Canaan Valley fall foliage draws those from near and far to County Tucker |
Away from town, Tucker County includes more than half the land of National Forest, Federal Wilderness, Fish and Wildlife Sanctuary, and State Park, making the scenic Valley of Canaan, one of the most popular tourist destinations every season of the year, but especially in the fall. the foliage is at its peak.
Although known for its variety of winter sports, the Canaan Valley region also offers a plethora of activities and attractions for those who are native and traveling during the fall months.
West Virginia is the only state fully covered by the Appalachians, according to Chelsea Ruby, commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Tourism.
“This topography sets the stage for a long fall season – starting with foliage changes in our higher elevations, like the Canaan Valley, in late September,” she said. “Every year visitors flock to this region to experience the first fall colors of the season and take advantage of the fall offerings found in the charming mountain towns that dot the valley.”
With endless outdoor adventures and the region’s natural features, visitors from near and far can also discover the charming towns of Davis, Thomas and Parsons, home to cozy pubs, privileged restaurants and eclectic cafes, concert halls and colorful shops and galleries.
The elevation ranges from 3,200 to 4,300 feet, giving the Canaan Valley a cooler climate with freezing temperatures throughout the year.
However, with the cold temperatures, the fall foliage tends to change a bit earlier than in other areas of the state, which can also result in a shorter foliage season, according to Jessica Waldo, executive director of the state. Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It depends on the season and the weather,” she said. “If it stays warm until September, it will be a later fall foliage season. Normally it’s late September to early October and by mid October we are done.
“Tourists come from all over to admire the impressive and colorful displays of the region’s colorful fall foliage every year and with the mountainous backgrounds, visitors can see the colors of fall in several areas,” he said. she declared.
Nestled in the heart of the Canaan Valley in Davis is the 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest, known for its unique northern climate ecosystem and scenic views.
In the wild and picturesque region of Dolly Sods, one can find flora and weather conditions similar to those of Canada, with summer bringing mountain laurel and blueberries.
The Monongahela National Forest comprises 900,000 acres of publicly accessible land, with hiking, biking, camping and rafting. Interpretive hikes are also offered on extensive trail networks.
The Otter Creek Wilderness Area is a 20,000 acre wilderness area with many species of wildlife including black bears, deer, wild turkeys, and grouse.
“We have a lot of protected land with lots of outdoor recreation opportunities, so once someone visits they usually find out that there is so much more to do here,” Waldo said.
Canaan Valley State Park offers amenities including a lounge chair ride, an outdoor pool, and the resort has an 18-hole golf course that recently received a new fleet of golf carts.
One of the best ways to experience fall foliage is by hitchhiking on the ski lifts at Canaan Valley Resort, according to Waldo.
“If you take the chairlift to the top of the ski area, you take the chairlift through the autumn leaves to the top,” she said. “From there you can enjoy the view from the chairlift or take a short hike to Bald Knob, which gives you a wonderful view of the Canaan Valley.”
In addition, in recent years, new trails have been developed for mountain bikers traveling to the Canaan Valley area. As fall approaches, Tucker County officials expect drier trail conditions in September and October.
Since then, the Promised Land Trail, completed in late 2019, has been open for biking, hiking and cross-country skiing, offering 200-foot elevation gain on a 5.5-mile loop trail through the forests of the Appalachians.
With easy access to 50 miles of the Canaan Mountain backcountry, discovering the new Promised Land Trail at Canaan Valley Resort is another way to explore fall foliage.
On September 8, two areas of Canaan Valley Resort State Park became the first designated areas in the West Virginia Natural Areas program.
The West Virginia Natural Areas Program aims to protect areas under the administration and ownership of the West Virginia Natural Resources Division that are of significant natural importance in the conservation of the rarest plant and animal species of the state.
Canaan Valley Resort State Park was selected to receive the inaugural nomination and designation due to the uniqueness of two specific areas within the state park boundaries – the Canaan Valley Wetlands and Bald Knob, as both areas are home to large concentrations of plants and animals requiring conservation. while benefiting from distinctive and special characteristics.
Bald Knob has a rare red spruce forest in the world as well as several species of invertebrates and amphibians in need of conservation.
The Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge is West Virginia’s largest wetland complex at 8,500 acres and is home to wildlife including beavers, minks, herons, ducks, geese and more than 170 species of birds have been reported in the valley, both resident and migratory.
The region is also home to the world’s rare conifer swamps as well as 43 rare plants, 12 rare invertebrate species, and a variety of unique animals.
Additionally, amphibians such as the dusky and red mountain salamanders and pike frogs, as well as reptiles such as the snapping turtle and water snake, are present.
The cold climate combined with tundra-like wetlands make the Canaan Valley diverse, with over 520 species of plants and over 285 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.
In the southern part of the valley, Canaan Valley State Park offers a walk near the nature center, offering visitors the opportunity to walk through the wetland habitats, see yellow birch trees, red spruce trees, and wild trees. mountain bog plants.
The Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge offers interpretive hikes and bird watching, with limited hunting and fishing opportunities.
Just a few miles from the Canaan Valley is Blackwater Falls State Park, a must-see destination as the amber colors come alive in the fall.
Located in the Allegheny Mountains of County Tucker, Blackwater Falls State Park is named after the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a ’57 foot waterfall tinged with the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and spruce needles. red, ”according to the state park’s website.
“The area in and around Blackwater Falls State Park offers some of the most varied fall views in the area,” Waldo said. “It’s really cool to see the different fall foliage when you look up high. Some of the colors may change faster at the top, and as you descend in altitude some of the lower sections may still be green. It’s just a nice perspective of how the foliage changes.
Blackwater Falls State Park is the main attraction in Tucker County, which receives about 800,000 visitors a year, Waldo said.
“It’s a great destination for day trippers or overnight guests,” she said. “You can spend several days in the park visiting all the different attractions like Lindy Point, Elakala Falls and the 20 miles of hiking trails, or you can make it a nice day trip with easy access to the trails. falls. ”
With accessible fall viewing areas for people with disabilities, Waldo said the park is diverse and a natural place for any age or anyone looking for something to do outdoors.
In addition to the Canaan Valley Resort, there are many lodging and lodging options, Waldo said, including rental properties, lodges and cabins in state parks, campgrounds, and guesthouses. expanding hosts.
“We have always been a premier vacation rental destination. Airbnb is definitely an option, but there are plenty of family vacation homes, condos, or small cabins for rent, ”she said. “Then you have a choice of a few guesthouses in the small towns of Davis and Thomas. Then some more affordable accommodations could be some of our smaller motels.
Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, vacations in Canaan Valley became even more popular, according to Jenni Ray, owner of Canaan Realty.
Ray said that last year she saw several families cancel their beach and cruise vacations and come to the mountains instead.
“Taking a trip to Canaan is more affordable, you can do it more often than taking a beach vacation and there is so much variety in the things you can do here,” she said.
“We really see how much of a destination we are, and people are taking the opportunity to start more affordable vacations, get away from it all and unplug, especially during the pandemic,” she said.
The twin towns of Davis and Thomas offer the best in dining options, pubs with live music, multiple art venues and a friendly atmosphere.
With the October fall foliage, additional visitors have come for those keen to see the colors change on the leaves and in the canyon, Waldo said.
“It usually depends on the weather, but we’ll start to see the changes anytime now,” she said.
As visitors anticipate the fall foliage in the canyon and state park, Waldo said updates will be provided on their “Tucker County, West Virginia” Facebook page and on their website at l ‘www.canaanvalley.org.