Sledding at Blackwater Falls is one of the recent adventures we are not soon to forget. We want to show you how awesome and surprisingly beautiful a Blackwater Falls sledding trip can be.
Blackwater Falls State Park is a canyon in eastern West Virginia in the Monongahela National Forest. There are several waterfalls throughout the park and a breathtaking chasm carved by the Blackwater River.
The natural beauty is reason enough to visit the park but in the cold winter months a new reason emerges – sledding!
This isn’t your basic backyard trip down the hill. You can expect a heart-racing quarter mile dash down a mountain slope. It’s exhilarating and, if you go at the right time, beautiful.
Planning your Blackwater Falls Sledding Trip
Sledding at Blackwater Falls is usually available from late December to early March. You can stay up to date with changes on their website. While you can purchase tickets in person, purchasing tickets online prior to your visit is strongly encouraged to ensure you get a spot.
Sledding at Blackwater Falls
Sledding times are broken down into two-hour blocks: 10am – 12pm, 1pm – 3pm, and 4pm – 6pm. The cost is $25 for a weekday and $30 for weekends. Children under 5 are free with their parent’s ticket purchase.
When we arrived at the Nordic Center I stood nervously staring up at the mountain we were to sled down thinking about the difficult walk back up. Carrie laughed at me after I told her wasn’t sure how many times I could walk up the mountain before pointing out there was a conveyor belt that shuttles you to the top.
After checking-in and a brief safety meeting, you pile into your sled ride to the top. The lift up takes several minutes and is easier to take lying down.
The ride down is fast and fun and braking at the bottom is interesting. It took a couple tries before I was able to stop without a face full of snow. You have to use your feet to brake at the end just don’t dig your heels in too much, trust me.
Kids under 10 should ride with their parents and very young children may be surprised by the wind rushing in their faces. The sleds are large enough to put your child in front of you.
The staff gives all the tips you need to not go flying off into the forest or careening through the crowd at the bottom, just pay attention and do what they say.
In the two hour block, I rode down six times which felt like the perfect amount. I also took a break in the middle to huddle around the fire pit to warm up.
It was fun and the last trip down was the unexpected best part.
Which time slot should you choose for sledding
The entire time we were sledding I was focused on the mountain, but as the day shifted to night I started to notice the pink fading light fill the sky. The final ride down was by far the best.
Many people had already stopped riding and the line was short. Lights lined the border of the wide track and the surrounding forest.
This was the highlight of the entire trip for me. Racing down the mountain enveloped by the coral light watching the sun fade was stunning.
What to wear for Sledding at Blackwater Falls
The best things to wear are snow pants, boots, and a warm winter coat. If you don’t have snow pants or a proper puffy coat you can do without. I did and I was cold with a wet butt but I still had fun.
It would have more comfortable for me if I had better clothing. If you were on the fence about upgrading your winter wardrobe this is a good excuse. I think young children would be pretty miserable if they didn’t have proper snow gear.
I saw a few people wearing goggles, I didn’t feel that was necessary but I could see the need for sunglasses on a bright day.
Lodging at Blackwater Falls
Unless you live near Blackwater Falls, you may need lodging for your visit. Blackwater Lodge is a fantastic place to stay and make the most of your visit.
You can expect to pay between $130 to $220 per night depending on when you visit and what amenities you want. We found the rooms to be very comfortable and the beds were just the right medicine for our happy tired bodies. You can book or check the rates for state park here.
If you are looking for a more private visit you can instead rent a four or eight person cabin. The four person cabins are better suited for a short visit while the eight person cabin, complete with a full kitchen and dishwater, is best for longer visits. Cost per night is more for the cabins but nothing extreme. You can check the rates and availability for the cabins here.
Restaurants and shops at Blackwater Falls and nearby
In addition to comfortable beds and warm rooms, the lodge has a gift shop and an onsite restaurant, The Smokehouse at Blackwater Falls.
The Smokehouse has a small breakfast menu weekdays and a breakfast buffet on weekends and full lunch and dinner menus. You can check their hours and menu on the parks website.
We had the breakfast buffet and dinner at The Smokehouse and it was superb. Prices are similar to most casual dining restaurants and service was friendly and efficient.
Besides the small store in the lodge, there is another larger gift shop called the Blackwater Falls Trading Company. You can find the usual gift shop fare at the Blackwater Falls Trading Company, but also some local jams and crafts for sale.
Restaurants in Davis, West Virginia
Davis is a nearby town only five minutes from Blackwater Falls State Park. Davis is a nice small mountain town. You can easily find a great restaurant to eat at in Davis if you don’t want the Smokehouse.
We are pizza lovers and it’s never a complete trip unless we have some delicious pie. We tried Sirianni’s and it was tasty. You can find a list of the popular restaurants in Davis here.
Other things to look forward to at Blackwater Falls
Blackwater Falls State Park is a beautiful park and a visit without taking in some of the canyon or waterfalls is unfortunate. The park is chock full of easy hikes and easy to access natural beauty.
There are 21 listed hikes at Blackwater Falls. With the exception of the Allegheny Trail, all the trails are less than a mile and a half. During most of the year, it may be good to go on any number of them.
