Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2015 - 10
Elakala Falls Trek
The popular Blackwater Falls State
Park has another falls. Here's a
5.5-mile circuit to include this
Text and photos by Leonard Adkins
"Do you know ThE park has another great waterfall?"
That was the response I received from Blackwater Falls
State Park's (now former) Naturalist, Marilyn Aikman. I
had lamented that I wanted to include an outing in the
park to the falls in "50 Hikes in West Virginia," but both
trails to it were so short that I couldn't justify them as
She went on to explain that Elakala Falls, while not
as high or as wide as Blackwater Falls, was worthy of
being included in the book. She also said it, too, could
be reached by a hike of 10 minutes, but then laid out a
circuit hike of 5.5 miles that starts at the lodge, takes in
some of the park's best scenery and small environments
- and still delivers the hiker in to the falls.
The state park sits high on the Allegheny Plateau and
receives more than 150 inches of snow annually.
Summers are usually cool, so the setting appears to be
more from Canada than from the Middle Atlantic states.
Pathways wind through a landscape of spruce, beech,
birch and fir trees that grow above an understory of lush
rhododendron thickets, blueberry bushes and mossy
To begin the outing, walk back out the lodge parking
lot entrance road, turn right, and bear left into the woods
on the Yellow Birch Trail. The yellow birch survives in
West Virginia by growing above 3,000 feet in elevation
and has a peeling bark like the paper birch, but is more
of a yellow to silvery gray as opposed to the creamy white
of the paper birch.
Upon reaching the barn road at 1 mile, turn right,
ascend the road, walk to the left of the building and
make another right onto the Red Spruce Riding Trail
where a red squirrel may run across the path in its search
for food or scold you for daring to walk through its
Red squirrels, also known as fairy diddles in this part
of West Virginia (although the name has also been
applied to northern and southern flying squirrels), are
very territorial, and are quick to show their anger at
intruders by stamping feet, jerking tails and releasing
loud chucks, barks, squeaks, spits, growls and chatter.
This bridge crosses a tributary of Shay Run at about 1.9 miles through
the hike, only about half a mile from Balanced Rock.
When you go
Elakala Falls Hike
The Hike: A moderately-easy 5.5
mile circuit (there is a total vertical
rise only 535 feet) hike to Elakala
Getting There: From US 219 and
US 33 in Elkins, West Virginia, drive
north on US 219 for 35 miles, turn
right on WV 32, continue another 2.4 miles, turn right onto
Blackwater Falls Road (WV 29) and enter the park in .9 mile.
Stay left in .3 mile and pull into the lodge parking area about
a mile later. If coming from the east in Virginia, take I-81 Exit
296 at Strasburg and follow VA 55W for 14.3 miles where it
becomes WV 55. Continue 28.7 miles, stay straight on US 48
W for 26.2 miles to Bismarck and begin following WV 93 for
16.8 miles. Turn left onto WV 32 and almost immediately
turn right onto WV 29. Enter the park in an additional .9
mile. (Note: It is anticipated that US 48 from Bismarck to WV
32 will be completed in late 2015).
Trail Information: "50 Hikes in West Virginia" (available
through www.habitualhiker.com) provides details and a topographic map for the hike. A map of the park's trail system
may be obtained at the lodge.
Although protective of its own domain, a red squirrel is
not above raiding others' property to obtain bird eggs
or a hiker's snack foods.
The hike crosses a tributary of Shay Run on a footbridge at 1.9 miles, but at 2 miles, turn left onto the
Balanced Rock Trail and stay left again at the next intersection at 2.4 miles. Less than 400 feet later, arrive at
Balanced Rock, a large sandstone boulder sitting atop a
smaller rock. Scenes such as this are common farther
north, where glaciers pushed many rocks over top of one