West Virginian’s and sugar lovers rejoice during early spring. The time of year when Mother Nature can’t decide if it’s still winter or if spring has actually arrived. West Virginia has a long history of syrup making. The indigenous populations made syrup first by throwing hot rocks into hollowed-out logs that were filled with sap. The early settler quickly learned to make the sweet stuff and use it as their main source of sugar. Today, maple syrup and sugar are widely used in cooking, baking, and as topping. Join us in Randolph County for a full weekend of activities celebrating this tradition on the third full weekend in March at the annual West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival.
The West Virginia Maple Syrup Festival, one of the first festivals of the year, is held in a tiny, remote community in West Virginia called Pickens. The town of Pickens was named after James Pickens Jr., the original owner of the town site in the late 1890s. Pickens quickly became a booming town with businesses lining the street. By the turn of the century, the town boasted Presbyterian, Baptist, and Catholic churches, a number of stores, a funeral home, several hotels, a saloon, sawmill and a railroad. Lumber and coal mining industries drove the Pickens’ economy in the late 1930s.
Today, the town has the distinction of being the wettest place in West Virginia receiving more than 66 inches of precipitation yearly, much of it in snowfall. This “Haven in the Hardwood” comes alive during the third weekend in March as it. celebrates its heritage of maple syrup making.
You can enjoy two days of all-you-can-eat pancakes and buckwheat cakes smothered with locally made maple syrup. During the weekend, you can also take a tour at Richter’s Maplehouse and learn how the syrup is made from start to finish. Food trucks and arts and craft vendors will be selling their goods for you to enjoy throughout the day. A wood-chopping exhibit, a display showcasing beautiful homemade quilts, and a photography show by the Buckhannon-Upshur Camera Club will all be part of the schedule of events. Different live performances and entertainment will also be held at the historic Opera House. We suggest stopping by the Craft Store and buying a maple flavored pasalubong. All proceeds will benefit the town and used for community projects as well as the upkeep of historic buildings. These activities will have you spending your whole day in Pickens.
Other historic buildings that will be open to the public are Hull’s Store, the Pickens Museum where you can learn more about the history of the town and even purchase the “Haven in the Hardwood” book, the Depot, Opera House, Quilt House, Craft Store, and Legion Hall where you don’t want to miss the ham and bean dinner held on Saturday evening.
*Driving directions listed below, GPS can be iffy…
Over the past four years the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association has been introducing folks to maple syrup through Mountain State Maple Days, a self-guided tour of sugar shacks and supportive businesses. If you can’t make it to the festival, we have a few other Randolph County suggestions to celebrate maple syrup season.
Still Hollow Spirits is a small distillery located in Job, West Virginia, and they sell a variety of maple syrup infused adult spirits like the Maple Syrup Barrel Rested Whiskey, their Maple Cranberry Whiskey, and their Bourbon Barrel Maple Syrup. They also sell a variety of other spirits like gin, corn whiskey, and single barrel rye.
Spruce Knob Maple is one of West Virginia’s largest maple syrup camps. They are located near Dry Fork, just a little further down the road from Still Hollow. Producing maple syrup has been a longtime tradition for this family-owned business. You can buy their products online and try experimenting with baking and marinating meats.
Driving Directions to Pickens, West Virginia
Follow Rt. 219-250 South 16 miles to Mill Creek, turn right on Adolph Road CR 46, proceed 6 miles to Adolph. Turn right across the bridge and proceed 14 miles to Helvetia. At the Hutt Restaurant turn left on Pickens Road CR 45 and proceed 5 miles to Pickens.
Follow Rt. 20 South 9 miles to the West Virginia Wildlife Center. Turn left on Alexander-Helvetia Road CR 11, proceed 20 miles to Helvetia, turn right on Pickens Rd CR 45 and proceed 5 miles to Pickens.
From I79 North or South:
Take Exit 99 onto Rt. 33 East. Take the Route 20 Buckhannon-Philippi Exit. Turn right onto Route 20 South. Go 12 miles to the West Virginia Wildlife Center and turn left onto Alexander Road. Follow it for 20 miles to Helvetia. At the Hutte Restaurant turn right on Pickens Road CR 45, proceed 5 miles to Pickens.