Plan a Trip to West Virginia's Blackwater Falls State Park

Find a landscape of cascades, canyons, and charming small towns in and around Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia.

Waterfalls dot the landscape, hidden in the hills, and emerge along elevation changes and geological shifts in the riverbeds, making these majestic natural wonders a fan-favorite place to visit. While there's no verse about cascades in "Take Me Home, Country Roads," John Denver's West Virginia anthem, there should be. You'll hear them before seeing them—the churning water vaults into the air and crashes into itself, sending a burbling, tranquil-seeming stream into a spectacular realm. Visit Blackwater Falls State Park in the Allegheny Mountains for break-taking views and activities.

Blackwater Falls State Park Waterfall
The centerpiece of Blackwater Falls State Park is a nearly 60-foot plunge along a river bend.

Gabriela Herman

Follow the Falls

Northern West Virginia's Potomac Highlands region is home to an impressive concentration of cascades. Waterfall-hunting excursions often begin here, where scenic streams and rivers moving through the varied terrain of the Allegheny Mountains dive over ledges and turn into frothing showers.

Blackwater Falls State Park

The Blackwater Falls State Park surrounds the Blackwater River because its currents look dark as they move downstream. The showstopper of the 2,300-acre park is its namesake cascade, which, at nearly 60 feet tall, is the highest in the state. Blackwater Falls lies along the river, and its amber descent can be seen from a nearby boardwalk, giving visitors an unobstructed view of the deluge. After the drop, it runs through a forested gorge that stretches for eight miles.

The falls are the work of time. As streams flow over different types of stone, the friction erodes some surfaces more quickly than others. The hard rock remains in shelves and ledges while softer rock breaks down and flows away, years of movement hollowing out crevices and canyons. As they run, the waterways deposit debris, deepen meanders and redraw their shores, a process that is constantly shifting the shape of the landscape. In this region, they've also formed waterfalls, which spill over rocky sills and plunge thrillingly into pools below.

Elakala Trail

This ongoing geologic drama makes Blackwater Falls State Park a destination, particularly during autumn. While the eponymous cascade is the most popular and easy to access, there are many more throughout the park, including Elakala Falls, a series of four rushing drops along Shays Run. Hiking Elakala Trail leads to the falls, which you can view from a bridge over the gorge. Intrepid adventurers can make the challenging 200-foot descent for a view of the water from below as it tumbles into a basin strewn with mossy boulders.

Douglas Falls

The nearby North Fork Blackwater River also has several cascades along its course. One of the best known is Douglas Falls, accessed via a hike along the Blackwater Canyon Trail. It pitches its famed emerald cascade 35 feet off a shelf onto a jumble of copper-colored rocks, a hue that's evidence of the area's coal-mining history. The path to Douglas Falls, lined with abandoned coke ovens once used to process coal, accompanies interpretive signage that explains the effects of the industry on the area.

Even More Falls

You can also find waterfalls upstream and downstream from Douglas. Along the Blackwater Canyon Trail is Albert Falls, and Kennedy and Teresa Falls are nearby. Pendleton Falls, located on Pendleton Creek, and Big Run Falls can be found farther west beside Forest Road 18.

What To Do

See the Sights

In addition to these features, the area in and around Blackwater Falls State Park is known for its foliage. There are countless overlooks in the area, many along forest-canopied hiking trails open to vistas of the rolling mountain landscape. Short hikes lead to scenic sights across Blackwater Falls State Park. In autumn, these views light up with some of the most vibrant foliage. During fall, expect to see shades of crimson, orange, and yellow mingling across the faces of the hills. The leaves typically fire up in September and peak in the middle of October.

For magnificent views, set out at the Lindy Point trailhead along Lindy Run, found farther south on the Blackwater River. The walk leads to an observation deck with one of the broadest vantages in the park. And don't miss the views at nearby Pendleton and Pace Point Overlooks.

Go for a Hike

You'll find hiking paths leading to and from the waterfalls—some easy, others steep and slick. Maps from the area's visitors bureau offer a sense of the difficulty of each route. Leisurely, Blackwater Canyon Trail, once a thoroughfare for transporting coal and lumber, follows the bends in the North Fork Blackwater River through the forest, past lookouts, and several waterfalls, including (from north to south) Albert, Douglas, and Kennedy. The path meanders through the canyon, opening to river and mountain views year-round.

Chairlift view in the fall at Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center in West Virginia
Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center, which offers chairlift rides that send visitors sailing over a sea of vivid autumn color. Gabriela Herman

Alternative Transportation

Although hiking is one of the most popular ways to see the changing leaves, especially the ones surrounding the falls, several road trip routes wind through the region and showcase the state's autumn color. Mountain biking is also a favorite pastime, and Blackwater Bikes in the nearby town of Davis can ready you for a day of exploring the area's trail systems.

It doesn't get much more picturesque than zipping along the routes while catching glimpses of the Blackwater River, a year-round playground for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The fun doesn't stop there: Pitching a tent at the park's campground keeps travelers close to the action while surrounded by nature. The Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge and Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center offer easy scenery access. The Canaan Valley Resort & Conference Center offers visitors an opportunity to see the foliage from a chairlift ride to see this expansive area's beauty.

Where To Shop

Follow the Blackwater Canyon Trail north of the park to reach the town of Thomas, which lies along the Appalachian Highway (also known as State 32 and Front Street). The red-brick business district fronts a bend in the North Fork Blackwater River and locally owned shops and restaurants, such as Bloom, an innovative art store that sells art prints from featured artists. Another artist-paradise shop is Invisible, an artist-run gallery.

Wake up to the smell of freshly roasted coffee from TipTop, a cozy coffeehouse with an Airbnb rental perched above the storefront

For souvenirs and gift ideas, check out Thomasyard, a unique shop that sells floral arrangements, West Virginia-made condiments, candles, ceramics, and other locally-made products.

Where To Stay

Book a room at Cooper House Bed & Cocktail next to The Purple Fiddle to rest after waterfall watching that has four distinct guest rooms. The common area has a fireplace to warm you up after a day of adventuring and serves snacks at night.

Follow the Appalachian Highway five minutes southeast to the neighboring community of Davis. Along the way, you'll see The Billy Motel & Bar, a mid-century-style 10-room property that promises a great stay for anyone avoiding camping and craving the comforts of home.

Where To Eat

To hear some local Appalachian-based music, stop by The Purple Fiddle for music, dining with a chalkboard menu of specials, and local beers on tap.

For a quick bite to eat, check out Picnic, a taco shop tucked into the back of a white house, home of Ghost Palace Books, along the Appalachian Highway. The laid-back spot serves takeout from a window and claims a nearby sunny patch of grass as its dining room.

The Farm Up Table also started as a food truck and now offers Southern classics from a blue-and-white storefront. Try the popular hand-cut Farm Up Fries and add truffle oil and parmesan cheese for an extra decadent treat.

Nearby Mountain State Brewing Co. is the source for handcrafted local beers, wood-fired sandwiches, and more. It's known locally as the oldest distributing microbreweries and taproom.

Albert Falls, on the North Fork Blackwater River
Gabriela Herman

Traverse the canyons, marvel at the cascades, explore the towns, and you'll soon see endless opportunities for adventure in West Virginia. Discover a landscape of ridges and valleys peppered with autumn.

Whether you're seeking road trip routes, hiking trails, unmatched views, or surging waterfalls, you'll find them all here in abundance. West Virginia guarantees room to roam and a welcome breath of fresh air. Set out along its country roads, and you might find the perfect adventure.

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