West Virginia is a state comprised of forest and woodlands. Sometimes a weekend away at a state park, following long trails through miles of woods is the way to go, but what if you just want to take an hour or two to commune with nature? Following these 11 hiking trails will give you your nature fix without a large time commitment with a great payoff at the end.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Ravens Rock Overlook, Cooper's Rock State Forest
A 20-minute hike in Cooper's Rock State Forest leads you to this overlook that offers a spectacular view of the New River Gorge below. 20 minutes to the the overlook, 20 minutes enjoying the view, and 20 minutes back means you can easily enjoy this little excursion in just an hour.
2. Long Point Trail, New River Gorge
This 2.9-mile trail will take you to three overlooks, the first of which is wheelchair accessible. The first portion of the trail is easy to navigate and will grant you an excellent view at the end. From that point you can choose to go on or turn back.
3. Grandview State Park
Truth be told, this is not so much a trail as it is a long walkway from the parking lot. At the end is the spectacular view pictured above. However, off to the right of this walkway, very near to the overlook, there is a short trail with huge rock outcroppings, some areas with wooden steps and short bridges to navigate steep areas, and generally beautiful scenery. Well worth checking out.
4. Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory
The first part of the 330-mile Allegheny Trail is roughly one mile along the trail with orange blazes. The blue trail that branches off of it leads to the observatory, which is an old fire tower on the peak of Peters Mountain. The observatory sits along the migration path of many large raptors, including bald eagles, falcons, hawks and osprey. A visit in September will give you the best views of these amazing birds as they migrate south.
5. Seneca Rocks
These stony peaks, rising out of the hillside like broken teeth, are collectively known as West Virginia's only true peak. A winding trail zig-zags its way up the side of the mountain. It is uphill, but also gradual, and the dense tree coverage actually makes the trip fairly cool, even in warm temperatures. Once you reach the top, you will be able to see the hills of Pendleton County as far as the eye can see.
6. Grand Vue State Park
This adventure park gives you many exciting things to do, such as ziplining and an aerial rope course, but when you want to relax, a short hike to the park's overlook will give you a great view of the city of Moundsville.
7. Cranny Crow Overlook, Lost River State Park
This hike is a bit longer than the others on this list, but once you reach the small stone cottage on the top, you will be greeted with a spectacular view of the mountainous Hardy County.
8. Blackwater Falls State Park
The 0.7-mile hike to the to the park's main waterfall is quick and easy for all skill levels, leading through the woods and down a series of wooden steps to the primary viewing deck. The falls are the most photographed, and arguably the most impressive, falls in the state, with the possible exception of Sandstone Falls.
9. Lindy Point Overlook, Blackwater Falls State Park
Before you leave Blackwater Falls, there is another short hike you might want to check out. This 0.8-mile trail leads you to the parks primary overlook of the gorgeous Blackwater Canyon, which begins at the main waterfall and continues 8 miles to the confluence of the Blackwater River and Dry Fork. From Lindy Point, you can see the vast canyon trail off into the distance.
10. Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness
The payoff here is not just the view, it is the area itself, strewn with huge boulders and rocky outcroppings. If you go in autumn when the leaves change color, it will not feel like you are on earth anymore, but somewhere else entirely as you are surrounded by bright red, orange and yellow foliage.
11. Spruce Knob
Last but not least is the highest point in the entire state. At 4,863 feet, this impressive overlook is accessible by the very short Spruce Knob Trail, at the end is the overlook tower, which allows you to see above the treeline at the spectacular view of Monongahela National Forest.
What trails on this list have you followed? What trails not listed would you recommend? Feel free to comment below and join the discussion.