DAVIS, W.Va. — Blackwater Falls may be one of the best-known natural wonders in West Virginia, but the waterfall and surrounding park are best enjoyed in concert with the surrounding travel region, says an official at Blackwater Falls State Park.
Eric Risinger, assistant superintendent at the state park, says tourists checking the waterfall off their bucket list should know that days' worth of activities awaits them in surrounding Tucker County.
Hiking and biking trails, charming small towns, ski resorts, and plenty of sightseeing opportunities are to be found within an hour's drive of the 2,500-acre park, and sightseers should plan to stay a while.
“The whole area is fantastic, and I am not just talking about the falls and state park,” Risinger says.
“I am talking about Tucker County as a whole, which is essentially one large outdoor-recreation center where you can kayak, snowshoe, and so much more.”
Beloved as a winter destination, the high-elevation county and its ski resorts offer plenty of wintery excitement. However, there's much to do year-round, notably in the Monongahela National Forest, which protects more than a million acres in the surrounding Allegheny Mountains.
“Even if you’re not into outdoor sports, there are beautiful overlooks where people like to go to take pictures and fun events like the annual sled run that takes place in February and is open to the public,” Risinger said.
Located near three ski resorts, the park's quarter-mile sled run is an exceptional attraction. It has gained worldwide attention as a destination for a pastime even young children can enjoy.
Sledders are encouraged to build cardboard sleds to coincide with an annual theme, like last year’s theme, Star Wars, he said. The park’s 10 miles of ski trails also attract cross-country skiers from December through February.
The region is a popular destination during the autumn leaf change, where peak color arrives as early as late September and lingers into November.
The state park is best known for its dramatic namesake, Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot cascade that tends to freeze into an ever-changing sculpture in winter but remains beautiful year-round.
Stained by dark spruce forests, the tannin-colored falls for which the Blackwater River is named are framed by a forested backdrop of maples, hemlocks, and yellow birch. From the falls, the river descends into the Blackwater Canyon, a remote section of the park.
While Blackwater Falls is the main attraction, more natural beauty awaits on park trails, which visit lesser-known scenic points such as Elakala Falls and overlook areas at Lindy and Pendleton points.
Risinger noted that guests are permitted to fish in the state park. However, hunting is forbidden, and bikers can enjoy scenic trails populated with waterfalls, beehive coke ovens, and architectural interests like stone archway bridges.
Another popular spot in the park is Pendleton Lake, a favorite destination for kayakers, swimmers, and avid boaters. Guests can rent equipment daily in summer and on weekends after Labor Day.
Travelers will find excellent accommodation in 39 park cabins and at the Blackwater Lodge and its Smokehouse restaurant near the southern rim of Blackwater Canyon. Its mid-century architecture and 51 rooms have recently been renovated. A 65-unit campground awaits visitors to wish to bring their tents and RV trailers.
The park also offers amenities such as an indoor pool and hot tubs and paddle boats, canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
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