Good local trails can be found all across the Tri-State and Kanawha Valley region. Places to look for trails include Barboursville City Park in Cabell County, Beech Fork State Park, Eleanor City Park and Hurricane City Park in Putnam County, and Kanawha State Forest in Kanawha County.
West Virginia offers recreational opportunities across the state. With 78% — or 12 million of its 15.4 million acres — forested, West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the nation, behind only Maine and New Hampshire.
“We are fortunate to have many state parks, rail trails and municipal parks that offer multi-use trails that allow people of all skill levels to access places to hike,” said Sharon Cook, president of the Kanawha Trail Club.
“Hiking is the No. 1 gateway activity for our state parks,” said Sam England, West Virginia State Parks Systems chief. “And our goal is to be sure that all trails in the state parks that can have multiple uses — hiking, biking, and horse riding — are designed to accommodate everyone.”
Hiking Beech Fork State Park
Beech Fork State Park is located 12 miles from Huntington and Barboursville, and has miles of hiking trails.
At the campground area of the park, the Overlook Trail is a popular 2.5-mile hike. The trailhead is close to the park’s entrance. The first part goes up a ridge and is rated moderate, but is worth the effort. On top of the ridge, a rock outcrop offers a scenic view of the park (especially in fall when leaves are off the trees). The rest of the trail is easy, as it loops around the ridge back to the trailhead.
The Lost Trail is a 3.6-mile loop popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. The trailhead is in the Moxley Branch area of the campground. This trail, also rated moderate, is a good choice for seeing wildlife. Deer, rabbits and squirrels are abundant. Early morning hikers might even glimpse a fox or coyote.
For hikers seeking a longer excursion, the Lost Trail can be combined with the five-mile Mary Davis Trail for an all-day loop hike. The Mary Davis Trail follows a ridgetop and actually goes off the park into the wildlife management area. Along the way it passes the remains of an old cabin.
Trail maps for Beech Fork State Park (both the campround and marina areas) can be had at the park office at the entrance to the campground.
Kanawha Trail Club
Another useful source of information for local hiking is the Kanawha Trail Club, which has been leading hikes for more than 75 years.
“Our main focus is hiking, but our members are a close-knit group and we have formed many lasting friendships,” Cook said. “We hike on Sundays and publish our schedule on our Facebook page, in the newspaper and on V100 radio station so that anyone who would like to join us knows about our plans.”
The places for their hikes are determined by club volunteers who choose the sites and distance for each hike. “The hike descriptions help people to decide if the hikes fit their abilities and the volunteer leader scopes the hike out in advance of the Sunday event.”
The club takes longer hikes on Saturdays and twice a year hosts overnight hikes that may be in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky or Virginia.
Kanawha State Forest is a popular destination for hiking and mountain biking. Naturalist programs provide guests with introductions to the trails and stories of the area.
“For people who enjoy learning about the history of an area or who are beginning hikers, the naturalist programs are great options for hiking,” said Sissie Summers, State Parks programming coordinator. “The naturalists tell the stories about the parks in ways that draw participants in and help them get comfortable with the trails as they look and walk.”
Behind the trails, scheduled hikes and rides, are the volunteers who are dedicated to making sure the trails are safe and well-maintained.
“Volunteers are so important to our trails,” England said. “Our friends of state parks are a great resource and an invaluable asset for our system and our state. They really demonstrate the spirit of West Virginia’s people.”