America's Scenic Byways

Northwestern Turnpike

54 miles - Allow 1.5 hours.

This byway includes the section of US 50 traversing Preston and Taylor Counties. The original route chosen for US 50 was deemed too difficult, so in 1830 a new route was devised and commissioned as the Northwestern Turnpike. The completed thoroughfare was a vital link to the West for freight and settlers. Today, US 50 follows the basic route of the Northwestern Turnpike, also known as the George Washington Highway, as originally designed, and upgrades and alterations have done little to change the mileage of the road.

Because of the rugged terrain, construction of the road was quite a challenge. Two of the biggest barriers were Cheat and Laurel mountains, with the Cheat standing at 2,746 feet and a 9% grade for three miles and 28 curves, and the Laurel at 2,602 feet and an 8% grade on both the east and west faces.

The many small communities that dot the landscape along US 50 owe their existence to the commerce along the old Northwestern Turnpike and the industry spurred by the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that parallels the route.