Have fun while learning about nature at WV state parks

Who says education has to be boring? Bring the kids to a state park nature program and they’ll have so much fun they won’t even realize they’re learning something. These programs are suitable for all ages from toddlers to grownups, so bring the whole family along!

West Virginia state parks and forests host a variety of nature-based activities like crafts and games, hikes and nature presentations. If the park you’re visiting has a Nature Center, be sure to stop by to view exhibits pertaining to local plants and animals and chat with the park naturalist about fun things to see and do.

Interpretive Hikes

Guided hikes come with the added bonus of teaching participants about the area’s natural history. Hike by the light of the moon and learn about nocturnal wildlife activity during Full Moon Hikes at Cass Scenic Railroad and Chief Logan. Learn about spring wildflowers during Spring Wildflower Walks held annually at Chief Logan, Kanawha State Forest and Canaan Valley Resort. Parks and forests throughout West Virginia also celebrate the start of every new year with a First Day Hike and commemorate National Trails Day in June with a guided hike. Many parks offer a weekly activity schedule that is posted at check-in points.

Wildlife programs

Learn about native wildlife at special presentations dedicated to a variety of West Virginia critters, including fireflies, bats and snakes. In some instances you’ll even be able to view live animals up close, like the raptor ambassadors from Three Rivers Avian Center (TRAC) in Hinton. TRAC’s Wings of Wonder: Birds of Prey programs take place throughout the year at numerous state parks and forests including North Bend,  Lost River and Cacapon Resort

Rock Stars

Keep an eye out for Star Parties — a night of constellation viewing with telescopes provided for guests to use. West Virginia is home to three official Dark Sky Parks — Watoga, Droop Mountain Battlefield and Calvin Price State Forest. Several parks, including Chief Logan, Blackwater Falls and Beech Fork, also host astronomy-related events like the Perseids Meteor Shower Watch Parties.

Officials from West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey host Geology Rocks! — special park presentations on rocks, minerals and fossils of the Mountain State. Learn about the ancient ocean that flowed beneath West Virginia and the giant sloth that lived here during the Ice Age. Discover the science behind unique rock formations of Beartown and Pinnacle Rock state parks, and more.

Additional Programs

While not necessarily nature-based, parks offer other programs that are both fun and educational for all ages. Meet famous historical figures like Harriet Tubman and Theodore Roosevelt via History Alive! performances sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council. Experience living history demonstrations at Prickett’s Fort and Blennerhassett Island

Test your creativity and engineering skills with the annual Anything That Floats competition at Beech Fork. Bring whatever floats, from kayaks to air mattresses to duct tape and cardboard boats, don a silly outfit, and enjoy a day on the water. Repeat the fun in wintertime during the annual Cardboard and Duct Tape Sled Race at Blackwater Falls.

Activities and programs are posted on the West Virginia State Parks website under events. You can also check with the park’s Nature Center for a list of upcoming programs. Plan an overnight stay to enjoy all the park has to offer.

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