The Official Website of the State of West Virginia

Rocky hills, heart-stopping high-wire thrills on West Virginia’s Via Ferrata outdoor adventure


CIRCLEVILLE, West Virginia — Step, breathe, step, breathe. 

Whatever you do, don’t look down. 

And so I methodically made my way across the 150-foot-high bridge, swaying between two giant rock formations in eastern West Virginia. 

And I wondered to myself how exactly I had been talked into this. 

Strictly translated, via ferrata is Italian for “iron way.” Although similar climbing apparatus had been used before, the Italians formalized the concept during World War I, when soldiers needed a way to cross the rocky Dolomite mountains. They affixed a series of rungs, ladders and cables to the rock to assist in climbing. 

In the decades since then, via ferratas have been developed across Europe as an extreme recreational activity for adventure seekers. 

They have been slower to catch on in the United States, with the first, in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, opening in 2001, and the second a year later, high in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern West Virginia, which is where I found myself last month.