Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
800.00 ft (243.84 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
9.00 mi (14.48 km)
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.

This hike hits the very best of Babcock State Park's rugged natural splendor. Manns Creek Waterfall and numerous other cascades rumble along Manns and Glade Creek. The iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill makes a great place at the halfway point to stop for lunch. There are long stretches of lush green forest with few to no hikers that offer a deep feeling of solitude. A swinging bridge over the roaring Glade Creek and trails that weave their way through the giant boulders and eroded cliffs of the hard local Nuttall sandstone add variety the intense greens of the deep gorges. There are vistas along Skyline Trail, where there is no sign of any human influence. The dense thickets of rhododendron are truly spectacular when in bloom, typically around mid-May.

The route works by connecting several trails together along with some short sections on the park's lightly traveled roads. It starts at the main campground and links the Narrow Gauge, the Old Sewell Road, Skyline, and the Twin Hollow Trails. The short places you have to walk on the park's roads are near the park's two cabin areas, the Manns Creek picnic area and by the campground.

This is a moderately hard loop hike of 9 miles with about 800 feet of elevation gain. In general, the trail tread is good, but there have been several washouts over the decades that require short but steep bypasses. No scrambling is needed. Also, Skyline Trail has one 0.2-mile section that has steps and a steep climb.

From the campground, pass sites 39 and 40 and the overflow parking to take the service/back road between the campground and the cabins toward the park headquarters. After a short, quick descent, you will cross Manns Creek. Here the creek is slow and meandering. Turn right onto the Narrow Gauge Trail. The trail follows the path of the old narrow gauge train that connected to the main rail lines at the bottom of New River Gorge to the towns at the top. It doubles as a service road for a few hundred yards and then turns into a delightful, gradual descent to the bottom.

You will soon hear the Manns Fall on the right. Stop and drop down the riverbank and explore this triple cascade. As you continue along Narrow Gauge Trail, the creek quickly falls away from the trail. In high water, you will never be out of earshot of Manns Creek. There are two washouts along the path where the old rail bed has been washed away. Short sections of harder and steeper trail lead you around the washouts. On the descent, you will pass Rocky Trail, a short but steep cutoff trail that connects Narrow Gauge and Skyline trails.

Narrow Gauge trail never meets Manns Creek. Instead, it loops around the ridge, enters the Glade Creek watershed, and continues descending until it finally meets up with Glade Creek. Enjoy the gradual change of the plant mix and the numerous sandstone outcrops as you descend along the entire trail.

At Glade Creek, there is a swinging bridge built on the old railroad bridge abutments. These are the few substantial remains of the old railroad. As you cross the swinging bridge, you can see how the power of Glade creek collapsed one of the massive abutments on the left. On the right, you see the steepness of Glade Creek as it plunges into a stunning trail-less area below the bridge. During fall foliage, this is an ideal spot for "slow shutter, moving water" photos. Few of the crowds up by the Grist Mill make the hike down here, so solitude is common.

Continue through the lush green forest until Narrow Gauge Trail intercepts the Old Sewell Road Trail. Take a sharp left to continue along the loop and begin the gradual ascent up Old Sewell Road Trail. Soon the trail passes through a gate, where it becomes the narrow, lightly traveled, paved park road that provides car access to the cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) along the Glade Creek. Continue, and after a final bend, one of West Virginia's most photographed views of the Glade Creek Grist Mill and Glade Creek Falls will suddenly appear. Even with the crowds, the mill is worth exploring along with the stone park headquarters built by the CCC.

Follow the main park road around to the left. Take the first left at the small road that takes you down past the rest of the CCC cabins along Glade Creek. Near Cabin 5, begin the short, steep ascent on Skyline Trail through the rhododendrons. Quickly the trail levels out into a more gradual climb up through the periodic sandstone outcroppings. There are occasional views along the ridge of the rugged, isolated sections of the Glade Creek watershed. In the fall, the colors can be awesome. You will pass the upper end of Rocky Trail that you saw below. Stay on Skyline, which gets even prettier as it meanders along the ridge and in and out of the sandstone.

Skyline Trail ends near the park's Manns Picnic Ground. Follow the park road past the newer park rental “economy cabins” and pick up the service road back toward the campground where you started. When you see the Twin Hollow Mountain Biking Trail take off from the left, follow it to avoid the road. It is a beautiful trail through an open forest floor filled with ferns. Too soon the trail rejoins the service road, which now has to be followed past the Narrow Gauge Trailhead and back to the campground.

Since this is a complex route, the best map for this hike is the Babcock State Park's "Pocket Park Guide." Even at its small scale, it accurately shows all the trails and park roads. Additionally, if you are not staying at the campground, you can start this loop at the parking lot at the park's headquarters. You will only miss the short section from the campground down to the trailhead of Narrow Gauge Trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Campsite fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Hikes to the best Babcock State Park offers. Solitude deep in the gorges.

Cons

Crowds near the Grist Mill.

Trailhead Elevation

2,350.00 ft (716.28 m)

Highest point

2,530.00 ft (771.14 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Historically significant
Waterfalls
Wildlife
Flushing toilets
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Lodging + Camping

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