Ok, so it is not technically a national park, but the National Park Service (NPS) pretty much took over the ghost town of Thurmond, WV in 2003 to begin a stabilization process of the old town. In fact, in 1995 the NPS took over the old Thurmond, WV railroad depot and turned it into an NPS visitor center. Today the NPS owns over 20 other buildings in the town.
My Visit to Thurmond, WV
I got to visit Thurmond, WV during the summer of 2021 while visiting my Mom in West Virginia. It was the summer before my son went off to college and while originally we were supposed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, we ended up spending a month at my Mom’s up in the mountains just visiting the area.
The drive down to the town was interesting as it winds through the New River Gorge area. From the main road, it is 7 miles down a narrow winding road to reach the town. If you are towing an RV or Trailer or in an oversized vehicle (bus or motorhome) you can forget about visiting.
Once you reach the town, I suggest heading into the visitor center for a map and history of the town before you head out on your self-guiding walking tour.
Areas of Interest
Most of the original buildings are still standing and while you can’t go into any of them at the time of writing this, it is still neat to walk through the town and peer into the windows.
While I am not sure of the actual name of the street, we will call it Main street since this is where the most notable structures are and where the businesses were located. You will find all the structures on the walking tour along this street.
The train depot is also the NPS visitor center. Stop here to pick up your walking tour map, learn about the history of Thurmond, and get your NPS stamp.
This two-story depot was built in 1904 after the original was destroyed by a fire. It was acquired by the NPS in 1995 and turned into a visitors center. It is still in use today as a flag stop for Amtrak trains.
The coaling tower was built in 1925 and abandoned by CSX in 1960. A side of caution, it is not in the best of shape and is advisable to keep clear.
National Bank of Thurmond
The National Bank of Thurmond was built in 1917 and originally housed a jewelry store, clothing store, the Western Union Telegraph Company, and apartments. It closed at the onset of the Great Depression
Built in 1930, this building was once a commissary. It wasn’t until a fire destroyed the Lafayette Hotel and town post office did the post office relocated to its new location.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is during the Spring, Summer, or Fall. Winter can be treacherous with snowfall. The Thurmond Train Depot is open seasonally from Memorial Day through Labor Day typically.
Know Before You Go
Roads: As stated above, the 7 miles to get to Thurmond off of US Route 19 is narrow and winding. It is not meant for RVs, motorhomes, or vehicles pulling trailers. I would even caution oversized vehicles from trying to make the trip.
People still reside there: Keep in mind that the town is not completely abandoned and people still live there. Don’t just assume a house is abandoned and start trespassing. It’s best to stay on the road and admire from afar.
Stay off the tracks: The tracks are still in use today and are an active line.
Thurmond was the vision of Captain W. D. Thurmond who acquired 73 acres along the railroad in 1873 and it quickly became a boom town and the heart of the New River Gorge. In 1910 it became the chief railroad center on the C & O mainline. Thurmond began to decline during the great depression when businesses started to close and two large fires wiped out several businesses. To read more about the history of Thurmond, see the NPS website.
Getting There / More Info
Take U.S. Route 19 to the Glen Jean exit, north of Beckley. Follow the signs to Thurmond, seven miles down WV Route 25.