The third most asked question in the Tucker County information center is …where are the best views? Before I proceed, you are probably asking what are one and two; 1. Do you have maps? 2. Where is Blackwater Falls State Park? There are plenty of views around, in this blog I am going to describe the most spectacular view of Canaan Valley, which is readily accessible on foot.
There is a fine line between views that take a full day to access, and those that are a 10 minute walk. My goal is to spotlight attainable views accessable to the masses, yet some commitment toward an adventure only Mother Nature can provide.
The first step is to make your way up Forest Road 80 via Freeland Rd on Rt 32 in Canaan Valley. Recently resurfaced, FR 80 meanders up Cabin Mountain, ending in a small parking lot at the trail head. Approximately a quarter of a mile from the parking lot is a kiosk for the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge and Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.
From this point, continue up the access trail another ½ mile until you reach several signed trail junctions and another Dolly Sods Wilderness kiosk.
Continue north on Blackbird Knob trail (no.511) for 0.3 miles to the Rocky Ridge trail head (no. 524). Hike Rock Ridge for less than ¼ mi. and you will begin to see side trails, sometimes marked with rock cairns, on your left. The views of Canaan Valley are no more than 250 feet away, up a short rise in the land.
Cresting Cabin Mountain is a magnificent experience, as 25,000 acres of Canaan Valley unfolds beneath you. The view of Canaan Valley, north to south, is an unobstructed one. In the fall, Canaan Valley reminds me of a bag of Skittles, exploded all over the highest valley east of the Mississippi River.
Want to extend the views? Continue north along the ridgeline on Rocky Ridge Trail (no. 524) for another 3 miles. Huge rock outcroppings and dense stands of Red Spruce mesmerize; contemplating the harsh environment thriving in such a rugged landscape. Making a full day or half day on Cabin Mountain is a must on any itinerary while visiting Tucker County, West Virginia.
Now make your way out the front door and head to Tucker County this weekend, and GET TUCKER'D.
Getting to Tucker County, WV from the east has never been so easy, or beautiful. Getting the word out about one of the newest, and by far one of the most scenic highways in America, has never been so difficult. Yes, GPS is a wonderful thing, until you enter true wilderness. This BLOG is dedicated to driving West Virginia US 48 (also referred to locally as Corridor H), the exact directions, what to expect, and pictures that will allure all to the one and only, Tucker County.
Let’s first address the multiple road numbers confusion. Why so many? Since the highway is not complete west of Davis, WV, original road numbers are retained. Just on the outskirts of the town of Davis, is the three way intersection for RT 93/US 48 (east bound). The two lane road, RT 93, traverses one mile out of Davis and feeds directly into US 48.
From the east, via Interstate 81 in Virginia, Route 55/US 48 is accessed from exit 296 in Strasburg, VA. Route 55 is a 20 mile, two lane road to Wardensville, WV, where you will feed directly onto the infinitely scenic four lane highway, that is US 48. For a little perspective, all those coming from Washington DC, it took me 2hours and 45minutes, during non-rush hour, to get from Bethesda, MD to Davis, WV.
With the fine details behind us, it is now time to enjoy the ride! Watch for Black Bear, did that get your attention? And deer, turkey, and coyote. Seriously though, a nice size bear ran in front of my truck in the middle of the day and I happened to be taking photos for this blog. What are the odds…pretty good in Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia.
Infinitely steep, green mountains traverse north to south in two National Forests, the George Washington and Monongahela. What makes this such a unique highway, is the highway travels over all of the ridge tops, giving a bird’s eye view of the vast valleys below.
Some valleys are miles wide, home to generational farms that are quintessential to American farm culture. The painting “American Gothic” rouses to my mind as guard rails whiz by at a casual 70mph.
The river gorges that pass through these ancient mountains add to an already dynamic landscape. 100 foot tall Cliff bands are seen above the narrow river valleys, some of which are perched 800 feet above the river bed.
Driving West Virginia US 48 you will find two wonderful towns for a pit stop or incredible, locally owned, dining in Moorefield, WV and Wardensville, WV. There are two restaurants in each town that definitely stand out. Star Mercantile and Lost River Brewing on RT 55 in Wardensville, and Capt. Mullens or O’Neills are located in Moorefield on Main Street, less than a mile from US 48.
Scenic overlooks pepper West Virginia US 48, don’t miss the opportunity, especially on those clear crisp days when you can see miles in all direction. Remember, you are now on mountain time, slow down, smell the fresh air, take a look around, and relax.
Welcome to West Virginia!
127 years ago Henry Gassaway Davis and his company, the West Virginia Central and Pittsburgh Railway, constructed a 12 mile rail line from Thomas, WV to Hendricks, WV. This was an incredible feat for that time period. Their efforts are currently enjoyed by hikers and bikers who can travel freely along the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail between Thomas and Hendricks, and beyond to Parsons, then Elkins. The Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail, specifically between the Douglas gated entry point and Hendricks, is an under modified rail grade, best suited for hiking and wide tired bikes with knobies, whether hybrid or mountain bike.
Riding from Hendricks to Parsons and on to Elkins is another story. The riding surface, signage, and trail heads are what would be expected from any seasoned rail trail user. When planning a ride through the Blackwater Canyon, a car shuttle set up is ideal, leaving one vehicle in Hendricks, then returning to Thomas to begin your adventure downhill. If a shuttle is not possible and you are second guessing the level of energy for a return trip up the canyon, simply park in Hendricks and head up river on the rail trail until your hearts content. FYI, hiking or biking upstream always lends itself to superior views of the river and scenery.
The Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail access and parking is found less than a mile from Thomas. Driving down Douglas Rd, you can park where the Rail Falls Rd street sign is or drive down Rail Falls Rd and park anywhere along it. This is where your adventure begins. First sight of interest are the coke ovens of Coakton, excellent interpretive signs and a bike rack can be found at this historical site.
Waterfalls are abundant along the North Branch of the Blackwater, the most popular being Douglas Falls. Once beyond the gate and Douglas Falls, raging whitewater and near vertical walls of the river bank are hundreds of feet below, as are the towering cliffs and trees above the opposing side of the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail.
Tub Run and Big Run are two spectacular creeks worth hiking up or taking a cool natural shower on a hot summer day. Massive stone archways and culverts, requiring unheard of engineering and a work force beyond modern day comprehension, span each creek. Train wrecks were not uncommon in these locations due to the tight bends in the track, created by turbulent streams, altering the natural topography over thousands of years.
Hendricks is a small town located at the very bottom of the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail and serves as a wonderful trail head with kiosk, parking, and beautiful town park. Hendricks is also where the paved rail trail path begins, continuing 3.5 miles east to Parsons and 22 miles to Elkins. Expect smooth, packed limestone from Porterwood, WV to Elkins, WV. For bike rentals and additional information, Blackwater Bikes in Davis, WV caters to all your bike related needs.