Blackwater Falls: On and Off the Beaten Path

By Charleen - March 21, 2021

The brisk air and waterfalls of early Spring beckons! And Blackwater Falls State Park in WV, a 3-hour drive from Pittsburgh, provides the perfect answer. Whether easy-to-traverse boardwalks or exploring less traveled paths best fits your style, Blackwater has both grand and intimate cascades this time of year. And no trip is complete without a visit to Big Belly Deli in Davis, WV. I've been thinking about their grilled pastrami sandwich and their veggie Reubens all year...
Blackwater Falls from the Gentle Trail overlook
Elakala Falls
Hot pastrami on rye from Big Belly Deli
Blackwater Gorge from Lodge (left); Yellow Birch Trail (top three, right); Elakala Trail (bottom right)
Balanced Rock

Sometimes a road trip is all that is needed to perk up the spirits. Add the sound of rushing water, white spray against a cloud-rimmed sky and unopened rose-hued tree buds for a perfect getaway from city life. Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia is a fantastic destination!

The namesake falls exhibit a 57-foot drop, and is easily accessible from parking areas on either side of Blackwater Gorge. And there are other discoveries to be made along the hiking trails, or scrambling down a roadside hill. The state park has dog friendly accommodations -- both in selected rooms in the lodge and in private cabins, as well as an area to plug in electric cars.
Electric car charging in front of Lodge

Falls of Elakala

Although the Lodge is currently closed for much-needed renovations, there are fantastic views from overlooks behind the Lodge, as well as numerous trailheads that connect to its parking area. 
Benches and a lookout area yield beautiful views behind the Lodge

The Elakala Falls are quite close, so you could do a very short trip to view the falls and then back. The falls are fed by Shay Run, and like all the streams and rivers of the area, feature "black" water due to high levels of tannins. 
Tannin-stained waters feeding Elakala Falls

Bring good footwear that you don't mind getting wet, especially for Spring time explorations. 
Video from the top of Elakala Falls

For a short loop, take Elakala Trail past the nearby Elakala Falls, and continue straight across the paved main park road to Balanced Rock Trail. At the next trail intersection turn left on Trace Trail to return to the parking area. Or continue and turn left on Red Spruce Trail for a longer loop.
Elakala Falls

Blackwater Falls

You can easily drive to Blackwater Falls, navigating a quarter mile paved path called the Gentle Trail from the roadside parking area on the South/East side of the Gorge. 

From there you can cross the bridge over Blackwater River and continue down to the main Falls Parking area. Getting a closer view of the falls involves another quarter mile walk, this time with a bit of gravity. 

It is about 200 steps to the observation deck closest to the Falls. 

We chose to walk from the Lodge along Water Tank Trail to Red Spruce Trail to Yellow Birch Trail, instead of driving, for a several mile round trip. 

For this we were rewarded with colorful foliage and boardwalks through bogs.
Yellow Birch Trail

Video from main Falls viewing area

Big Belly Deli

A true hidden gem! The sandwiches in this delightful little shop were superbly griddled and amazingly tasty. Whether you like the traditional pastrami or reubens, or you are seeking flavorful and satisfying vegetarian fare, Big Belly's sandwiches will have you smiling. Especially as they all come with a homemade pickle and cookie. Due to the pandemic, take out sandwiches would make the perfect picnic. Their motto is "Never Trust A Skinny Chef," and they open at 11 am (but best to give them a call, 304-259-2222 to be sure).
Delicious griddled to order hot pastrami, grilled cheese and vegetarian Reuben sandwiches, complete with dill pickle and cookie, each artfully wrapped into its own compartment using a single square of foil. A gem with great flavors, hearty meat and vegetarian options and friendly service. Definitely looking forward to coming back here!

Pendleton Lake and the north bank of the Gorge

After lunch, we drove over across the Gorge to Pendleton Lake.

The Falls of Pendleton were not really visible from the trail. My husband and daughter did some scrambling to get this view.

A short walk to the Pendleton Point Overlook yielded a nice view of unnamed waterfalls cascading down from Shay Run just west of the Lodge on the other side of the Gorge.

Cascades, Rhododendron, Balanced Rock

For those that are comfortable scrambling down a steep hillside, there is a chain of cascades that you can follow to the floor of the Gorge. I did not go all the way down, but the ones I saw were lovely.
Down the hillside at the south end of the Gentle Trail parking area
I'm glad I did not go all the way down as the return trip was steep!

Having gone a short way down Balanced Rock Trail on the first day, we decided to explore this trail further. This area was not as well-blazed and we got lost a few times. Be sure that your hiking boots are nicely waterproofed!

We waded through a sea of rhodedendron before arriving at the Balanced Rock.

We ended our visit by driving past the Sled Run Nordic Center to the southwest corner of the park to visit Lindy Point. 
Sledding Hill

From the parking area, the Lindy Point trail is three-quarters of a mile out and back (round trip). Lindy Point sits at an elevation of 3,047 feet with grand views of Blackwater Canyon.
Lindy Point

Splendid isolation! Over 17 miles walked, hiked and scrambled up and down the equivalent of 100 flights of stairs over 2.5 days for these gorgeous views. #getoutside #waterfalls #socialdistancing 


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