchester, VA; Shepherdstown, WV; or Harpers Ferry, WV.

While camping is not allowed on White Horse Mountain, there are dozens of amazing campsites across the state of West Virginia. (We recommend the nearby campsites at Milleson’s Walnut Grove, Wapocoma, or Middle Ridge campgrounds). Find the location that's right for you here.

What to Do

There’s a little something for everyone on the mountain. Scroll down for 6 adventurous activities, or, if you’d just like to take in the serenity of your surroundings, read these tips for getting the best view of the river.

The White Horse Mountain property contains several nice vantage points from which one can view the South Branch River valley to the east or the Patterson Creek valley to the west. The easiest locations are in the power line cuts, the first of which is approximately 1.75 miles from the southern entrance on Swisher Hollow Road (39.462537, -78.652819). A particularly nice view can be obtained by hiking up to the ridge line above the road at the first power line cut.
— Emily Warner, Potomac Conservancy Senior Director of Land Conservation
  • Bird-watching

    Bird enthusiasts will fall in love with White Horse, as miles of woods provide plenty of opportunities to spot owls, hawks, warblers, and various other songbirds. 

  • Fishing

    Anglers will find that the Potomac River and nearby streams are abundant in smallmouth bass, trout, and catfish. Check out this handy guide on the best locations to find your favorite fish.

  • Hiking

    Strap on your hiking boots and get ready to explore. With over 1,700 acres of land, White Horse Mountain is the ideal location for day hikers to explore various trails.

    Please remember that as you explore the forests, hunters may also be enjoying the same space. Take caution by wearing brightly-colored clothing and checking hunting season information prior to heading into the woods.

  • Horse-back riding (roads only)

    Horse-back riding is a great way for both you and your horse to spend the day outdoors. Riders will be permitted on the main roads throughout White Horse Mountain. 

    Riding off roads or on trails is prohibited.

  • Hunting

    White Horse Mountain was opened for hunting on September 1, 2018. Hunters can access the mountain via the main road or a side road located directly past the entrance pillars to the right. Before heading out to White Horse, please review all current hunting regulations and season dates/times on the West Virginia DNR website. We advise that visitors wear blaze orange apparel during active hunting seasons.

  • Mountain-biking (roads only)

    Non-motorized bikes are allowed on White Horse Mountain. Grab your bike and take in the breath-taking sights of White Horse as you ride along the main roads throughout the mountain.

    Bicyclists are not permitted off roads or on the trails of White Horse Mountain.

    For more inspiration for your visit, check out Bay Journal reporter Whitney Pipkin’s personal journey.

 
       
 
 

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