The Beall Trails
The Beall Trails are a relatively short and flat figure-eight series of trails in Canaan Valley, West Virginia that provide open areas for viewing wildlife and a scenic walk along the Blackwater River.
This figure-eight loop trail was a great way to experience some early fall weather and scenery. This trail doesn’t have a lot of elevation change, so it is doable by most people. It is also a birdwatchers paradise if you hit the trail in the early morning. The open fields and nearby Blackwater River make this an active spot for birds. Here is a checklist of birds you may see in this area.
We parked at the parking lot and started by taking the South Beall trail. The trail started off cut through grass. There are a couple of signs that point to the left, but stay straight on the trail. Eventually, you will approach an area that is wooded. There is a sign here for a handicapped hunting shed, that hunters use for deer hunting. The trail begins to loop away to the left near the sign and begins to descend towards the Blackwater River. The trail hugs closely to the River and gives you a few views of the water before you ascend back up the trail. You will eventually rejoin the trail. Take a right and make your way back to the parking lot.
For the North Beall trail, the trail starts off instantly in the woods. After a few tenths of a mile, it opens back up into a large field (where a large barn used to exist) and then brings you back into the woods. The North Beall trail then continues to loop to the east, and then brings you on more of a fire road to take you back to your vehicle.
There is a Beall Connector trail that bisects the North Beall trail to make a shorter loop. There is also a Bog Overlook Trail and Hemlock spur trail that are both out-and-back short trails if you wanted to add more to your hike.
One interesting thing that happened along our hike is that we heard and saw about 12 fighter planes streak across the sky at lower elevations and then bank hard over the nearby mountains. The area is used for pilot training. I’m not sure exactly what type of planes these were, but they were definitely combat-type planes. We tried to get some pictures, but whenever we heard them we were deep in the woods and couldn’t get a clear shot with the speed they were flying.
On the fire road on the North Beall trail, shortly before returning to our vehicle, I spotted a bright green caterpillar. We inspected it closely and it had large orange antennae. We had never seen any caterpillar that was so bright and colorful before. After returning home, Christine was able to identify it as a Black Swallowtail caterpillar. It also gave off a strong stench when we picked it up on a stick. It turns out that these caterpillars brighten up and secrete a chemical as a defense mechanism. After getting a few close photos, we put it back down to let him travel along to one day become a gorgeous butterfly.
After our short hike, we made a trip into Davis, WV for lunch at Hellbender’s Burritos. This was our first trip there, but the food was amazing! Christine got the Gendarme burrito, which was similar to a Philly cheese steak and I got The Admiral, which had chicken and bacon. We will definitely make this a must-stop place for lunch in the future.
When Adam and I decided to get away to Canaan Valley for a long weekend, I thought we’d do a couple hikes, go for a bike ride and maybe take a ride up to Dolly Sods. In the end, it turned out to be a chilly, gray weekend, so we opted for just one really easy hike on the Beall Trails and lot of movies on DVD, crackling fires, pizza eating and wine drinking. It was nice to have such a relaxing weekend, but I am glad we did manage to get in one hike!
We decided to take Wookie along on this hike. He really hasn’t been hiking much lately because of the summer heat. He was beyond thrilled to accompany us. When he saw us packing his leash and portable crate, he started spinning in circles and whining excitedly. That dog loves outings more than any dog I’ve ever known!
The Beall Trails, which essentially form a large figure-eight path, are part of the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The trails go across open meadows, through boreal forest and along a small stretch of the Blackwater River. It’s very easy, mostly flat walking. The trail is in great shape, so it’s really a suitable hike for all kinds of people. [View a map of the CVNWR Trail System]
We started off South Beall Trail. Essentially, the path crosses a large open meadow before turning left into the woods and dropping down to the shore of the Blackwater River. After following the river for a few tenths of a mile, the trail ascends quickly and returns hikers the same meadow path back to the parking area. The river is lovely and in the meadow, you’ll likely see whitetail deer, wildflowers, birds and butterflies. There are bluebird boxes around the meadow and an accessible hunting blind is located a short distance from the trail.
The North Beall Trail is a little bit longer and a little bit more densely wooded. There is one distinctly open area a couple tenths of a mile into the trail. The field used to house a beautiful, run-down old barn that we enjoyed exploring and photographing. However in May of 2008, the barn was torn down to supply the barn timbers to the National Park Service for restoration projects at Antietem Battlefield. I’m sure the wood from the Beall Barn lent a lot of authenticity to the battlefield projects, but I wish they had left the barn where it originally stood. I wasn’t happy about them taking history from one place and falsely installing it in another. It also took away the home of the owls that used to roost in the barn. You can still read about the barn and the owls on the plaque at the trail entrance. The interpretive sign about the barn was still there as of 2011. Oh well…
Even without the barn, the area is still very pretty and we enjoyed our short hike very much!
This was a great trail for a dog! Even though it went along the river, I didn’t get wet or muddy at all. I especially liked running in the open meadows!
- Distance – 3.5 miles total. 1.4 miles for the South Loop and 2.1 miles for the North Loop
- Elevation Change – about 100 feet
- Difficulty – 1.5. There is only one slightly steep climb on the South Loop.
- Trail Conditions – 3.5. The trail is maintained, but may be overgrown in some of the summer/fall months.
- Views – 2.5. You will get nice views of the mountains around you from the open fields, but this isn’t a hike for overlooks.
- Streams/Waterfalls – 3. On the South Loop, you do walk along the Blackwater River for some nice views between the trees.
- Wildlife – 3.5 We saw a few deer on the trail, but the birdwatching on this trail is prime.
- Ease to Navigate – 3.5. This is an enclosed group of inter-connected trails, so you shouldn’t get lost.
- Solitude – 4.5. We’ve hiked this a few times and haven’t seen anyone.
Directions to trailhead: Heading north on Route 32 through Canaan Valley, WV, take a right on Cortland Road. In about 1.5 miles, you will reach a one-lane bridge. Nearby is the Canaan Valley sign that points to the short road that leads to the parking lot. The parking lot is the center of the South and North Beall trails, so you can pick which one you would like to start first.