No matter what the season, the rugged beauty of West Virginia's landscape is enthralling. Bristling with dramatic waterfalls, trickling streams, towering mountains, and deep, ancient forests, it's a dream come true for nature lovers. With 35 scenic state parks and 9 state forests to explore, there's no end of opportunities for adventure and discovery. But which of those parks best showcase the state's majestic scenery? Find out as we count down the 10 best state parks in West Virginia.
10. Cathedral State Park
Cathedral State Park is the largest old-growth forest in West Virginia, boasting trees that stand over 90 feet tall and 21 feet wide. It's also home to a hemlock grove of epic proportions, along with 30 species of trees, nine species of ferns, and over 50 species of wildflowers. If you want to marvel at some truly majestic nature, this is the place to do it.
9. Twin Falls Resort State Park
As its name suggests, the Twin Falls Resort State Park is home to two truly stunning waterfalls. But there's more to it than that. Along with the falls, there's a 25-mile network of trails to explore (the 1.25-mile loop between Marsh Fork Falls and Black Fork Falls shouldn't be missed), a championship 18 hole golf course, and the beautifully restored Pioneer Farm, an exhibition farm that lets you visit the animals and experience farm life as it would have been in the 1800s. If you want to extend the experience over a few days, the park offers accommodation in 14 charming hillside cabins and 50 campsites.
8. Hawks Nest State Park
If you're into water sports, don't miss a visit to Hawks Nest State Park. Set right in the heart of whitewater rafting country, it's one of the most popular destinations in the state for people who want to pit their wits against the rapids. If you'd rather leave the rafting to others, there's still a ton of fun to be had, whether that's by taking a trip on the aerial tramway, exploring the many hiking trails, or spending a couple of hours browsing the exhibits at the nature museum. While you're there, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the osprey who use the park as a nesting ground.
7. Audra State Park
On a warm day, nothing beats hanging out by the riverside at Audra State Park. ideal for picnicking, hiking, fishing, or simply sitting back and relaxing by the crystal clear waters, the park offers a myriad of opportunities for nature lovers. If you can't bear to pull yourself away at the end of the day, the park offers 67 campsites with camping available from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
6. Watoga State Park
Voted one of the best state parks in West Virginia by wvtourism.com, Watoga State Park is the ideal year-round destination for nature lovers. Boasting over 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, an 11-acre lake teeming with fish, countless species of wildlife, trees, and wildflowers, and an incredibly diverse arboretum where you can learn all about the trees and plants native to the area, West Virginia's biggest state park offers something for everyone. To enjoy some breathtaking views over the Greenbrier River Valley, be sure to add a hike of the Arrowhead Trail to your schedule.
5. New River Gorge National River
The opportunity to raft along one of the oldest and most breathtaking rivers in North America might be what draws thousands of visitors to New River Gorge National River, but this 70,000-acre park is about a lot more than just white water rafting. The Junior Ranger program, Grandview Citizen Science Program, and Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center offer numerous activities, programs, and exhibits for visitors to learn more about the unique geology of the area. For those who want to experience that geology first hand, the 100-Mile Challenge along the trail network is an unmissable experience. If you have a passion for natural history, this is the park for you.
4. Pinnacle Rock State Park
As Trips To Discover writes, Pinnacle Rock State Park is famous for its iconic 3,100-foot sandstone formation, Pinnacle Rock. There's also plenty of picnic areas (including a reservable stone picnic shelter with a fireplace), 7 miles of hiking trails studded with numerous scenic outlooks, and excellent fishing opportunities in the sparkling waters of Jimmy Lewis Lake.
3. Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Named as one of the most scenic state parks in West Virginia by wvstateparks.com, Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a park with a difference. Although there are all the usual natural attractions you'd expect of a state park to enjoy, the real highlight is the heritage railroad that spans its length. A trip along the railroad will take you back to the days of steam locomotives, offering an unparalleled glimpse into the rich history of the surrounding area. The park also gives you the opportunity to visit one of the US's only authentic lumber railroading museums, complete with an artisans co-op and the fascinating Cass Historical Theater and Historical Museum.
2. Cacapon Resort State Park
Spread over 6000 acres of glorious West Virginia landscape, Cacapon Resort State Park is the perfect destination for the whole family. Along with 2 glistening lakes and 23 miles of varied hiking trails to enjoy, there's also an observation deck offering awe-inspiring views over West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. For those who want to prolong their visit over several days, the park offers several accommodation options, including a historic inn and a scattering of secluded cabins.
1. Babcock State Park
Finally, we come to Babcock State Park, a 4,127-acre park blessed with more attractions and activities than you could pack into a lifetime. Whether you want to raft, fish, hike, mountain bike, or picnic, the park offers no end of ways to enjoy its stunning natural beauty. While you're there, be sure to leave plenty of time to visit Glade Creek Grist Mill. Built in 1976 as a tribute to the hundreds of mills that used to populate West Virginia, it now ranks as the most photographed mill in the US and one of West Virginia's primary tourist attractions. As well as seeing the mill in action, you can also buy some fresh ground conrmeal to remind you of your visit.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson