Fresh air, sun, trees, nature and being outdoors is a beautiful thing. Being outdoors can be healing and beneficial for the body and mind. Elkins, West Virginia is considered the Base Camp of the Monongahela National Forest, offering endless options to get outside in the surrounding area, including opportunities accessible to a wide range of ages and abilities. There are many Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible outdoor recreation areas located within an hour’s drive of Elkins. Take this as your sign to get outside, but remember to recreate Randolph County responsibly and Leave No Trace.
Scott’s Ford Fishing Pier, Elkins, West Virginia
Scott’s Ford Fishing Pier is located on the perimeter of Elkins and is a great option for family and friends to cast their line in the river. Situated directly on the backwaters of the Tygart Valley River, Scott’s Ford is an ADA accessible access point for recreation activities such as boating, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. On spring and summer weekends, the twenty parking spaces on the gravel lot are frequently full. Some parts of the Tygart River are shallow so boating restrictions are limited to small boats with electric motors only.
Blackwater Falls State Park
Located in the mountains of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park is about a 45-minute drive from Elkins. Perhaps you’ve heard of the iconic Blackwater Falls? It is the most photographed waterfall in the state. You can experience a view of the famous 57-foot waterfall from above by following Gentle Trail. This is a paved path that leads to an observation deck overlooking Blackwater Falls. The Gentle Trail begins at one of the designated overlook parking lots and is only a short distance of 0.25 miles. Not only can you experience this waterfall in the state park, but you can also drive throughout the park and see the incredible views of the Blackwater Canyon from your vehicle at the many scenic overlook pull-offs. Blackwater Falls State Park Map.
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge is about 10 miles from Blackwater Falls State Park. Canaan Valley is home to one of the most diverse habitats in the eastern United States. To get a good glimpse of the valley and its wetlands, check out the Freeland Road boardwalk and overlook. Situated on Freeland Road, off Route 32, follow the refuge signs and they will connect you to a paved parking lot with designated parking spaces. This boardwalk trail leads you through a wet field, shrubland, past a beaver pond and bubbling spring, and to a stand of balsam fir. It is a pedestrian only, 0.4-mile path. The deck is 6 feet wide and flat and there are safety guides along the entire boardwalk. The valley’s high elevation and position in the Allegheny Mountains creates a climate typically found in Maine and Canada. Take a seat on one of the benches along the boardwalk and observe this unique habitat.
The refuge also has an ADA accessible canoe/kayak boat launch (featured header photo // Highland Outdoors). In order to get to the boat launch, follow the blue signs for the National Wildlife Refuge Trailhead on Camp 70 road near the Dollar General and Shop n’ Save in Davis. The launch site on the Blackwater River is located at the end of Camp 70 Road, about 4 miles. Be warned that the road is gravel/dirt and has LOTS of potholes. As you’re driving on Camp 70 Road, you will pass a bridge on your right, keep going straight. You will come to a point where the road forks, on the right there is a parking lot and pedestrian bridge and the left continues to follow Camp 70 Road into Wildlife Refuge land. Follow the road to the left and you will come to a gravel parking lot with the ADA accessible canoe/kayak boat launch. Enjoy a day on the Blackwater River kayaking, canoeing, fishing or simply watching the water sparkle in the sunlight and listening to the sound of the flowing water. There is also an ADA accessible fishing access point on the refuge and at the Thomas City Park.
While there, or if you have any questions, be sure to stop in at the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. It is located off Highway 32/Appalachian Highway. The visitor center has an exhibit room that displays up to 5 exhibits showcasing the habitat of the refuge and activities for visitors. Stop in at the Elkins Depot Welcome Center or visit the refuge’s website for a map of the refuge and trails.
Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and Picnic Area
Enjoy a picnic with one of West Virginia’s most iconic landscapes as the backdrop at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and Picnic Area. You might even catch a glimpse of climbers scaling the rocks, as it is a popular climbing destination. Feel yourself relax with the calming sound of the creek in the background. After your meal, take the short, paved path over the pedestrian bridge, crossing Seneca Creek, that connects you to the Discovery Center. At the Discovery Center learn about the history and environment of the area.
Timberline Ski Resort and Canaan Valley Ski Resort
Both Timberline Ski Resort and Canaan Valley Ski Resort offer adaptive ski lessons and equipment, located within 50 miles of Elkins, in the Heart of West Virginia Ski Country. Experience the thrill of the slopes and enjoy the winter wonderland scenery. The programs are taught by PSIA certified instructors and cover necessary skills, from getting on the lift to riding down the slopes. Equipment such as sit-skis, mono-skis, and hand-held outriggers is available. Reservations are required and can be made through the resorts.
Special Permit Hunting
There are special Class Q/QQ hunting permits available to hunters with certain disabilities. This permit allows permit holders to hunt, from a motor vehicle, all legal species of game during designated hunting seasons. An application, signed by a health care provider, must be submitted through the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (WV DNR). There are two listed areas in Randolph County: Five Lick (Forest Road 153/153A) and Little Beech Mountain (Forest Road 385, 183B). For more accessible hunting spots and information on Class Q/QQ regulations click on the links below.
Whether or not the outdoors is what brought you to Elkins, we invite you to experience the beauty of our mountains and valleys at these outdoor recreation destinations.