Tucker County, West Virginia

I recently got the opportunity to show 5 friends from all over the US around my favorite place in West Virginia, Tucker County.


An adventurous reunion of sorts, in a wild place fit for just the thing. We all rolled in from our different regions and kicked the trip off around a campfire. One by one friends joined, each and every one of us noting the chilly air and dark skies before we even got the chance to begin our catching up. 


In order to get the most out of our long weekend, we set out in the wee dark hours of the morning up a long winding gravel road through Dolly Sodds to take on a hike at Bear Rocks Preserve. The road weaved through hollers and dense spruce forests before the skies opened up to the last of the evening’s stars. The dawn gave just enough light for us to find our way. For a June morning we could not believe how chilly it was up there. Everyone gathered around the Jetboil for some hot coffee and breakfast while we waited for the sun to crest over the horizon. When it finally did, we warmed right up. On our way back from that loop, the morning sun was lighting up an endless horizon of azalea blooms one trail down at Red Creek. It was a no-brainer to continue our walk just a bit longer!

Dolly sods was something special. Most of us had not realized how vast this place was and we all voted to come back and backpack sometime sooner than later. But we had an exciting next stop to make–back down the mountain to Blackwater Bikes to rent a few sets of wheels and pedal over to the Camp 70 trail system just outside of town. A local friend Brian, joined us and the crew got to tag along on a few loops then test our abilities at the skills park all before lunch time. 

The Blackwater River runs slow and steady just beside the trails before it carves out its famous canyon. Its headwaters start above 3000 feet, making it nice and cool–just how I like it after I’ve broken a sweat on the trail and it’s time for a dip. I’m a huge fan when a trail system is near some fishable waters. Half of our crew would continue to ride while the other half suited up for some fly fishing. 

We found ourselves wet wading and casting dry flies to some curious trout. Keep your eyes peeled and you may even catch a glimpse of one of their rare golden rainbow trout. The river also hosts rainbow, brook, and browns. If it wasn’t an Elk hair caddis on top they were interested in, it seemed to be a tiny little midge 20 inches below it that did the trick. Streamers would certainly be a great bet out here too, but how can one deny the joy of top water action if the weather calls for it? After a few hours of exploring the water, it was time to tie something else on. We like to play a fun game where whoever had caught the least amount of fish has to buy the first round.


We aimed for Stumptown Ales and caught up with the rest of the crew to cash in. Once you’ve quenched your thirst and your belly starts growling, what’s the next move? 

Tacos. Possibly one of the best post adventure meals is tacos, and the folks at Picnic Tacos sure have them figured out. Just a hop skip and a jump over from Davis, they reside in Thomas, WV. Both towns to me are equally as awesome, filled with artists and outdoor lovers alike, we felt right at home. Our crew explored the shops of Thomas, sending some postcards back to our loved ones while we took in the town. Just as most of the shops seemed to reach closing time, the energy and footsteps of the town all started to shuffle towards one place: The Purple Fiddle. I have one rule for visiting this town. It doesn’t matter if you are only there for one night. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you love the genre of the band playing that evening. GO. Go to the Purple Fiddle. The owner has such a passion for music and seems to have an incredible knack for booking great bands. I watched as my friends smiled and moved to the music. We befriended some locals, finding out one was an artist who made the very postcards we had purchased. There wasn’t a peep in the cabin that evening, every soul slept satisfied as can be. 

The next morning we would be getting our elbows a bit dirtier. We chose to drop into the canyon at an unnamed location and fish the bottom of it. The river drops over 1500 feet throughout the canyon and the walls of the canyon are incredibly steep. Know and understand topography and off trail travel before attempting anything like this. It’s never a bad idea to hire a local guide and have them show you a section if you are unfamiliar. This section did not feel related to the other end of the river we had got to know prior. This cascading canyon was something truly wild and hosted a remote feeling. Plunge pool after plunge pool separated by small falls and quick runs had us swapping in between our nymph rigs and our dry fly rods. We leap frogged our way up the canyon meeting some gorgeous brown trout and a few colorful native brookies. The bug of the day was a stonefly. Once we met the infamous Blackwater Falls, we packed our rods and headed up into the park.

There are many “runs” that fill the canyon. We took the Elekala Trail along Shay’s Run to hit a few more waterfalls on our way up. This fairy tale-like drainage had lots of shade, moss and ferns lining its walls. After a late lunch, it was time to keep climbing. Our next stop was out to Lindy Point for a sunset hike. Our group gained a whole new appreciation for the canyon from this cliff band. It was a wild feeling to think we were way down below just hours before. The mighty river seemed quite peaceful from up here as we took in the end of a good day. However, it wasn’t over yet. Such a grueling day demanded a feast. 

Just outside the park waits the Billy, a fun hotel that hosts its own cocktail lounge and tapas restaurant. The food and drink menu are both something you wouldn’t expect to find in a small mountain town. We ordered a slew of shared plates and cocktails to go around. The bartender remembered me from a few years prior and the owner came over to chat with us and check on our food. I just love that small town kind of friendliness. Another round of shared plates and cocktails were all enjoyed largely by the crew before we closed out and retreated to our cabin. 


We finally acted like we were on vacation the final morning and enjoyed a slow morning filled with endless pots of coffee and board games, pretending like most of us didn’t have to leave that afternoon. We all hugged and said our goodbyes, but before I pointed my truck back south again I wanted to check out one more area. When looking down on the Canyon from Lindy, we could see another fork of the river. I was told it hosted a few waterfalls and wanted to stretch my legs before the long drive home. Maybe I just didn’t want to leave? 


We strolled with our pups along the calm canyons rail trail hopping off to see 4 different sets of falls. Albert, Teresa, Douglas and Kennedy were all beautiful in their own regard. These particular falls are not swimming friendly because of some nearby old coal mines, so be sure to just enjoy them with your eyes! With this newest trail off my to do list we’d slowly start making our way back home, stopping in Seneca to break the night up at our pals Fourth Moon camp. I smiled leaving the state, thinking we all fully understood why they call it Wild, Wonderful West Virginia now.


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