Fall Hiking Guide

Less Traveled Vistas: Enjoy these four trails, but also check our website calendar for community led programs. 

Adventure seekers enjoy views from high elevations. The beautiful thing about living in southern WV is that views that will take your breath are literally all around us. This month we are highlighting a couple of lesser-known views where you might find solitude along with that vista that will keep you coming back for more.

-Raleigh County: Piney Point Trail/Overlook

The access point to this trail and overlook comes from right beside the YMCA soccer complex. You go past the soccer complex to the end of the road, where you will see two gates and a bit of a dirt parking area, though I often park along the roadside. Once you have parked, walk down the gravel path past the single cable gate until you see a park bench and signs for the Grays Flats trail North, take a left on Gray Flats Trail North. Continue walking the Gray Flats Trail North when you see a house sized boulder on your right, continue left on the path for about two minutes until you reach a split. (distance to the split is approximately 0.75 mi.) There is a sign for the Piney Bluff Trail on your right, take this trail for approximately another 0.75 mi. You’ll come to a trail split with a sign for the soccer complex and Piney Bluff Trail, take the right trail, immediately after making the right split, turn right into the woods just after two large trees, this is the entrance for Piney Point overlook.
As they say, the joy is in the journey, and this is true of the trail to Piney Point Overlook. You will go through a rhododendron tunnel, be surrounded by pine trees and the delicious pine smell, and the natural beauty of the trees combined with ample sun and sky. Take your time and look around, enjoying the views until you reach the end.
At one time, there was a gap of just a few inches between the end of the trail and the prime overlook point. At this time, there has been a rockslide and the crevice is several feet across. I don’t know the stability of the point itself anymore, as I have not ventured across since the rockslide. However, you can still enjoy the scenery, especially in the fall and winter months, and you can hear Piney Creek roaring below you.

-Fayette County: Island in the Sky Trail at Babcock

The island in the Sky Trail at Babcock State Park is truly marvelous. It is easy to find by parking by the mill and gift shop. Cross the foot bridge by the mill and you will see the sign for the beginning of the trail leading into a wooded hillside. You can either do the trail and an out and back, or you can walk back down the road/hill to the parking area by the mill and make it a loop.
The trail is fairly short, 0.7 mi. however it is a bit technical. There are a couple of areas where you will be climbing some rocky stairs, and even at the end the trail has two points accessible only by ladder. Gorgeous views on the way up, and at the top, you will feel like you are on an island in the sky itself. The end of the trail even has a stone shelter, where you could picnic or eat a snack before descending. In addition to the shelter, there are several small paths that shoot off from the top of the mountain with nice views. Be sure to check all of them out!

-Summers County: Big Branch Loop

The Big Branch Loop trail is approximately 2-2.5 miles. The trail is located on the left hand side of Route 20 in Hinton, before reaching Sandstone Falls. Parking is on the right side of the road (small lot with a latrine). You will cross the road to the trail.
Though there is no grand vista, this trail is a huge climb with beautiful scenery along the way. As it is a loop trail, it begins and ends at the same place. I recommend going to the left to climb the trail, and descend on the right. This allows to see the prettiest view of the multiple waterfalls on the way up. You will feel as if you have climbed a mountain, as the walking is a bit steep. I also believe the waterfalls are more viewable in the Spring, maybe late winter, when there is a lot of water flowing down the mountain. (I have even heard it said that it is very dry in the late summer and fall).
Again, throughout the experience, take in all of the scenery. It is a magnificent hike, with all the trees, foliage, and in the spring the stream resulting in multiple waterfalls as you climb. Take a snack, take a break when you need it, and take your time coming down, as the descent is as steep as the climb.
All in all, this trail is a must see in southern WV. While you’re in the area, you won’t want to miss the iconic Sandstone Falls too, as it is just minutes away!

-Nicholas County: Carnifex Ferry, Patterson Trail

This trail is on my TBH or “to be hiked” list. I cannot offer you a firsthand account, yet. I do plan to visit this fall.
Carnifex Ferry is the sight of a major Civil War victory for the Union. Tons of history here for those who love to learn about our beautiful state’s unique role in the war between the states. There is a museum and even the road that was used by a confederate general during his retreat.
The trail that loops the park is 2 miles, called Patterson Trail. It can be accessed in multiple locations throughout the park and boasts scenic views of the Gauley River. It is listed as easy to moderate in intensity.
So, who’s ready to hike this one? I hope to make it very soon!!