Canaan Valley & Blackwater Falls

I hiked up a mountain and never hiked down.

I spent the last couple of days in Elkins, West Virginia. Someone there recommended a hike nearby where I could walk through the only virgin forest in the state. The trees were the tallest he’s ever seen, the guy told me. By the next day I couldn’t remember the name of the trail… but it ended with “Knob” and started with a B. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Bald Knob but that’s the closest thing I could find. So off I drove to the trailhead for Bald Knob.

I arrived… At a closed ski resort called Canaan Valley. Confused, I re-consulted the map and drove in circles, before finally deciding I was in the right place. In my defense, the parking lot was full of people who were equally as confused.

I walked up a steep road, squinting at my phone where my AllTrails map was downloaded. Finally I located the trailhead, hidden behind a pile of gravel and a backhoe. I guess the construction workers were getting the place ready for ski season. Unfortunately it was crazy loud and the noise of the construction site followed me for the first 30 minutes of the trail. I was pretty annoyed… This was the exact thing type of thing I came out here to get away from!

My annoyance didn’t last long, because I soon realized the views were worth it. It might not be wilderness, but this place had some stunning fall foliage. It was a very steep climb to reach the “Knob” but once up there I was quite happy to sit and stare at the scenery for an extended amount of time.

View from Bald Knob

I continued on down a hill and then through a flat forested path, where the rocks were covered in moss.

When I came out from the other end of the forested area, I was surprised to find myself at a working ski lift. I guess they keep it running throughout the year for people who want to ride up/down the mountain without hiking.

There was a viewing dock across from the lift. I walked up to see the scenery and heard a woman singing hymns. The sight of the majestic red & yellow mountains sprawled into the distance, paired with the hymn, gave me chills. I walked up to the woman and stood next to her. She finished the hymn and started to pray aloud, and I joined her. It was a beautiful moment.

After we said “amen”, she introduced herself. I said I was visiting from Dallas and in response she said, “Dallas has beautiful… buildings.” I laughed. What can Dallas possibly have to offer compared to these awe-inspiring mountain landscapes?

I’d been planning to skip Blackwater Falls, another state park nearby. I’d gotten a late start that day and had to get to my campsite by dark. But the woman convinced me it was worth a visit, even if I was in a hurry. “It’s like Niagara Falls but better,” she said.

If I was going to make it to a second state park that day, I needed to hurry. So instead of hiking down, I rode the ski lift. A fun and unexpected activity!

Blackwater Falls was just down the road but by the time I arrived it was late in the afternoon. First I went on a short hike to what I thought were *the falls*. It took me over some beautifully intricate root systems to what was a waterfall of fairly impressive proportions.

Beautiful tree roots along the trails

I thought it was Blackwater Falls, took a photo, patted myself on the back & headed back to the car. On my way out I noticed a sign for a scenic viewpoint. I had a few extra minutes so I pulled off.

THIS was Blackwater Falls, much larger and more impressive than the first one is seen. It was immediately obvious that this waterfall was worthy of being a main attraction.

I started down what appeared to be a trail to the falls, and soon encountered a warning sign. Well that’s strange, I thought. Why have a trail here if it’s that dangerous?

Turned out definitely not to be a trail. The nice pretty path was soon replaced by giant boulders. I had already committed and was basically at the falls, so I scampered across the boulders to the water. No one else was around, and I was well aware that I might be making bad decisions. There at the bottom of the ravine were the falls, and the view was spectacular!

I successfully climbed back up the ravine without hurting myself. I walked toward the car but then stopped. I wanted a picture of that sign with the warnings. So I backtracked to take a photo… And slipped on a rock and fell. Go figure. That sign was just asking for trouble! Anyway, no injuries, just a bruise.

Another scenic overlook at Blackwater Falls SP

What a stunning corner of the world. West Virginia has blown me away. These mountains and forests are beyond my wildest dreams! The people here are wonderful. There’s much more to the story than these two state parks, so stay tuned for more later.

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