5 breathtaking overlooks that are even better in winter

Find your “Almost Heaven” in these snow-covered mountains and frozen waterfalls

West Virginia’s state parks are known for their overlooks, but did you know scenic views take on a whole new look in other seasons? Hike out to a West Virginia state park overlook this winter and you’ll see why the Mountain State is a four-season travel destination. Here are five breathtaking overlooks that are even better in winter.

Hawks Nest State Park

The main overlook at Hawks Nest offers a striking view of the New River Gorge and the mighty New River that winds its way through the canyon. The overlook, off U.S. 60 across from the park gift shop, is accessed by a stone walkway leading from the parking area. If you visit during winter when the surrounding hills are dusted with snow, wait for a train to come ’round the bend at the base of the mountain. The image of the locomotive chugging across the railroad bridge as snowflakes swirl around will make you think you’ve stepped into a snow globe diorama.

Where to stay: Hawks Nest Lodge offers 31 guest rooms, some with private balconies overlooking the New River Gorge. The lodge’s Vista Restaurant, aptly named for its awe-inspiring views, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. For more winter scenery, make the short drive over to Babcock State Park, where the snow-covered Glade Creek Grist Mill presents a winter wonderland scene worthy of a greeting card.

Cacapon Resort State Park

Sitting in the shadows of the highest peak in the Eastern Panhandle, Cacapon presents the opportunity to catch some awe-inspiring views of the surrounding valley. The best view might take a little work to get there, though, as the road leading to Cacapon Mountain Overlook is closed during winter. It remains open to foot traffic for those willing to brave the four-mile trek to the top of the mountain, though. If you’re up for the challenge, the reward is well-worth it. On a clear day you can see into four states: West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Now that’s impressive!

Where to stay: Cacapon has a 48-room lodge with a full-service restaurant and guest cabins open year-round. While you’re in the area, make time for a trip over to Berkeley Springs State Park, where you can warm up with a hot stone massage or soak in a Roman mineral bath heated to a soothing 102 degrees.

Blackwater Falls State Park

Pendleton Point and Lindy Point above Blackwater Canyon are two of the amazing overlooks you’ll find at Blackwater Falls. But the best winter viewing at this park might just be the waterfalls themselves. Follow the path from the Trading Post parking lot to a boardwalk and stairs that lead to several viewing platforms showcasing the 57-foot Blackwater Falls in all its winter majesty. And if the temperature drops enough, the waterfall freezes. The curtains of snow-covered ice are truly a sight to behold. If you’re feeling adventurous, follow Elakala Trail and hike down into the forest behind the park lodge to see the first waterfall of Elakala Falls.

Where to stay: Blackwater Falls’ winter accommodations include 39 guest cabins and a 54-room lodge. At the lodge, The Smokehouse restaurant is open daily and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The park is a favorite winter destination and has a sled run and trails open to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. About 10 miles away, Canaan Valley Resort State Park offers downhill skiing and tubing.

Coopers Rock State Forest

From its setting on the rim of the Cheat River Canyon, Coopers Rock offers numerous scenic views from its hiking trails, most notably on Ravens Rock Trail. But the Coopers Rock Overlook is the crown jewel of this state forest. Follow the smooth-stone walkways from the main parking area to reach the overlook, where you’ll find jaw-dropping, 360-degree views of the canyon. This is a popular destination in the fall, when the canyon is lit up by autumn color. But see the canyon in all it’s pristine beauty after fresh snowfall is an unforgettable experience.

Where to stay: Coopers Rock’s campground is open seasonally, but you can find winter accommodations less than an hour’s drive south at Tygart Lake State Park. The 20-room lodge and its dining room offer scenic views of Tygart Lake. And if you’re in the area, you might want to fit in a stop at Valley Falls State Park, which has 18 miles of trails — many with scenic views of the waterfalls and rapids rolling on the Tygart River.

French Creek Freddie saw his shadow this year and called for six more weeks of winter. That means there’s plenty of time to enjoy your winter getaway at West Virginia State Parks, where you can find great deals on cabins and lodge rooms. Plan your trip today!

Pipestem Resort State Park

Siting on the east rim of the Bluestone River Gorge, Pipestem Resort is where birdwatchers congregate to watch for bald eagles that hunt and nest in the area. Get an eagle’s perspective of the winter countryside from one of the park’s many roadside overlooks. There’s also unique scenic views from the golf course and the Bolar Lookout Tower, which sits at an elevation of 3,000 feet. And don’t forget to stop by the Canyon Rim Center. While only open seasonally, the views of the Bluestone River Gorger are unmatched. Just make sure you come back in the summer for a tram ride down into the gorge.

Where to stay: Pipestem’s McKeever Lodge has 113 guest rooms and suites, many with scenic views of the gorge. Winter dining options include the full-service Bluestone Dining Room and the casual Black Bear Grill and Lounge. Pipestem’s guest cabins also are open for year-round rentals. Cabin lodging also is available nearby at Bluestone State Park.

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