Location: Hacker Valley, West Virginia
Webpage: West Virginia State Park
General Description: Holly River State Park is located far from all of the major cities in West Virginia, nestled in a narrow valley surrounded by heavily forested mountains. It is the second largest state park with a total of 8,101 acres. Recreational activities include hiking or biking some of the 42 miles of trails, visiting one of the multiple waterfalls, camping, and more traditional activities such as tennis or swimming.
1) The Visitor Center/gift shop for the park, along with a restaurant, are located in a structure built in the 1930s by the WPA. This state park was created during the depression by the WPA program (which later became the CCC). Depressed areas were identified where families were attempting to scratch out a living on sub-marginal land. These families were moved to better farm land in the west and there homesteads became state parks. There is information about this program and the families relocated on interpretive signs on the trails. Be sure to ask for the Trails Map they have available. It is the best trails map I have ever encountered. Not only do you have a detailed map of all the trails in the park, but along with the description of the trail you have an elevation change graph from the beginning to the end of the trail. Very useful feature.
2) Of the more than 42 miles of trails, we selected two short “easy” trails to explore the park. The first of these was the Nature’s Rock Garden Trail, which is 0.5 mile loop that ascends up through the rocks on the hillside. There is a nice interpretive brochure you can get from the Visitor Center, that give information about the geology, plants, and animals that corresponds to numbered posts on the trail. Be warned, however. This is listed as an easy trail, but it is a very rough trail climbing through the rocks right up the side of the hill and then back down. Footing can be dangerous if the rocks are slick.
3) The Laurel Fork Trail is also a 0.5 mile loop trail that is listed as an easy trail and it is at the other extreme of easy. It is a level trail that circles around an island where Laurel Creek forks. The trail is paved with multiple benches and tables along the way. There are also multiple interpretive signs giving the history of the park at intervals along the trail.
4) There are a couple of waterfalls that can only be accessed from the hiking trails, however, there is one waterfall that can be accessed by car. Be warned, however, the road to the parking lot is an old railroad bed, which means it is fairly level but narrow with a lot of blink curves. It is over 4 miles along this single lane, two-way road to the waterfall, about half of which is paved and the rest gravel. It will seem like it takes forever to get to the parking lot for the waterfalls. The Tenskwatawa falls are a short walk from the parking lot and you can either view them from up top or descend the steps down to the base of the falls. Once viewing the falls there is a 0.25 hike back down to the stream and downstream of the falls to Shupe’s Chute where the stream shoots through a narrow rock channel that is unusual.