Earth Day is a great way to get in touch with nature at these 7 state parks

Explore towering rocks, underground rivers and rare ecosystems

With their awe-inspiring natural beauty, West Virginia’s state parks and forests are the very definition of Almost Heaven. In honor of Earth Day, let’s explore some of the amazing natural wonders at these 7 state parks.

Trees, plants and flowers  

Stroll through an ancient forest that houses an impressive stand of virgin hemlock. Designated a National Natural Landmark, Cathedral State Park provides sanctuary to towering old-growth trees measuring up to 16 feet in circumference. Six miles of trails offer opportunities to view some 170 species of trees, ferns and wildflowers. The park has a picnic area, playground and restrooms. If you’re planning an overnight trip, you can find lodging, cabins and camping nearby at Blackwater Falls State Park.

Canaan Valley Resort State Park is set in a unique ecosystem rarely seen south of Canada. Set on a high plateau in the Allegheny Mountains, the tundra-like wetlands and red spruce boreal forest of Canaan Valley — a designated National Natural Landmark — provide habitat for mammals including beaver, mink, black bear and more than 170 species of birds. Explore these lands on 18 miles of hiking trails at Canaan Valley Resort, where overnight accommodations include a full-service lodge, cabins and campgrounds. The park is a short drive to Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite among wildlife watchers and plant enthusiasts.

The 400-acre Brooks Memorial Arboretum at Watoga State Park serves as an outdoor classroom, with 4.5 miles of interconnected trails and signs along the way identifying the trees, plants and shrubs found there. As first of its kind in the West Virginia state park system, the arboretum was established in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps to honor local outdoors author Fred Brooks. The largest of West Virginia’s state parks, Watoga offers both modern and rustic guest cabins and two campgrounds.

Wondrous Waters

Visitors to Lost River State Park may notice a whiff of sulfur in the air near the restored cabin that belonged to Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Revolutionary War hero and father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee. In the late 1800s the Lee family built a hotel and spa on the site of Lee Sulphur Spring, specializing in hot and cold mineral baths. That hotel is long gone, but the water still flows in the Civilian Conservation Corps-built spring house across from the Lee cabin. (And, speaking of natural wonders: The park’s namesake, the Lost River, flows underground at “the Sinks” near McCauley along W.Va. 259 and emerges near Wardensville as the Cacapon River. So, it truly is a “lost” river!) Known for its spectacular Cranny Crow overlook, Lost River offers two types of overnight cabins.

Long before the United States existed, Native Americans traveled to the area now known as Berkeley Springs to partake of the warm waters flowing from the mountain, said to have healing powers. During colonial times, Berkeley Springs was established as a spa, with a young George Washington among its earliest guests. Today visitors to Berkeley Springs State Park can enjoy a range of spa services, including its famous Roman bath. The park also has a spring-fed swimming pool, open during the summer. Bring your own jugs and fill up with delicious spring water from the spigot for free. You’ll find overnight accommodations just a short drive away at Cacapon Resort State Park.

Unique Rock Formations

It’s easy to see how Beartown State Park got its name. Boardwalk “streets” wind through a towering “town” of rock formations whose shadowed recesses look like they might provide shelter for native black bear. While bears don’t actually live in this town, it’s still a pretty amazing geological marvel. The 110-acre preserve consists of massive boulders, overhanging cliffs and deep crevasses of Droop, or Pottsville, sandstone formed during the Pennsylvanian age. Informational markers along the walkway explain the geological processes at work in the area. Beartown is a day-use park, but you can camp or rent a cabin nearby at Watoga State Park.

Pinnacle Rock

You won’t have any trouble finding Pinnacle Rock State Park from U.S. 52: Just look for the 3,100-foot sandstone formation jutting up like a rooster’s comb. Made of erosion-resistant Stoney Gap sandstone, Pinnacle Rock was left standing after millions of years of erosion chiseled away at Flat Top Mountain. This wayside park has six miles of hiking trails, picnic areas and a lake stocked for fishing. You can find lodging nearby at Pipestem Resort State Park or Bluestone State Park.

These are just a few of the amazing natural wonders you’ll find at West Virginia State Parks and Forests. Want to discover more? Start planning your Almost Heaven getaway today!

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