Blackwater Falls State Park

A Trip to Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia

Randall Sanger, author of Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia: 174 Falls in the Old Dominion and the Mountain State, takes us on a tour of Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia.

Blackwater Falls is one of the highest and most spectacular West Virginia waterfalls. 

Blackwater Falls State Park

River-level views of the majestic Blackwater Falls are worth the steep scramble down into the canyon! 

Most photographs of Blackwater Falls are captured from one of two outstanding vantage points on either side of the canyon. But there is one more place to view this incredible waterfall. From the upper end of the Gentle Trail parking area, you’ll see a sign warning of the dangers of entering the canyon. The path down to the river begins here at the sign. 

If you still want to venture down to the river after reading the warning sign near the parking area, it’s very simple. Kayakers use this trail to put in for their Blackwater River runs, and over time, the path has become well-worn and easy to follow. 

I rate this as strenuous due to several factors, but the walk down is quite easy until the last few feet; that’s where you have to make a bit of a scramble down to the river. Take in the long views first, then things get strenuous. If the water is low enough, you can rock-hop and boulder-climb your way upstream for closer views, but be careful; a stumble on the extremely slick rocks will have you in the swift-moving current before you know it. If you do travel on upstream, you won’t have to backtrack unless you just want to. About 20 yards or so from the falls, you should be able to pick out a path leading into the woods to the right; on my last visit, this path was marked by a blue ribbon. Simply follow the path back up the hillside, and you’ll eventually reach the Gentle Trail viewing platform. Be warned, though, that this trail is very steep and narrow. 

While venturing down into the canyon is discouraged by park staff, it is not illegal. But it is dangerous, due to the river current. 

Gentle Trail Overlook 

From the overlook, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of this wondrous waterfall. Four seasons of amazing views await you from this easy-to-access overlook. 

Blackwater Falls State Park

Blackwater Falls is one of the highest and most-visited West Virginia waterfalls. And with good reason: the Blackwater River rushes over the ledge in spectacular fashion with a thundering roar that can be deafening during times of high water. Tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles leaches into the river, leaving the water transparent, acidic, and looking as if it were stained by tea or black coffee. Not everyone will want to tackle the river-level view, but everyone can see this spectacular waterfall from the Gentle Trail viewing platform. It is my wife’s favorite vantage point, and I especially enjoy photographing Blackwater Falls from this spot in the fall and winter. 

Blackwater Falls State Park

From the Gentle Trail parking area, follow the short, paved, accessible path through the forest and out to a viewing platform. 

Blackwater Falls: Lower Viewing Platform 

This front-row view of the magnificent Blackwater Falls is not to be missed! 

Blackwater Falls State Park

If you want to see Blackwater Falls up close but aren’t particularly fond of the aforementioned canyon and scramble down to the river, this is the route for you. A series of steps leads you from the Trading Post Parking Area down to a stone patio. From the patio, you’ll follow a boardwalk down to a couple of platforms with wonderful views of this West Virginia masterpiece. Be sure to bring your wide-angle lens for great images from the lowest viewing platform. In spring and early summer, you’ll be met with blooming flowers along the bank that are perfect foreground complements. You can’t go wrong in any season at Blackwater Falls, especially from this boardwalk system. 

Blackwater Falls State Park

Note: Please don’t hop the fence here to go down to the river. Save that for the unofficial-but-established path on the other side of the canyon. 

For more information, visit the website of the Blackwater Falls State Park.

Did you enjoy our tour of Blackwater Waterfalls State Park? What is you favorite state park? Let us know. We would love to hear from you. Sign up for our newsletter now! #bewellbeoutdoors

Liliane Opsomer
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