A few weekends ago, myself, my husband, and my mom headed on a weekend road trip to West Virginia to visit Seneca Rocks in Monongahela National forest and Blackwater Falls State Park. While we have been to West Virginia before, it was my husband’s first time and the first time for all of us in the region that we visited. This was a semi-quick road trip/hiking trip, and I was so excited to have the opportunity to hike somewhere that is not my backyard, for the first time!
I live in Northeast Ohio, where we have the incredible Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just one of many beautiful areas in the state of Ohio. But, it just hits different when you get to visit somewhere new; somewhere that is not home. You get to fall in love with another small part of this world.
Blackwater Falls State park
We got to hike about 20 minutes of the Elakala Trail, which is a 4 mile loop with gorgeous waterfalls. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete it because the sun was going down quickly and besides the obvious concerns of hiking at night (which we had no intention of doing), the trail, while not overly difficult, had a lot of tree roots to maneuver around, so it was really essential to have light.
Of the trails that we did over the weekend, this was, without a doubt, my favorite trail, and I lament that we did not have the opportunity to go back and complete it.
Seneca Rocks Trail
On Sunday, we had our main hiking day, since we could start out earlier in the day. The night before, I looked up potential trails using a combo of AllTrails and the National Forest website. This was my first time researching trails beforehand, up until this trip I left the hike planning to my friend, Jacqui, who has been my hiking mentor – but this time around, I was “the most experienced hiker” (and I am claiming that title very loosely, because I did a terrible job) and so I took charge.
On the positive side of the river, I helped us avoid accidentally embarking on a 15+ mile trail – but I really learned a lot about reading trail maps, taking reviews with a grain of salt, and realizing how easy it is to forget about the basics. Errors aside, the three of us embarked on an amazing hike on the Seneca Rocks Trail.
The trail is a 2.7 mile loop, with an elevation gain of 836 feet. Rated as a “moderate” trail, according to AllTrails, it is mostly uphill with multiple switchbacks (“A switchback is a type of path that follows a zig-zag pattern up a steep stretch of terrain such as a hill or mountainside. Rather than climbing directly up the slope, switchbacks run from one side of the slope’s face to the other before “switching back” and continuing in the opposite direction.”)
The trail was really rough. I am in decent shape, my mom has never really been on a true hike before, so in retrospect this was not the greatest trail for a beginner, and my husband has the best stamina of us all, so he was good. The temperature was also in the 90s, I didn’t include elevation in the equation, and I broke the most important rule of hiking for any level – I didn’t make sure we had enough water.
As you can see in the photos, the sweat stains are real, and I was so dehydrated when we got back to the car I willingly drank the rest of my can of Mt. Dew that was in the car – that was hot. (I will be doing some future posts on the do’s and don’ts for beginner hiking, because I need the reminder just as much.)
Despite the struggle to reach the top, it was well worth it!
From the observation deck, you can’t really see the rocks, you are somewhat on top of them and then there is a sharply angled view to your left. But, it is still such an incredible expanse – and there is a special sense of accomplishment knowing that you reached the top.
The trail is for anyone of all ages and (mostly) all abilities. As I mentioned earlier, it is not likely to be the best for someone’s first trail, but I saw all ages, from young children to seniors, and different abilities – new hikers and experienced hikers – making the trek.
Would I Hike These Trails Again?
Yes, absolutely! If I return to the National Forest, I will look for some new trails, just to keep adding to the list, but I loved being in this part of the Alleghany Mountains, and I felt like a more “authentic hiker” by gaining experience outside of my own National Park. (Disclaimer: this is just my own, personal labelling. If you call yourself a hiker, then you are a hiker, it does not matter how much experience you have or how far you have or have not travelled.)
I would like to return and spend more time in Blackwater Falls State Park. I regret that I didn’t take more photos, but there is a richness and tranquility that cannot be explained, only experienced. The trees and moss had such a lush, green color, and the trail was soft and it really felt like the type of path you would follow to find the hidden realm of elves. It was truly magical.
What is your favorite hike that you have completed so far? Do you have one that you are waiting to check off your bucket list?