Often called “America’s best idea,” no country in the world has anything quite like our National Park System. Since 1872 when Yellowstone became the first National Park in the world, over 100 nations have followed our lead and instituted their own park services, preserving millions of acres throughout the world. Our system remains the gold standard.
Our National Park system now boasts 63 National Parks and over 400 properties are managed within the National Parks system including national monuments, national forests, national battlefields, national lakeshores and more covering more than 85 million acres!
Though many residents from Beaver have had the privilege of visiting the juggernaut National Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon, not everyone realizes that our beautiful National Park system reaches within a day trip of our beautiful community.
Here are 3 National Parks that are closer to Beaver than many realize, and definitely worth exploring.
CUYAHOGA NATIONAL PARK
1 hour 25 minutes from Beaver
One of the most urban National Parks, the Cuyahoga River has famously caught on fire in the past due to such horrible pollution. Thanks to protection and conservation efforts, it is now flowing through this beautiful national park. Covering about 33,000 acres, Cuyahoga National Park features over 125 miles of hiking trails for all skill and fitness levels.
Brandywine Falls is certainly the most famous attraction in Cuyahoga, and it does not disappoint. At 60 feet tall, this waterfall is beautiful and is an easy hike from the large parking area. There is also a nice viewing area, making this a very kid friendly attraction.
The Towpath Trail is a great place to take the family and your bikes. This scenic path is paved and wheelchair, bike, and stroller accessible. The Towpath Trail follows the historic route of the Ohio and Erie Canal. A great feature of this trail is that you can hike or bike it one way, and then hop a train for the return trip. You simply flag the train down near a boarding station by waving your arms over your head. If you have your bike, it costs $5 per person to board the train. Kids love riding the train back!
Speaking of trains, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs through the park and operates scenic and themed trips. The fall rides are extremely popular due to the beautiful foliage in the park.
Other Favorite Trails: The Ledges Trail, Blue Hen Falls, Brandywine Gorge Loop, Boston Run, Plateau
Scenic Drive: Riverview Road provides an opportunity to see some of the beautiful park scenery from the comfort of your car. The road winds for nearly 20 miles through the park and passes dozens of sites that are worth exploring if you have the time.
SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK, VA
4 hours 15 minutes from Beaver
Admission: $30 per vehicle, valid for 1 week
Shenandoah is a large park, consisting of 200,000 acres, situated only 75 miles from our nation’s capital. If you are looking for a worthwhile detour on your next trip to D.C. or Baltimore, Shenandoah should top that list.
If you are just passing through, Skyline Drive provides stunning views of the mountains and countless wildlife viewing opportunities. You may even get lucky and catch a glimpse of a black bear on this drive.
Shenandoah very well may be the most spectacular place in the world to see fall foliage. The views are world class!
With over 500 miles of hiking trails, there is one for you, no matter how much time you have to spend in the park.
Trails to consider:
Old Rag – A strenuous hike, plan for at least 8 hours of hiking and scrambling.
Hawksbill Mountain – This trail takes you to the highest point in Shenandoah National Park. The trailhead starts at 3,000 feet though, so don’t worry! The Hawksbill Loop is 3 miles and
receives a “moderate” rating. The view at the top is breathtaking.
Appalachian Trail, Tanners Ridge Road – This hike is a 2.2 mile round trip and is very kid friendly. It takes you through a former homestead on the famous Appalachian Trail.
BEST WATERFALL HIKE
Dark Hollow Falls – This is a short hike with a wonderful payoff. Less than 1 mile to the waterfall, the waterfall runs alongside the trail. The hike back is uphill and could be considered strenuous by some, but worth carving out time for.
Other Favorite Trails: Snead Farm, Little Devils Stairs, Mary’s Rock, Stony Man, Chimney Rock
NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK
3 hours 45 minutes from Beaver
The New River Gorge is certainly familiar to any Beaver resident who has traveled down Route 19 through West Virginia on their way to Myrtle Beach. The New River Gorge Bridge has been nationally acclaimed for years. At 3,030 feet long and completed in 1977, it was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years. To this day, it stands as the 5th longest. This bridge is also tied to our area National Park Service (NPS) app is available on Apple and Android as it was designed by the Michael Baker Company which is based in Pittsburgh.
On the 3rd Saturday in October, Bridge Day takes place at New River Gorge National Park. On this day, the bridge is open to pedestrians as well as BASE jumping. Bridge Day is the largest one-day festival in WV and the largest extreme sports event in the world.
Many locals may not know that part of the COVID-19 relief bill was used to designate the area below and around the New River Gorge bridge as our 63rd National Park.
New River Gorge is one of the most popular rock-climbing areas on the east coast, with over 1,400 established rock climbs. The gorge is also home to some of the best whitewater rafting in the entire country.
The new park covers just over 70,000 acres accessible from various small towns.
Fayetteville, WV is the most popular town around this National Park and offers a vibrant shopping district, fantastic restaurants, and a multitude of lodging options.
You don’t have to be into extreme sports to enjoy this National Park. Fishing, hiking, wildlife watching, and camping opportunities abound there.
The Thurmond to Minden Trail presents an opportunity for a relatively easy hike. It is 6.4 miles round trip, but only 2.5 miles to the main overlook.
The trail provides view of the New River Gorge and also the Thurmond Ghost Town. This town was prosperous during the coal mining boom, but is now abandoned.
A lesser known but certainly worthwhile is the Endless Wall Trail. This trail moderate trail is only 2.4 miles. The Endless Wall Trail offers a taste of the variety the park with paths through forests, along cliff edges, and stunning vistas of the river along the way. A fun addition is being able to hear the voices of the rafters over 1,000 feet below. Countless rock climbers can typically be spotted along the path as well.
Other Favorite Trails: Long Point, Grandview Rim, Sandstone Falls, Glade Creek
Scenic Drive: Fayette Station Tour Road offers a scenic drive teeming with history. A 7.5 mile loop beginning at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, this drive passes rock climbing areas, goes under the Gorge bridge twice, crosses the river, and offers countless photo opportunities. A great addition is to follow the drive while listening to the free audio tour along the way.
WE WANT TO PUBLISH YOUR PHOTOS!
Do you have a photo of you and your family in front of a national park sign, or at an iconic spot in a National Park? Send it to email@example.com. We are hoping to publish a collage in our next issue.