We’re into November now and the fall foliage season is wrapping up across the Mountain State. The leaves are flickering and swaying down to the ground as the frequency of freezing temperatures continue to rise that marks the beginning of the cold season here in Appalachia.
The fall foliage season in West Virginia was a spectacular one. A combination of below normal temperatures during the month of September, along with above average rainfall led to some remarkable colors no matter where you turned here in the Mountain State.
I did not make it to the highest peaks of the region this year but I still enjoyed plenty of fall colors with a couple of trips during the month of October:
Holly River State Park – October 16th
The first trip was on October 16th, where I took my friend, Rachel, into the mountains of Webster County to Holly River State Park for a little waterfalling and hiking. Heading up the drive on Route 15 into Webster County, it was easy to see that the colors were nearing peak and that it would be a wonderful day with plenty of blue skies.
HOLLY RIVER STATE PARK: Enjoy Every Waterfall at Holly River State Park in One Day
Shockingly, despite it being a weekend, there weren’t very many people out at the park, which made for some relaxed navigating. I’d been to Holly River a couple of times already to document waterfalls, but I hadn’t checked out Potato Knob yet, which is a mountain hike located within the park’s boundaries, so we decided to knock that out, along with a couple of waterfalls.
The waterfalls were appreciated first! Upper Falls is one of the largest and perhaps most photographed waterfalls located within Holly River State Park and it never disappoints:
The scenery at Holly River State Park on this day was absolutely beautiful! Yellows and oranges indicating hickories, poplars and other species of trees were occasionally accompanied by beautiful reds from oaks and some species of maple – a truly picturesque scene!
If you’re going to head to Holly River State Park to look at Upper Falls, you might as well as hike another quarter of a mile or so and check out Shupe’s Chute, one of my personal favorite waterfalls in West Virginia. As the name implies, the waterway is a natural ‘chute’ that has been eroded and smoothed away over time. It’s always wonderful to just sit and look at it.
Once the ‘easy’ hiking was knocked out, it was time to check out Potato Knob:
I knew a little bit about Potato Knob but didn’t know what Rachel and I were in for. A word of advice – it’s a steep hike. I’m a pretty fit person that runs about 30 miles per week and I was definitely not complaining about taking breaks on this climb. You even occasionally had to get on all fours which was pretty neat!
The hike is short in terms of distance – perhaps a half mile or so, but you’re looking at nearly 1,000 feet of climb during that short ascent, so it’s a grade average likely around 20 to 25 percent – it’s not for the faint of heart! The colors on the way up though were great and provided as a distraction to the steep climb we both faced.
Needless to say, once we reached the top, we were amazed by how beautiful Potato Knob’s view is. There’s even a really nice bench that the park has provided for you to enjoy the view:
The leaves were still hanging on by a thread on the trees despite a decent wind that day and the colors were really popping! It was amazing – and did I mention we didn’t see a single hiker on this trail the entire time we were on it?
The descent may have been even a little trickier than the ascent, as there are a few spots where the steepness of the Appalachians really shows – not sure I’d recommend this hike on a rainy day when the leaves are wet and the dirt is muddy, as that could create a precarious spot or two on this hike – but you really get to enjoy all of the character of this fabulous mountain chain and the accompanying fall colors with this hike.
We wrapped up the day’s hike with a quick hike up the Reverie Trail to go check out Tecumseh Falls. Unfortunately, the weather had been fairly dry recently, so the flow was not great. But it’s still a beautiful little spot to relax and enjoy the scenery found in this park:
October 23rd – Ansted Rail Trail and Beauty Mountain
The following weekend, I met up with a couple of my friends – Lane and Andie – and Andie’s friend Julie to check out some more fall foliage. Julie had never been to West Virginia, so I felt we had to give her a true West Virginia experience!
This trip began on the Ansted Rail Trail – it’s an awesome gravel path from the town of Ansted that meanders its way down to level with the New River. Along that stretch along Mill Creek are several waterfalls.
The waterfall I focused on showing them was Mill Creek Falls. It’s a 25 foot tall waterfall that flows during just about the driest of dry spells. With the weather in October dry for the exception of the remnants of Hurricane Ian on October 1st, I wanted to focus on a decent waterfall that would still be flowing great – it didn’t disappoint!
One thing I like to do when taking people to the Ansted Rail Trail is to take them down Hawks Nest Road first and then circle back up on the actual rail trail. The reason I do this is for an access point at Mill Creek Falls that I discovered a few years back.
The access point takes you creek level down to Mill Creek Falls – it’s not the easiest and requires a little scrambling with care but it’s worth it if you’re down for an adventure. Lane, Andie and Julie were all down and made it with no issue! The view is worth it – Mill Creek looks way better from creek level than from above the waterfall on the trail in my opinion!
From Hawks Nest Road at the bottom of the trail where it meets the New River, you can cross a bridge and meet up with the Ansted Rail Trail, which is located right behind the gift shop where the jetboat rides happen. Though you’re climbing a few hundred feet back up to the trailhead near town, it’s a gentle climb the entire time, so it’s still very enjoyable.
Once we got back to the trailhead, we definitely had to give Julie the West Virginia experience of seeing the gorge in full color. The popular trailheads, such as the Endless Wall Trail were covered with cars – I’d estimate there was probably 100 vehicles combined at the Endlesss Wall Trail parking lots – so we decided to head to Beauty Mountain.
Beauty Mountain in my opinion is West Virginia’s best kept secret. It’s a spot located farther down Lansing-Edmond Road than the Endless Wall Trail parking lots at the intersection of Beauty Mountain and Buckhorn Roads (Note: If you’re driving a passenger car, continue past Beauty Mountain Road and turn right onto Buckhorn Road instead).
Beauty Mountain isn’t really much of a trail – it’s series of paths that have been carved out by rock climbers, animals and those that just love the serenity of the gorge. I ask that if you decide to check this place out – it’s a quiet area, so please help keep it that way.
You have plenty of places to explore – that’s the fun of Beauty Mountain! You can just meander around the mountain face’s huge boulders for several great views. My favorite view is actually on the other side of the mountain that I discovered several years ago while looking for a great view:
No matter where you venture over at Beauty Mountain, you’re liable to find some beautiful views. There are amazing rock overhangs that make some pretty views as well:
The best part of these kind of trips is just enjoying catching up with friends and making new ones in the process! And my buddy Lane and I got to learn from the girls on how to make a cool fall foliage photo with our faces:
As we move forward to wintertime, we’re entering my favorite time of the year to catch waterfalls. Why is that? It’s much easier for water to keep flowing during periods of dry weather with the cooler conditions. That means to expect quite a few more posts in the future!