Helvetia is an unincorporated community in Randolph County, West Virginia. First settled in 1869 by immigrants from Switzerland, Helvetia is known primarily for its Swiss heritage. The community takes pride in keeping local traditions alive, and restoring the original buildings.
Helvetia is a small village nestled in a valley on CR-46; the nearest large towns are Buckhannon and Elkins. Getting there will require patience; it's miles of curving backroads before you reach the village.
- 1 Historic District. There are ten historic buildings in town, including an original settler's cabin that has been converted into a museum.
- 2 Holly River State Park (On WV-20), ☏ . Hiking trails to two waterfalls (Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa) or up to Potato Knob at 2,480 feet and Shupe's Chute waterfall. Trout rearing pond, swimming pool, basketball, volleyball, softball field, tennis courts, archery, badminton, croquet and horseshoes. On-site park store, and restaurant with wood panelling and wood-burning fireplace. Cabins and campgrounds available.
- 3 Kumbrabow State Forest (On US-219, Rich Mountain), ☏ . On US-219. West Virginia's highest state forest encompasses 9,474 acres of forest atop Rich Mountain, with abundant wildlife and flora. Eight hiking trails, picnicking, hunting, fishing and entertainment during the summer. Mill Creek Falls is at the northern end of the park. Cabins, cottages and campgrounds available, with bathhouse.
Helvetia isn't a place for activity so much as inactivity; go walking, hiking, fishing, browsing the shops, or just relax in the shade with a good book. Music and dancing are popular cultural traditions, with square dancing being a particular favorite.
- Fasnacht, ☏ . The Swiss version of Mardi Gras is held the last Saturday before Lent, in late February. Food (including fondue) and beverages, open mic music, a buffet at the Hutte restaurant, mask making, and a candlelight parade in the evening with costume judging and a square dance. At midnight, an effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down and burned. Admission free.
- [formerly dead link] West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival, ☏ . The. Held in nearby Pickens during the third Saturday in March, to celebrate the sugarmaking traditions of eastern West Virginia. The festival features a pancake dinner; artists; woodcarving, soapmaking and basket weaving demonstrations; a wood-chopping exhibition; a muzzle-loading contest; arts and crafts; a quilt show; square dancing; and live entertainment.
- Helvetia Ramp Dinner. Is held in late April; Pickens also holds a ramp dinner the previous week. Volunteers prepare over 60 bushels of ramps, 300 pounds of ham, 60 pounds of beans, 480 pounds of potatoes, and 200 pounds of cabbage. The meal includes fried and fresh ramps, beans, ham, fried potatoes, applesauce, cornbread, drink, and dessert.
- Helvetia Community Fair. Sometimes called the Swiss Festival, is held the second Saturday in September. It features an Alpine parade with traditional dress and vehicles, a Swiss flag toss, the blowing of the Alpenhorn, Swiss music, costumes, songs and folk dances, square dancing, and farm stands selling fresh produce, homemade preserves, baked goods, cheeses and crafts. Funds are raised during the annual chicken supper on the third Saturday in August; dinner is $8, square dancing $5. Admission to the fair is free.
- Helvetia Day, held on the Saturday closest to October 20th, celebrates the arrival of the original Swiss settlers in the valley. Features a historic walk following the settlers' original path, a folk dance workshop and square dancing. Admission to the dance is $5, all other events free.
- Richter's Maplehouse. Turkeybone Road in Pickens, 304-924-5404 or 877-WVMAPLE (986-2753). Open 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday; closed Sundays. One of West Virginia's largest maple syrup producers. Tours are available during the harvest season (late winter and early spring). Offering pure maple syrup, maple cream and maple candy.
Helvetia takes pride in its homemade foods, including apple butter and Helvetia Swiss cheese, which has been made since the 1800s.
- Hutte Restaurant, ☏ . Route 46, Open daily from 12 pm to 7 pm. Reservations recommended. Heated by a wood stove, featuring a full menu with sandwiches on homemade bread, and many Swiss specialties like Swiss cheese, bratwurst and sauerbraten.
- Beekeeper Inn, ☏ . Route 46. 3 rooms, plus the 2-bedroom Alpine Penthouse. Situated in one of the oldest buildings in the village (circa 1870) with a nearby stream for fishing.
- Grandpa John's Swiss Mountain Retreat, Pickens Road, ☏ , . An 1890 Swiss farmhouse surrounded by over 50 acres of farmland. On-site gift shop, and alpacas that children can pet.
- Elkins is about 1 hour northeast on CR-46 and US-219.
- Buckhannon is about 1 hour north on CR-46 and CR-11.