Coal Heritage Highway

byways logoThe Coal Heritage Trail is a nationally designated scenic highway showcasing America’s remarkable industrial heritage. The isolated and remote Appalachian coalfields exploded in population and coal production one hundred years ago, as European immigrants African-Americans migrated in search of jobs and new lives.

By 1900, the five-county region along the Coal Heritage Trail was America’s most productive energy-producing region, providing the economical fuel which transformed the United States into a world power, capable of defending itself and democracy in two ruinous world wars.

The mining life created a distinctive culture of company towns, railroads, lumber camps, and uniquely American ethnic and racial diversity. Home to thousands of miners and their families, the “smokeless” coalfields witnessed some of this nation’s most ferocious labor strife, as the United Mine Workers of America struggled to organize the workers in the coalfields.

Although coal mining technology has evolved radically from the labor-intensive years when hard-working miners blasted coal by hand from underground caverns, southern West Virginia still retains much of the remarkable heritage of this bygone era. The Coal Heritage Trail is a heritage tourism route which provides a window into this significant and often-overlooked aspect of American history.

The Coal Heritage Trail is one of a collection of 126 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  National Scenic Byways are designated based on one or more archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.

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