West Virginia is closer than you think. In fact, it's within a five-hour drive of 60 percent of the U.S. population. Although there are many reasons to visit this beautiful state, West Virginia’s 37 state parks take top position. They are among the most unique in the nation, infusing breathtaking natural beauty with myriad activities and glimpses of history. To help you plan your trip, we’ve rounded up the 10 best state parks in West Virginia.
Berkeley Springs State Park
Long before European settlers came to West Virginia in 1730, Native American tribes traveled from Canada to soak themselves in the warm waters of what is now Berkeley Springs State Park. Located in the center of the charming town of Berkeley Springs, the park’s mineral-rich spring water maintains a constant temperature of 74.3 degrees F. The waters are rumored to have healing properties. If you want to check them out for yourself, the main bathhouse offers massages, saunas, and baths, while the historic 1815 Roman bathhouse rents soaking tubs by the half-hour. Be sure to bring an empty jug to fill with delicious, clear water from the Berkeley Springs State Park fountain before you leave.
Seneca State Forest
When you’re exploring the almost 13,000 wooded acres of Seneca State Forest, it’s hard to imagine that most of the trees had been cut down when the state acquired the land in 1924. Over the next decade, the Civilian Conservation Corps reforested the land, started a tree nursery, built the park’s iconic fire tower and its first campground. Since those early days, Seneca State Forest has continued developing into a popular place for camping, picnicking, or exploring over 23 miles of hiking and biking trails. The beautiful Seneca Lake is the perfect spot for fishing and boating. If you’re spending the night, the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower can be booked for overnight stays. There’s no electricity, and the accommodations are rustic, but the sweeping views of the surrounding forests, mountains, and valleys offer a different type of luxury.
Babcock State Park
Be sure to bring your camera when you visit Babcock State Park. Nearly every inch of this 4,200-acre park is photo-worthy. The park is best known for the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a full-sized, working replica of a historic mill that once stood on its grounds. The mill was constructed from reclaimed parts of non-operational mills, and you can purchase the flour and cornmeal you see being ground there. Although Babcock State Park is a worthwhile destination year-round, it is especially gorgeous in fall when a mosaic of vibrantly colored leaves surrounds the mill and waterfall.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park
John Denver famously sang about West Virginia’s country roads, but pretty as they are, you can’t rely on them to take you to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park. Located on a small island in the middle of the Ohio River, you’ll be carried to the park on a sternwheeler riverboat. Once there, docents in period clothing lead you through a museum housed in a painstakingly reconstructed early-1800s Palladium mansion while horse-drawn carriages offer tours of the grounds. Blennerhasset Island Historical State Park is open from the beginning of May until the end of October.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park is a living testament to West Virginia’s lumber industry's fascinating history. The heart of the Park is Cass, a tiny company lumber town dating back to 1901. The buildings have been lovingly restored and house museums, restaurants, gift shops, and overnight accommodations in the original company houses. The Cass Scenic Railroad takes visitors on a 22-mile round trip in a vintage steam locomotive to take in jaw-dropping panoramic views from Bald Knob, the third-highest place in West Virginia.
Stonewall Resort State Park
Stonewall Resort State Park is one of those destinations that seemingly has something for everybody. Surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills, the park's crown jewel is the sparkling 2,600 acre Stonewall Jackson Lake. Besides traditional activities like hiking trails, camping, fishing, boating, golf, and swimming, the park is also home to the gorgeous Stonewall Resort, which offers upscale accommodations, three restaurants, an escape room, a swimming pool, and a spa. Stonewall Resort State Park is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to commune with the beauty of nature without giving up even the tiniest shred of luxury.
Cathedral State Park
It’s hard not to feel small in Cathedral State Park. At 133 acres, it is the largest old-growth forest in West Virginia, with ancient trees growing up to 90 feet tall and 16 feet in circumferences. Walking among them is an awe-inspiring experience. There are miles of hiking trails, creeks, picnic areas, and over 170 different species of trees, ferns, and colorful wildflowers to enjoy at Cathedral State Park. The park was added to the National Registry of Natural Landmarks in 1966.
Hawks Nest State Park
Hawks Nest State Park needs to be on your itinerary if you came to West Virginia looking for outdoor adventure. The park is one of the most exciting whitewater rafting destinations in the country. Other popular activities include jet boat rides, hiking, taking in stunning views on an ariel tramway, and a nature museum. Be sure to head up to the scenic overlook for breathtaking views of the New River Gorge National River. If one day isn’t enough, book a room at the Hawks Nest State Park Lodge, which offers luxurious accommodations and a fabulous restaurant with stunning views of the gorge.
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park
Perched on top of the Gauley River Canyon, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park combines incredible vistas with Civil War history. The park is located at the site of a key 1861 battle in which the Union army defeated the Confederates, eventually leading to the withdrawal of the Confederate soldiers from West Virginia. The park is home to three scenic overlooks, athletic fields, picnic shelters, hiking trails, and the seasonal Patterson House Museum. If you plan to visit the museum, keep in mind that it is only open on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Nestled in the scenic Allegheny Mountains, Blackwater Falls State Park takes its name from a 57-foot waterfall. The tannic acids from red spruce and hemlock needles give the cascade a striking amber color. The park has over 20 miles of hiking trails, which will take you through more gorgeous waterfalls. Blackwater Falls State Park is a popular sledding destination in winter and boasts the longest sledding magic carpet on the east coast. In summer, it’s a popular spot for kayaking and paddleboarding. The park is also home to Blackwater Falls State Park Lodge, which features a restaurant, snack bar, an indoor pool, and tennis courts.