In winter, much of the beautiful foliage is dormant, still there are a few that remain stunning.
Blackwater Falls Boardwalk Trail and Gentle Trail
These two trails both go to overlooks where you can view Blackwater Falls.
The Boardwalk trail, in our opinion, was the more impressive overlook it is also a more difficult hike.
Parking for the boardwalk trail is found at the Blackwater Falls Trading Company. The hike is a little less than half a mile and the walk to the overlook is very easy.
The walk back is more of a challenge. You will climb approximately 200 steps on your trip back up, but the view is worth it.
There are two separate overlooks on the boardwalk both are great for seeing the powerful waterfall. It had been relatively warm when we visited in February, but despite the warmer weather there was still ice on part of the boardwalk near the waterfall.
If you are unsure about walking across the boardwalk system, you can instead head to the Gentle Trail.
The Gentle Trail is, as the name suggests, a gentle walk on a flat trail. I was surprised at how easy and fast it was. It took just a couple minutes to reach the overlook and we still had a great view of the waterfall.
This is a better option if you are bringing small children or are wanting to avoid the stairs at the boardwalk trail.
You can access the Elakala Trail from the Blackwater Lodge parking area. The trail winds through the forest and intersects with Shay’s Run, a runoff spur from the Blackwater River. This overflow stream carves down the steep mountain.
Along the trail you cross over Shay’s Run on a wide footbridge. When you eventually reach the base of the waterfall it is quite pretty.
While we explored around the area we ran across someone more familiar with the area and he informed us that there are multiple drops along the stream. We continued to one more waterfall drop that required a bit of rock scrambling.
The view wasn’t as impressive as the top waterfall but it was a nice addition. It’s recommended that only very experienced hikers continue on to look for the lower falls.
If it’s been very snowy or icy, getting to the base of Elakala Falls can be difficult. There was some ice when we visited but nothing terribly dangerous.
Lindy Point Trail
Lindy Point is one of the best spots to view the canyon at Blackwater Falls. The road to Lindy Point shifts to gravel and the parking area is small with only enough room for a few cars.
Just beyond the parking area, there is a sign warning that the road should only be navigated by vehicles with 4-wheel drive.
The walk to Lindy Point is fairly easy. There isn’t any indication that the coming overlook is so vast as you meander through the rhododendron forest.
The view is enormous and worth the short hike. You can hear the river echoing through the chasm and see mountains fading far into the distance.
Driving and Overlooks at Blackwater Falls State Park
We love hiking and getting out into nature. In winter that’s not always an option. If you are visiting on one of those winter weekends, fear not. You can still enjoy the beauty of the park from the overlooks you can reach with your car.
There are three main roads through the park: Blackwater Falls Rd, Blackwater Lodge Rd, and Canaan Loop Rd. Getting around the park is pretty easy. We’ve been to parks around the nation and I am uniquely capable of getting lost without my steadfast navigating, and exasperated, wife. Even I could find my way through the park.
Overlook and Viewing areas
The main overlook areas that are accessible without hiking are Pendleton Point and the viewing area from the rear of the lodge.
These two viewing areas are on opposite sides of Blackwater River. During winter, the surrounding mountains are mostly barren but the beautiful view of the canyon remains.
In addition to the two main viewing areas, there are multiple unnamed pull off areas along the roadway.
During our visit we were hoping to catch a beautiful sunrise and sunset. While we were treated to an amazing sunset at the sledding area, we still went searching for another great spot.
You can view sunrise from several of the roadway overlooks as well as Pendleton Point but also from the overlook at the lodge. We got up and drove around to multiple overlooks trying to find the best spot. What became apparent was that the view from the lodge is very good.
At the lodge there are multiple viewing areas edging the property along the canyon rim.
It was very easy to find a great spot to view sunset. Pendleton Point is one of the best spots to view sunset, as well as many of the pull off areas.
Lindy Point might be the best spot to view sunset in the park. You’ll need a flashlight and warm clothes for the walk.
How long should your visit be?
We felt like we took in everything we wanted by arriving early enough do some hiking before our sledding time slot and staying overnight at the lodge. If it were a different season, I could see staying for three or four days to take in more of the park.
In winter there is less motivation for a long stay. One day felt like plenty of time for the Blackwater Falls sledding and hiking experience we wanted.
Other things to do in the area
As we mentioned earlier, the town of Davis is just a few minutes outside of the park and is a great place to shop and grab some tasty food.
If you want to spend some time in the area, but don’t want to stay at the park, you can look into staying at Canaan Valley Resort. You can find rooms and cabins to rent as well as skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. The resort is about 20 minutes from Blackwater Falls State Park.
Seneca Rocks is another recreation area worth considering, although it may be better in another season for a hiking trip to the top. Seneca Rocks is about 45 minutes from the Blackwater Falls.
The final place worth mentioning is Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. It’s about an hour from Blackwater Falls and a very unique place. You can find a very oddly placed tundra. It’s a beautiful area to visit and one we are excited to return to. If you are going to visit in winter make sure you are aware of the weather.
If you are looking for other things to consider doing in winter we have a few other ideas that you might want to look into.