West Virginia’s Great Outdoors
Discover the possibilities for a family vacation in Tucker County
By Josh Baldwin
Folded into the highlands of the Allegheny Mountains lies the one and only (truly!) Tucker County: pop. 6,698. Walmarts and Starbucks: 0. Local gems and family-friendly hangouts: endless.
This mountain getaway hosts scores of road-tripping families and outdoor enthusiasts year-round, with snow sports in the winter and renowned hiking, biking and water sports throughout the summer. No matter the season, Tucker’s charming small towns (Canaan Valley, Davis, Parsons and Thomas) queue up local eats, live music and craft brews that warm the soul and guarantee a casual, good time.
Are you ready to get Tucker’d? These suggested itineraries reveal a mix of adventure and relaxation that’ll satisfy the kiddos and give the grown-ups some much-needed downtime.
No trip to Tucker County is complete without a pilgrimage to Blackwater Falls. (The “black” water is a result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles.) But before you get going, have breakfast at the Bright Morning Inn and Restaurant, where kid-approved banana French toast provide the carbs needed for the active day ahead.
After breakfast, head about three miles to the entrance of Blackwater Falls State Park. From the Trading Post parking area, it’s only about a quarter-mile stroll to one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia. The six-story waterfall is beautiful any time of year and a stunning experience for young kids as they feel the mist on their skin. The falls can be explored from the top along the boardwalk overlook, to the bottom by the base.
Many smaller falls located along the leisurely Blackwater River are accessible by spur trails or roadside pull-offs. Maps at the state park office provide ample direction. Looking for a new view? Visit the Lindy Point Overlook, located a short hike down a nature tail—I won’t ruin the surprise for you.
After taking in the falls and other famous West Virginia views, refuel at The Smokehouse, which is located on the rim of the canyon in the Blackwater Falls park lodge and has outdoor seating in the summer. I always take advantage of the beef brisket and ribs, their specialty. Parents, take note: Lefty Luck American Ale or Holy Citra—both from Stumptown Ales, made right in Davis—are the perfect complement.
Tack another day onto the overnighter in West Virginia’s great outdoors. At Canaan Valley Resort State Park, easy to moderate trails offer visitors the perfect place for a full day of activity. Arrive in the morning to enjoy the peacefulness that comes with a quiet walk in the woods—observant kids might even spy scarlet tanager songbirds flying through the park’s towering canopy. I also recommend checking out the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s 4.7 miles of trails, or the Beall Trails’ flat figure-eights that weave through the fern-carpeted forest and cozy up to the Blackwater River. Trails are pet-friendly and provide respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.
After a picnic, head over to Dolly Sods Wilderness for some of the best hiking on the East Coast. While most of the Dolly Sods trails require a full day, the Blackbird Knob trail is ideal for quick views of sweeping mountaintops—a perfect activity pre-naptime.
In the evening, relax in Mountain State Brewing Company’s taproom and music hall for local brews, and if you time it right, live music. Try the easy-drinking Cold Trail Blonde Ale or (my favorite) Seneca IPA. The Purple Fiddle is also a great place to unwind with the fam alongside live music, homemade ice cream and microbrews. A brew for you, a cone for them.
For longer getaways
Just add water and bikes to the previous itineraries, and mix to your desired vacation. At this altitude, you’re guaranteed to enjoy some of the country’s clearest waters. Plus, Tucker County boasts some of the rugged state’s best mountain-biking terrain.
At the energy-drink end of the spectrum, wild whitewater rafting options on the Cheat River are great for older kids. Continue the excitement with mountain biking down Moon Rocks or Plantation Trail. You’ll also find about 75 miles of intermediate to expert single track trails outside of Davis.
If you’re looking for something milder, try paddleboarding, canoeing or tubing down quieter waters. Hit up Blackwater Outdoors Adventures or Patriots 4 General Store to rent all the gear you’ll need. Nearly half a dozen local rivers and streams are also stocked for both cast and fly fishing enthusiasts.
For an easy bike ride, hit the Parsons Rail Trail. This paved section of the Allegheny Highlands Trial is short but sweet on mountainous views. Blackwater Bikes can hook you up with everything you need, and most of the area’s trails are right outside their door.
Finish one of your evenings off at Sirianni’s with some homemade, New York-style pizza and Italian classics in a casual, family-friendly setting. When it’s time to rest your head, Tucker County has plenty of options to fit your family and budget, from cozy B&Bs and rustic cabins to lodges, hotels, luxury rentals and lodges.