Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area

Potomac Eagle excursion train along the South Branch Potomac River in WV forest.
The Potomac Eagle excursion train carries riders through scenic central Appalachian forest

Photo courtesy Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad/Dream Cut Films

Quick Facts
Central Appalachian Highlands encompassing 18 counties in West Virginia and western Maryland
This region’s history is shaped by the mountainous landscape and one of the most extensive hardwood forests in the world. Rare northern species in high altitude glades and barrens mix with southern flora to create an abundance of biodiversity. The post-Civil War logging boom helped to fuel the industrial revolution nationally. With the assistance of scientific forestry and public land holdings, the depleted forests of the 20th century have regrown; today the forests are a significant source of livelihood, production, culture, recreation, and beauty.
National Heritage Area

Scenic View/Photo Spot

The Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area (AFNHA) works to conserve, enhance, interpret, and promote a regional network of forest heritage resources in the central Appalachian Highlands. Designated a National Heritage Area in 2019, AFNHA covers sixteen counties in West Virginia (Barbour, Braxton, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Morgan, Nicholas, Pendleton, Preston, Pocahontas, Randolph, Tucker, Upshur, Webster) and two counties in western Maryland (Garrett, Allegany). 

Forest heritage is the ongoing story how the forest shapes history and culture, and how both nature and humans shape the forest. The mountains and forests have played a central role in central Appalachian life since the first indigenous inhabitants, and the landscape continues to cultivate local traditions, folkways, language, crafts, dance, music, festivals, and fairs. Logging after the Civil War fueled the industrial revolution and provided an important livelihood for workers, but the demand for timber decimated the forests. Today, scientific forestry and public land holdings have allowed the forests to regrow, providing sustainable forest products while offering an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, camping, climbing, and skiing. The history of the region is represented by its plentiful historical societies, museums, and historic preservation efforts. Forest communities and main streets offer a variety of small town experiences, with arts, shopping, local foods, and a hearty welcome for visitors. 

AFNHA is managed by the grassroots nonprofit Appalachian Forest Heritage Area, Inc. (AFHA). AFHA partners with organizations with shared goals and is developing a management plan to coordinate partnership efforts to conserve the area’s forests and strengthen rural communities through conservation, historic preservation, education, heritage tourism, and sustainable economic development.

Notable points of interest in the region include:

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

Last updated: August 4, 2022