The story below is an excerpt from our May/June 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
The popular Blackwater Falls State Park has another falls. Here’s a 5.5-mile circuit to include this little-visited spot.
“Do you know the park has another great waterfall?” That was the response I received from Blackwater Falls State Park’s (now former) Naturalist, Marilyn Aikman. I had lamented that I wanted to include an outing in the park to the falls in “50 Hikes in West Virginia,” but both trails to it were so short that I couldn’t justify them as “hikes.”
She went on to explain that Elakala Falls, while not as high or as wide as Blackwater Falls, was worthy of being included in the book. She also said it, too, could be reached by a hike of 10 minutes, but then laid out a circuit hike of 5.5 miles that starts at the lodge, takes in some of the park’s best scenery and small environments – and still delivers the hiker in to the falls.
The state park sits high on the Allegheny Plateau and receives more than 150 inches of snow annually. Summers are usually cool, so the setting appears to be more from Canada than from the Middle Atlantic states. Pathways wind through a landscape of spruce, beech, birch and fir trees that grow above an understory of lush rhododendron thickets, blueberry bushes and mossy rocks.
To begin the outing, walk back out the lodge parking lot entrance road, turn right, and bear left into the woods on the Yellow Birch Trail. The yellow birch survives in West Virginia by growing above 3,000 feet in elevation and has a peeling bark like the paper birch, but is more of a yellow to silvery gray as opposed to the creamy white of the paper birch.
Upon reaching the barn road at 1 mile, turn right, ascend the road, walk to the left of the building and make another right onto the Red Spruce Riding Trail where a red squirrel may run across the path in its search for food or scold you for daring to walk through its home.