MORGANTOWN — West Virginia offers a plethora of beautiful natural sights and locations, many of which are protected by the state’s numerous state parks.
Audra State Park is a heavily wooded area in Buckhannon divided by the Middle Fork River, which runs through southwestern Barbour County and a portion of Upshur County.
One of the most notable features of Audra State Park is Alum Cave and its rock overhang. The cave is accompanied by the Alum Creek and Cave Trail, an easy trek that spans 2.7 miles. The trail includes a boardwalk that stretches below Alum Cave overhang and provides a view of Middle Fork River.
Hikers might encounter white-tailed deer, squirrels, birds and plants like rhododendrons and maple, oak and pine trees on the trail.
In addition to hiking, Audra State Park is an ideal place for swimming, camping and picnicking. The park features a picnic shelter that accommodates up to 50 people, is easily accessible with a large parking area and is able to be reserved online.
Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis is one of the state’s most popular natural attractions. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, the park was named for the amber stream of Blackwater Falls, the 57-foot torrent that is tinted by the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.
In addition to easy access to the main waterfall, Blackwater Falls State Park offers views of Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook through the use of viewing platforms throughout the park.cBlackwater Falls State Park also has 20 miles of hiking trails and the longest East Coast sledding magic carpet. Lodging and the Smokehouse Restaurant are further features of the park.
Valley Falls State Park, in Fairmont, was once the site of a lumber and grist mill community. This 1,145-acre park showcases four waterfalls within the Tygart Valley River. It also preserves and highlights remnants of history leftover in the park. Valley Falls State Park has miles of hiking and biking trails. Fishing is also permitted within the park.
Seneca State Forest in Dunmore is the oldest and largest state forest in West Virginia. The forest is made up of 12,884 acres of woodland in Pocahontas County.
Visitors to Seneca State Forest can hike or bike on the forest’s 23 miles of trails. Rustic cabins and campsites are available for those who want to stay in the forest overnight or longer. Picnic sites and a large shelter offer tables and fireplaces, drinking water and toilet facilities to guests.
Additionally, Seneca State Forest is home to the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower. To climb the tower and take a look at the forest from its top, guests must make a reservation to sleep in it.
Coopers Rock State Forest is just off I-68, about 13 miles from Morgantown. This park features canyon overlooks and historical sites as well as 50 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Visitors at Coopers Rock State Forest also have access to sandstone cliffs for climbing or bouldering, cross-country ski terrain and lake and river exploration. The accommodations include picnic shelters and 25 camp sites with electrical hookups, a central bathhouse, drinking water and Wi-Fi. These sites are able to be reserved as available.
The parks described above do not even make up half of the state parks in West Virginia. Others include Babcock State Park, Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, Fairfax Stone State Park, Greenbrier State Forest, Holly River State Park, Kanawha State Forest, Lost River State Park, Moncove Lake State Park, North Bend State Park, Pipestem Resort State Park, Stonewall Resort State Park, Twin Falls Resort State Park and Watoga State Park.
West Virginia promotes its parks through the West Virginia State Parks website, including promotions and deals, which can be found by visiting wvstateparks.com/deals/.
Some of the promotions featured are a 10% lodging discount for those 60 older, which is applicable at all state parks except for Stonewall Resort; a 10% lodging discount promo code for veterans, applicable at all state parks except for Stonewall Resort; and a promo code for a free night on weekly cabin rentals, available at all state parks except for Canaan Valley and Stonewall resorts.
Additional deals include a 15% off for Hatfield-McCoy trails permit-holders, a promo code for 15% Pipestem Peaks zip line tours, government rates for state and federal employees, and a promo code for 15% off lodging in recognition of tiger trout being stocked in lakes and streams around West Virginia for the first time in decades.
West Virginia Deputy Chief of State Parks Brett McMillion said the state otherwise promotes its parks through several different venues.
To try to convince West Virginians to stay in the state for summer vacations, the state started to focus on activities in its state parks.
“We’ve noticed an increase in attendance and our numbers for outdoor recreation-based activities like zip lines, water parks — some of those things that offer the social distancing opportunity,” McMillion said.
For example, the department recently launched the Adventure Lake attraction at Tygart Lake State Park.
McMillion said the department believes by increasing activities that are available will provide West Virginia residents the opportunity to stay closer to home rather than going out of state.
“We feel that we have just as much, if not more, to offer,” he said.