Wild & Wonderful West Virginia…really sounds like a great place, and it is. West Virginia is loaded with waterfalls. I do not know why until this point, I have only made 1 visit into this area. From my location in west-central North Carolina, the waterfalls of West Virginia are the same distance, is some cases closer than the waterfalls of North & South Carolina. This is an exciting discovery for me and my future exploration of new waterfalls. I like to mix it up, and visit different areas. My trip on this late April day was to ride into West Virginia, see one of the most popular, photographed waterfalls in West Virginia, Cathedral Falls, keep heading northeast to Blackwater Falls State Patk, then head back home to North Carolina via a route through Virginia. My route chosen in Virginia came included some nearby waterfall options as well. It would largely depend on time.
First, I had to get to West Virginia. This meant a lot of miles on I-77. All but 20 of the miles were on this scenic, mountain interstate, that includes 2 long tunnels through the mountains. Forget going over, or around the mountains. Up here they just go right through them. Both are between a half mile and a mile long, are well lit, and fairly straight. Once in West Virginia, have some change or small bills on you as there tolls in this state. The first one I experienced was on I-77, then I believe there was another one on US 19. In West Va, I-77 eventually meets I-64 on the south side of Beckley. Stay on I-77/ I-64 until exit 48 to US 19. After 18 miles on US 19 north, make a left onto Beckwith Rd, or WV 16. Follow WV 16 north for 8 miles to US 60. Turn left here, and Cathedral Falls is a roadside waterfall on the right side of the road about a mile or so from the US 60 / WV 16 intersection. You will be right at the small town of Gauley Bridge.
I was expecting some type of hike here, but there was none, just a beautiful, tall, very picturesque waterfall. Cathedral Falls is listed at 60 feet, and with days of rain, was flowing very nicely. Lighting conditions were terrific on this day, and getting a photograph I was happy with was not too difficult. I seldom say this, so this was a quite a gift for me. There are some good photo options from the left side of Cane Creek, also a bridge to cross for more opportunities on the right. With all so the photos I have seen, this is a very popular waterfall, and with its ease of access, I can surely see why. On the left side of the rock “Cathedral” that this waterfall drops into, there are lights posted, I guess making this visible at night. That must be cool to see. As I left here, my original plan was to keep heading north to Blackwater Falls State Park. Being the middle of the afternnoon, with at least 2 hours to go, I scratched this idea and will save this for an overnight trip. I did however notice while driving up, along WV 16, a loud, rushing stream traveling along the highway for most of the trip. There were at least 2 drops that caught my attention. I backtracked and came back to the spot. It had to be. A 20-25 foot waterfall. Getting to it was a challenge.
The spring growth in WV was easily 3-4 weeks behind the piedmont of NC, so this waterfall was clearly visible from WV 16. There was no place to park on this tight, twisty road at the falls , bu downstream a bit, I found a spot that could hold 1 maybe 2 cars and parked. Once at the waterfall, the bank down is steep, and covered in rock gravel that wanted to give way and fall down the bank with every step taken here. It is a spot should be approached with caution. I held onto trees and measured each step befor taking one. After about 2/3 down, I decided that was far enough as a steeper drop was just below me. I had a semi decent view and took some photos. I later learned this to be Laurel Creek Falls. It was very pretty, with a section also dropping to the left just out of the photo. It would be nice to see a trail constructed here, if possible. The other drop was about a mile upstream, but I decided to head back down to US 60 and head east.
This entire area up here is in the New River Gorge area. The highways I traveled were way, way above the New Riiver, there are a few spots to pull off and see the New River way down below that were very nice. This is not the same New River that I canoe and raft down in North Carolina either. Well it is, but it is much larger, with much larger rapids. I have been whitewater rafting down this river several times. It was much different seeing the river from so far above. If you are a white water rafter, this place is heaven by the way. If the large, powerful New River isn’t enough for you, the Gauley River, closeby offers world class rapids this time of year when the dam is released.
As I made my way east along US 60, I did not come across anymore obvious waterfalls. I am sure they were there. I just need to explore more. After many mountainous curves and small towns, US 60 meets I-64 where I continued heading east on I-64 towards Covington, Virginia. Here I took a sidetrip up US 220 north for about 10 miles, to one of my favorite waterfalls, another roadside one called Falling Springs Falls. Lots of rain had this 80 foot beauty raging….
Just as I got these photos, the bottom of the sky fell out and I got soaked. I had made my way down the makeshift trail down towards the base to get some different angles of Falling Springs Falls at the highest volume I had ever seen it. Mother Nature seem to tell me to back off, and back to my car I scrambled. Now, cold and wet…back home I went. I didn’t stop but there was some beautiful scenery along US 220 in Virginia, as it runs through some very rugged terrain along the James River, some more exploring for another day.