We recently took a trip through the central Appalachians of West Virginia and Virginia to see some under-the-radar parks. It was a great trip, one that I would recommend, especially for those looking for something different.
Coopers Rock State Forest
A great place to hike with views of the Cheat River Canyon. Do not miss the Underlook Trail to see huge cliffs and boulders. A highlight is the impressive Rock City Trail, where the bedrock separated, creating a straight chasm. There is also an old iron furnace.
Valley Falls State Park
A small, day use park with a series of wide waterfalls, about ten feet tall, on the Tygart Valley River. Worth the stop.
Audra State Park
Another small park that features a huge rock shelter, known as Alum Cave, with a long boardwalk above the rapids of Middle Fork River.
Holly River State Park
One of my favorites, this isolated park is located deep in the Appalachian foothills, reached by curvy roads. A true hidden gem. Enjoy miles of trails through beautiful forests, views, and several waterfalls. There is a great restaurant at the park, and good camping. The forest had a kind of rainforest feel with all the rhododendrons and towering trees; the park gets a lot of rainfall. There are also historical points of interest, such as a one room school house.
Babcock State Park
This park has a classic West Virginia view of a gristmill (often seen in photographs), a small natural arch, and some views. Worth the stop.
New River Gorge National River
A must-visit, this place has one of the most impressive canyons in the east. Trails lead to cliffs and commanding views of the canyon. The Grandview Trails are among my favorite. Don’t have much time? Hike the classic Endless Wall Trail to impressive Diamond Point. Sandstone Falls in the southern end of the park is worth seeing. The park doesn’t have many waterfalls, but Glade Creek had some beautiful smaller falls and cascades. Enjoy views of the famous New River Gorge Bridge and its iconic arch at the visitor’s center. The gorge is famous with rock climbers.
Twin Falls State Park
Located in southern West Virginia, this park has a restaurant and resort. There are also miles of trails to two falls in glens cloaked with rhododendron. Trails also lead to views, and there is also a pioneer era working farm.
Breaks Interstate Park
A majestic, rugged canyon carved by the Russell Fork on the border of Virginia and Kentucky. Enjoy stunning views and impressive rock outcrops on the Geological, Overlook, and Laurel Branch Trails. The Notches were an impressive spot. Grassy Overlook is one of the less popular vistas, but it is worth it, particularly for sunsets. This area offers tons of hiking and world class whitewater. The gorge is called the “Grand Canyon of the South”. You can easily spend several days here and the restaurant in the park was convenient. This park is a true hidden gem that should be on anyone’s list.
Pinnacle State Park
A small park in West Virginia with a towering rock outcrop with average views. The rock had some graffiti. Not worth the stop.
Shenandoah National Park
We drove the Skyline Drive on our way home. This iconic drive is worth the time with its countless vistas of the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains. Watch for all the deer; bear are often seen.
On your next trip, consider out-of-the-way parks. They are just as beautiful as the more popular places, have far fewer crowds, are less expensive, and the local communities can use the tourism dollars.