During my time here in West Virginia, I have been able to do some sight-seeing. There are a lot of state parks in West Virginia as well as national forests and rivers. I wanted to share with you some of the hiking that I have done so far. The beauty of this state is so great, I can not even imagine what it will look like once all the leaves start to change! No wonder the state song starts off with, Almost Heaven…
Kanawha State Park
Located right outside of Charleston, about 20 minutes from where I live, this was the first place I went hiking. Hannah (my roommate) and I decided to go here first because it was close to where we live and we had to get in a couple hours of studying that night for our orientation tests the next day.
We went to the park ranger office so that we could get some tips on what the best trails were. The lady pulled out a map and told us which trails were going to have the best views. On our way out of the office, one of the park rangers hollers after us, “look out for the black bears!” Hannah and I, having never encountered bears before asked what we should do if we were to run into one. The park ranger said, “Use bear spray; if you don’t have bear spray, play dead.” We don’t have bear spray so we just crossed our fingers we wouldn’t come across any bears, and thankfully we didn’t.
It was a pretty park. We were disappointed as there was no big view on the hike – we were hoping for an overlook from a hill or mountain. And we took a couple of wrong turns, prolonging our hike in the high humidity. But, it was a good hike nonetheless.
New River Gorge National River
This national river is about an hour drive from Charleston. The river flows south to north; the start of the river is in North Carolina where it then flows through Virginia, West Virginia, and eventually flows into the Kanawha River.
Located on this river is the New Gorge Bridge. This bridge is the 3rd longest arch bridge in the world; has about 16,000 motor vehicles cross it a day; and is featured on the state quarter.
There are a lot of hiking trails around this area. There are other things to do as well such as white water rafting, rock climbing, or climbing the arch of the New Gorge Bridge. We went for a hike on the Endless Wall Trail and then looked at the New Gorge Bridge from some overlooks at the visitor center.
Endless Wall Trail is ranked one of the best trails in the nation. It is a short distance through the woods and then comes out to the edges of cliffs – Diamond Point – looking out over the New River Gorge National River and the mountains across. It is definitely a breath-taking view. I would highly suggest doing this trail if in the area.
Hawk’s Nest State Park
Hawks Nest State Park was another breathtaking view. This park is about 45 minutes outside of Charleston and it is quite the windy road to get up there. By the time we made it to the park, we were tired and didn’t feel like hiking much anymore. It had been a long day and we had already spent time in Gauley Bridge chasing waterfalls. Cathedral Falls and Kanawha Falls are by Gauley Bridge which is a town about 15 to 20 minutes away from Hawks Nest State Park.
At Hawk’s Nest we walked a couple hundred feet down a path that came to an overlook (pictured above). There were chairs set up and a sign hung on the railing – it was apparent that there had just been a wedding here. On the mountain across the lookout there were a lot of hawks soaring around which I am assuming is how the park got its name. We didn’t explore more of the park, but I have been told that there is a good restaurant, chair lift, and kayaking here.