10 items to add to your WV state park fall bucket list

When autumn colors blanket the hills and mountains of Almost Heaven, you know it’s time to visit a West Virginia state park or forest. Plan a trip and check off these bucket list items.

Hit the trails on a cool day

Take a hike and enjoy the sights and sounds of autumn. West Virginia state parks and forests are laced with hundreds of miles of trails for all levels of skill and ability, from steep single-track climbs at Watoga State Park to the wide, gentle grade of the North Bend Rail Trail to the paved, ADA-approved path at Kanawha State Forest. The fall season provides ideal hiking conditions, it’s not too hot and it’s not too cold. You might even get to observe the native wildlife as they make their winter preparations. For more ideas or to join a guided hike, consult a park naturalist.

Capture a photo at an iconic overlook

Find picturesque backdrops at some of the state’s most photographed spots like the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park and the Cranny Crow overlook at Lost River State Park. Take in West Virginia’s rolling hills, speckled with red, orange and yellow, from the Cheat River Gorge overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest, and be sure to snap that photograph at Blackwater Falls’s Lindy Point. Don’t forget to visit Hawks Nest State Park’s scenic overlook to catch a glimpse of the nation’s newest National Park, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve! 

Take a scenic train ride at Cass

One of the best ways to experience the fall season in #AlmostHeaven is to enjoy a leisurely train ride to the top of the mountain at Cass Scenic Railroad State Park. Not only will you be able to enjoy scenic views on the way up and down the mountain, but the train ride takes you to Bald Knob, the third highest point in West Virginia. 

Train excursions are available Tuesdays through Sundays, plus on several special events throughout the year. To purchase tickets and view the full schedule, visit mountainrailwv.com

Witness a waterfall surrounded by fall color

Whether you’re visiting the main falls at Blackwater Falls State Park, seeking out Foley Falls and Black Fork Falls at Twin Falls Resort State Park, or seeing picturesque falls created by the dark, rushing waters of the Tygart Valley River at Valley Falls for the first time, you’re in for a treat. Fall waterfalls in WV State Parks are some of the most photographed sights in the state. For the best photos, plan for an overcast day so you don’t have to contend with shadows or sunlight coming in at the wrong angle. Share your photos to social media using #WVStateParks and #AlmostHeaven.

Ride in an aerial tram

Leaf-peeping tours are fun whether by car, foot or bicycle. But have you ever experienced fall from a bird’s eye perspective? Ride the aerial tram at Pipestem Resort State Park or take a scenic chairlift ride at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. These aerial trams provide a unique view of fall foliage and may lead to even more beautiful destinations at the foot of West Virginia’s stunning mountains. You can reserve a tram or scenic lift ride in advance online.

Stargaze during an overnight stay

Surrounded by open wilderness and rugged mountain beauty, West Virginia’s state parks have some of the best stargazing spots you can find on the east coast. Watoga, West Virginia’s largest state park, was recently designated an official “Dark Sky” park. This means the park is ideal for stargazing. Blackwater Falls and Cass Scenic Railroad State Park are both in the process of obtaining their Dark Sky certificates. Check out our stargazing blog for more information on where to see the best night skies!

Enjoy a campfire or fireplace

Pack up the tent or RV and head to favorite camping destinations like Coopers Rock State Forest, Camp Creek State Park and Forest or Audra State Park. Fall provides perfect camping weather. The temperature tends to be mild during the day, and cooler in the evening, which makes that crackling campfire even more inviting. Keep in mind that West Virginia holds strict standards for forest fire laws in order to protect one of the state’s most valuable resources – our forests. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines before visiting. 

If camping just isn’t for you, keep in mind that many of our parks have lodge room and cabin options as well!

Reel in a trout

We believe one of the best ways to enjoy time with your family is by taking a fishing trip to a West Virginia state park or forest that participates in WVDNR’s trout stocking program. The Mountain State has an endless array of lakes, rivers and streams to fish. You can even fish year-round in more than 20,000 miles of streams and over 100 public fishing lakes. Trout love cooler waters, and WVDNR stocks them in October making fall an ideal season for reeling one in.

All anglers age 15 and older are required to have a fishing license. Be sure to purchase a license before you embark on your fishing adventure.

Visit a historical site

There is history galore at WV State Parks! Fall is a great time to learn something new and gain a greater appreciation for our parks and state at sites like Berkeley Springs, Blennerhassett Island, Carnifex Ferry, Cass Scenic Railroad, Cathedral, Droop Mountain Battlefield, and Fairfax Stone State Park.

Attend a fall event

Take part in a seasonal event or activity, like the Elk Management Tours at Chief Logan State Park; candlelight tours at Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park and Prickett’s Fort State Park or Heron Fest at Beech Fork State Park, which features autumn activities like apple butter making and hay rides. View the park calendar to find a listing of upcoming events.

And as you build your WV State Parks fall bucket list, be sure to visit WVtourism.com/fall to view a fall color map and get weekly fall foliage updates.

Pick your state parks and start planning your autumn explorations today!

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