A Sensational Season of Fall Foliage in WV

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.

A couple of fall foliage trips yielded beautiful results!

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!

A beauty of a mountain setup in Webster County at Holly River State Park

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:

This hike is absolutely worth the climb for the view but beware, it’ll wear you out!

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!

All smiles on the ascent up Potato Knob but we were both beat when we reached the top!

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:

Tecumseh Falls during the late afternoon on a dry fall day.

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!

When taking folks out on the Ansted Rail Trail, I like to head down on Hawks Nest Road to the New River and then circle back up using the actual trail.

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.

It’s a brief but steep scramble down to the bottom of Mill Creek Falls from Hawks Nest Road but worth it!

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!

Mill Creek Falls still flowing and looking great on a fall backdrop despite a period of dry weather.

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:

In my opinion there is hardly a better view of the gorge than that of Beauty Mountain.

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:

I like taking photos with the overhang in the shot for a nice effect. All iPhone XR still with these photos!

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!

Check Out These Iconic Rail Trail Waterfalls in the West Virginia Mountains in Two Hours!

If you’re looking to enjoy a few of West Virginia’s fantastic waterfalls on just a couple of hours’ worth of time, you’ve arrived at the right place!

Although Blackwater Falls in Tucker County is home to one of the most iconic waterfalls east of the Mississippi River, there are a series of waterfalls along a nearby rail trail that can enable you to get up and close with some behemoth waterfalls!

Head to the town of Thomas in Tucker County. Just past the main drag on the south-driving side of town past the Purple Fiddle is a road that juts to the right named Douglas Road. Take that road and follow it out for a couple of miles or so until you see a graveled road on your left with a sign that says ‘Douglas Falls’ on it. The road is called Rail Falls Road and is the beginning of the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail.

The Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail is a 10.5 mile long rail trail that begins on its north end at the dead end of Rail Falls Road off of Douglas Road near Douglas and ends on its south end at the small town of Hendricks on Main Street. It first follows the North Fork of the Blackwater River where all four of these waterfalls are located before the waterway empties into the Blackwater River. It then follows the Blackwater River into the town of Hendricks. It is well known in the area to be a great biking and hiking trail. Along only a small segment of the northern side of the trail are four fantastic waterfalls for you to check off: Albert Falls, Teresa Falls, Douglas Falls and Kennedy Falls. Each of these waterfalls are very unique and are a real joy to see in person. If you’re up for the challenge, quite a bit of adventure awaits you if you long to get a great shot of Kennedy Falls.

On a beautiful late Spring day in early June, my best friend, Hal, and I set out to conquer these waterfalls. The first two are pretty straight forward and easy to arrive at. Douglas Falls will require some scampering, but anyone that is fairly mobile can reach it. Kennedy Falls does require a lot of work, which I will elaborate on below.

Albert Falls is the first waterfall to check out. It, along with Teresa Falls are viewable nearly by vehicle, as these waterfalls are located along Rail Falls Road before the roadway dead-ends. Crews have placed a metal gate near where Douglas Falls is to prevent vehicular access along the Blackwater Falls Canyon Trail at this location. Douglas and Kennedy Falls are located beyond the gate and will require some short hiking.

Albert Falls39.128486, -79.5203338 to 10 feetSmall picturesque drop, first waterfall
Teresa Falls39.124458, -79.5188534 to 8 feetSmallest drop, smooth rock & second waterfall
Douglas Falls39.123661, -79.51969235 feetLargest drop & most popular, third waterfall
Kennedy Falls39.120239, -79.52033825 to 30 feetMore difficult to access, fourth waterfall

Waterfall #1: Albert Falls

Albert Falls is the first waterfall you’ll encounter. You can literally drive up to it, as the drop is located along the graveled Rail Falls Road around a quarter of a mile before you get to the dead end of the roadway. It’s a small but picturesque waterfall, eight to ten feet in height and in my experience, there’s usually very little traffic here. For the record, there was nobody at any of these falls when I hiked to each of them, but once I stayed at Douglas Falls for a short while, a few folks popped up, as it is by far the most popular waterfall of the four. Once you get a chance to check this waterfall out, you can walk farther down Rail Falls Road down to Teresa Falls.

Waterfall #2: Teresa Falls

Teresa Falls has a short drop but it is very unique. You can see some of the effects of the industrial past of this region, as acid erosion from acid mine drainage which plagued this area for decades is evident on the super smooth rocks as the water drops off the top of the waterfall into the pool below. As a result of the smooth rock both here and at some of the other falls in this area, be careful walking on the top of them as they are very slippery! If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can access a good photo of this waterfall down below it where the water is much more mellow. From this waterfall, hike back up to Rail Falls Road, walk past a metal gate that has been placed to block vehicular access and you’ll be able to hear Douglas Falls roaring within a tenth of a mile of that gate.

Waterfall #3: Douglas Falls

Douglas Falls is an absolute gem of a waterfall. With a 35 foot drop and large rocks surrounding it, the landscape makes a natural amphitheater, with the water very loudly crashing from above. During periods of drier weather, it is fairly easy to walk behind the waterfall, which I’ve done before. On this trip though, the water was flowing strongly and my best friend and I thought best to not attempt getting behind the falls due to the very wet smooth rock. There are plenty of nice vantage points for this waterfall, and again, if you don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can hang out on some rocks below the falls which really provide nice vantage points. But again, be careful!

Waterfall #4: Kennedy Falls

Kennedy Falls is a real treat! Not visible from the Blackwater Canyon Trail, this waterfall requires a short hike from the trail down to the top of the waterfall. When I hiked the trail, it was marked in blaze orange ribbon and wasn’t too difficult despite being a bit steep. In wet weather though, it would be very slippery. Getting down to the top of this waterfall is not bad. I emphasize that part because getting down to the bottom is a bit of a different story.

This beauty stands about 25 to 30 feet in height. If you look closely, you’ll see my best friend, Hal, sitting on a rock at the top of the waterfall for a height comparison – this waterfall is a beast! I sat up at the top for a time and it provides a beautiful view of the river below as it continues on its trek toward emptying into the Blackwater River:

The trick to getting a nice view of Kennedy Falls from down below at the rock outcropping in the above photo is to find a side trail off of the orange blaze that follows the river:

The side trail is not long – maybe 50 feet or so – but after walking it, you’ll notice that the trail ends and all that is left is a blue rope. This is where the challenge begins:

You will likely need this blue rope to get down to the bottom of the falls. There are places to put your feet as you drop down to the bottom of the river bank slowly but surely, but each spot that you place your feet will be very wet, as water sort of oozes from the mountain, so you’ll want to definitely make sure you’re secure on that rope in case you slip. You’ll drop a total of about 20 feet along this rope until you get down to the bottom of the river bank. Once you’re down there, it’s very easy to get to the rock outcropping to take awesome photos of Kennedy Falls. In my experience, climbing the rope back up the bank to get back onto the trail that allows you to easily get back to the Blackwater Canyon Trail is much easier than descending down the bank, which I completed in a very careful manner to make sure I didn’t slip.

And there you have it! My best friend and I knocked all four of these waterfalls out in under two hours with plenty of time to enjoy each one of them. We enjoyed this hike immensely, and hopefully you will, too! Check out more beautiful waterfalls in West Virginia here.