Don’t Overlook the Overlooks
West Virginia’s state parks and forests trail system sometimes includes an overlook or scenic view along the way that are as timeless as they are beautiful. These special views, located at many areas throughout the trail system, have been visited and adored over dozens of decades, long before parks were even developed.
Just like any good thing, overlooks reveal their magnificent beauty over time. Seasonal changes adorn the everchanging terrain showing high ridges, hidden streams, habitats and vast meadows or lush forests. Overlooks invite each visitor to simply pause for a moment and take in the stunning scenery that can only be enjoyed to the fullest extent at an outlook or tower.
On a Clear Day – Breathtaking Views
Fifteen areas around the state have overlooks with the best views of the Appalachian Mountains, ridges, valleys, and often streams that are part of the state parks and forests. Each one exhibits a different piece of Appalachia; one page out of an endless book that paints the colorful and never-ending story of Almost Heaven to all who are willing to listen.
You can discover these overlooks when hiking or exploring the following areas:
- Babcock State Park: Manns Creek
- Blackwater Falls State Park: Elakala Falls, Lindy Point, Pendleton Point Overlook, and the Overlook at Blackwater Falls Lodge
- Canaan Valley Resort State Park: Be sure to take the chair lift to the top of Cheat Mountain for a bird’s-eye-view of the expansive valley
- Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park: Pillow Rapids Overlook, Copperhead Overlook, and Picnic Overlook
- Cass Scenic Railroad State Park: Whittaker Station and Bald Knob
- Coopers Rock State Forest: Coopers Rock Overlook
- Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park (West Virginia’s oldest state park): Droop Mountain Tower
- Greenbrier State Forest: Kate’s Mountain Overlook
- Hawks Nest State Park: Historic area overlooks to the New River and Hawks Nest Lodge; Lodge overlook where the aerial tram is located
- Holly River State Park: Holly River Outlook (located on the left fork of Holly River)
- Kumbrabow State Forest: Ravens Rock
- Lost River State Park: Cranny Crow
- Pinnacle Rock State Park: Pinnacle Rock Overlook
- Pipestem Resort State Park: Bolar Observation Tower, Bluestone Overlook near the lodge, Cardinal Deck at the lodge, and any gorge-view room at McKeever Lodge.
- Twin Falls Resort State Park: Canada Cliffs, Buzzard Cliffs, Marsh Fork Falls, and Black Fork Falls
- Watoga State Park: Anne Bailey Fire Tower and T.M. Cheek Memorial Overlook
Every state park and forest has its own unique story to tell. Step out on an overlook, listen closely, and you’ll be able to hear tales of earlier days, historical events, and hidden places where people and nature collide for one, breathtaking moment in time.
Cranny Crow Overlook is in the 3,712-acre Lost River State Park in Hardy County. While the origins of the name are unknown, it may either refer to the rock fissures or, according to one archaic reference, the whistling sound of the wind. In order to reach the 3,200-foot elevation overlook, one must embark on a vigorous 1 ½ mile hike up White Oak Trail, the most frequently used trail in the entire park.
Halfway up the slope, stop and take a quick break at a stone shelter built by the Civilization Conservation Corps (a New Deal program started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a way to create jobs during the Great Depression) in the 1930s. Seated on the overlook is a picturesque stone shelter, providing scenic views of Virginia and West Virginia complete with dense strands of oaks and maples on the wooded mountaintops. When the leaves begin to fall in autumn you can see all the way to the cleared fields of West Virginia farms.
Worthy of Words
Hawks Nest Overlook in the historic area of Hawks Nest State Park is noted in many historical documents from the early frontier times. Wagon coaches once stopped here for a rest period after traveling across the mountain. The overlook was once called Marshall’s Pillar, named for John Marshall, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court during the 1800s. According to locals, Justice Marshall actually measured the elevation of the rock cliff by determining the temperature at which water boiled.
This overlook is the perfect place for birdwatching enthusiasts. Hawks – red tail, broad wing, and kestrels – can often be seen soaring over forests of oak and hickory, highlighted with hemlock and Virginia pine. In autumn, there is a brilliant display of fall colors, making this view one of the most photographed in the entire state.
The New River Canyon is another spectacular view that is often enhanced by the sound of trains and whistles blowing as they cross the Hawks Nest railroad bridge. It is also a vantage point for looking down into the Hawks Nest Tunnel and Dam.
Hawks Nest State Park covers approximately 276 acres, and the New River Gorge National River forms the peaceful Hawks Nest Lake. Reaching an elevation of 1,257 feet above sea level, the outlook rises an impressive 750 feet above the lake.
Overlooked Scenic Opportunity
Not considered a traditional definition of overlook, visitors will find the large patio at Tygart Lake State Park lodge nothing short of inspirational. Neither a hike nor a climb, visitors simply walk out of the state park lodge to face Tygart Lake, West Virginia’s 4th largest body of water (covering an area of roughly 1,750 acres). This vantage point really knows what it means to save the best part for last, as the sunsets here are absolutely breathtaking.
You can find trail maps and destinations, activities, nature centers, museums, fishing and more at WVstateparks.com. Conversations with park staff provides a greater understanding of each park and forest, as well as inside information on the overlooks, streams, and special places that you will want to explore during your visit.
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