West Virginia isn’t exactly the most popular state in the US for a vacation. Not just from lack of tourists either, West Virginia’s largest city, Charleston, also the capital, only has a population of 50,000, and as of 2016 that made it the 745th largest city in the U.S. However, with the lack of people it leaves room for Mother Nature to flourish. So for those eager for a little outdoor adventure off the beaten path then look no further than the Mountain State. Here are our favorite state parks in West Virginia.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park
Located on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park, like a number of parks in West Virginia, marks the location of a Civil War battle site. Established in 1935, the 156-acre park is one of the oldest state parks in the United States. These days, visitors can witness a battle reenactment, use one of the many trails for hiking, or have a family picnic.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Described as “almost heaven” by the West Virginia tourism board, Blackwater Falls State Park is amongst the most photographed places in the entire state. These “kodak moments” are thanks to the cascades of the 62-foot high Blackwater Falls, where the Blackwater River descends into the canyon with the same name. The falls take on a yellowish hue, but the river gets its name from the flowing waters which are darkened by acids produced from fallen spruce needles and hemlock.
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Not technically a state park, but rather a national historical park, Harpers Ferry makes our list for its historical and natural significance. As history buffs may know, Harpers Ferry has played a significant role in American history, both as the location of a slave uprising and as a strategic armory during the Civil War. Now, the small town, with its access to two rivers, is a hotbed for outdoor activity. Not only is Harpers Ferry a midpoint on the Appalachian Trail, but it also offers a lot of recreational activities like tubing, rock climbing, white water rafting, zip lines, and fishing.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park
Known for being the highest elevated valley east of the Mississippi River, Canaan Valley is one of West Virginia’s largest state parks. During the winter the park is utilized as one of the East Coast’s major ski resorts. When there isn’t snow on the ground many still flock to the park for its lodges and cabins, as well as for some quality golfing.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Deep in the West Virginian mountains, Cass, in Pocahontas County, is a very small town seemingly unchanged by the tides of history. Visitors can enjoy the charming village or board the old-school steam locomotive that will whisk people away on a scenic ride around the surrounding wilderness. For those wishing to stay in the area, there are a number of accommodation options like cottages and cabins. For a more unique experience, travelers can stay in a renovated caboose car.
Camp Creek State Park and Forest
With over 5,300 acres of forested land, any outdoorsmen will find their style of escape in Camp Creek State Park. Hunters often head into the park for deer, turkey, and grouse hunting. Those who prefer to look at birds rather than shoot them can also enjoy some quality bird watching as cardinals and blue jays are common to the area. The creek itself is also heavily stocked with trout. Camp Creek has three campsites, including one specifically for those arriving on horseback.
Watoga State Park
East of Charleston in the Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia is the vast Watoga State Park. Larger than any other state park in the Mountain State, Watoga sits on roughly 10,100 acres of land. The lake that shares the park’s name is beloved for its fishing and boating opportunities. With 34 cabins and two campgrounds with 88 total campsites, there are plenty of places to rest under a canopy of trees and stars.