Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Guided tours
No
Backcountry camping
No
Lodging
No
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Blackwater State Park grew from a series of land transfers in the early 1930s into a small 446-acre state park in 1937 to protect its namesake, the extraordinary 62-foot Blackwater Falls. As the Blackwater River flows slowly out of the flat meandering Canaan Valley, its gradient and speed increases, cutting through the soft upper soil until reaching the hard Connoquenessing sandstone near the canyon entrance to the Blackwater Canyon. Here the river changes character from a meandering river to a roaring series of nearly continuous cascades and falls. From the 62-foot Blackwater Falls to the confluence with Dry Fork, the river tumbles about 1,250 feet over 8 miles. The bottom of the canyon is remote, there are no trails, and it is difficult to access. Black bears, whitetail deer and timber rattlesnakes abound. 

Over the decades the park grew into the 2,358-acre “destination” state park, increasing protection to the three Elakala waterfalls and the Pendelton Falls as well as protecting some of the side streams flowing into the Blackwater Canyon. 

Blackwater Canyon is re-born from the environmental devastation of the late 19th and early 20th century. It was mined, clear cut, and in some areas burned literally to the ground in less than 50 years - creating the typical boom and bust economic cycle of extraction industries that leaves areas poorer than when they started. Though the Monongahela National Forest was created to help the area heal and the state park to protect the falls, the area is still at risk due to a large tract of land on the north side of Blackwater Canyon being in the private hands of Allegheny Wood Products with potential for development. Check online for articles on Blackwater Canyon and Canaan Valley for a more complete history of the canyon, its exploitation, history, and the rise and fall of the nearby company towns of Thomas and Davis. 

As a destination park, it has a lodge, cabins, and large campground for food and lodging. It also supports a series of short, easy trails to visit the most popular areas of the park. All but a few are family friendly. Most of the trails are available for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the winter. The park also has a popular sledding run open in the winter. 

There are several hikes at the two Blackwater Falls overlooks and the short hike to Elakala Falls. None of these hikes provide solitude, but they do provide stunning overlooks to beautiful waterfalls. The main Blackwater Falls overlook starts at the state park Trading Post and gift shop. There is a well-maintained path, boardwalk, and lots of steps to take you to several to vantage points for the falls. It is important to stay on the official walkways because Blackwater Falls is very powerful and dangerous, especially at high water. 

The second easy leg stretcher hike is at the overlook of the Blackwater Falls that is on the other side of the Blackwater River along the road to the Blackwater Lodge. It is a short, level, easy walk to an overlook high over the falls. There is another faint trail to the falls, but a strong word of caution is required. Summarizing the strongly worded caution sign posted by the park for this trail: It is a short trail, but a very steep drop, on a narrow, hard-to-follow tread that requires strength and balance. Once at the bottom, you have to rock hop to get close to the falls. You are not allowed to swim down there. In high water, it is probably not passable down there. The short climb out also requires strength and stamina. This is the only trail that goes to the bottom of the canyon. And once down there, there are no trails. It is really rough, but it gets you to the base of Blackwater Falls.  

From the Blackwater Falls overlook parking lot, continue along the road to the main lodge if you want to do the short hike to Elakala Falls. The trailhead is on the left end of the parking lot facing the lodge (west side of the parking lot). Follow the trail for a couple of hundred yards, cross the bridge, and look down on the falls, which are stunning! Actual access to the base of the falls is possible by continuing across the bridge, but this requires a steep, short, slippery climb. Access to the two additional falls below Elakala requires bushwacking and is not recommended. Use caution to go down to the base of the first falls.  

There are two other slightly longer hikes to two different overlooks of the remote Blackwater Canyon, Lindy and Pase Point. Both are easy hikes, and in the winter they are easy cross-country ski or snowshoe hikes. Both offer great view and opportunities to enjoy great sunsets. Check here for the state park’s hiking trails and map.

Geographically, Blackwater Canyon starts at the Blackwater Falls. From the falls, the canyon flows westward, drops steeply, and is filled with Class IV and V+ rapids in the upper canyon and Class III-IV rapids in the lower canyon. 

Blackwater State Park offers access to the remote backcountry of the Canaan Loop Road area of Monongahela National Forest and a long trail to the Canaan Valley State Park, both via the Allegheny Trail that passes through Blackwater State Park. The best references for this area are Purple Lizard’s “Dolly Sods and Seneca Rocks” map. It is weather resistant, accurate, and covers much of the best areas in the northeastern sections of the Monongahela National Forest. Another great source of information for surrounding areas are Bruce Sundquist’s guide book, “Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide,” now in its eighth edition.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Pretty state park with a stunning river and beautiful set of waterfalls.

Cons

Can be crowded.

Features

ADA accessible
General store
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Family friendly
Flushing toilets
Rental facilities
Geologically significant
Dump stations
Picnic tables
Near lake or river

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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