Canyon Rim Trail – West Virginia

Our guide book described this moderate five-mile hike as having exceptional scenery and a couple stream crossings.

The rhododendron along this trail are jungle-thick
The rhododendron thickets along this trail are jungle-dense

Christine Says…

The trail description in our hiking guide, Day & Overnight Hikes in West Virginia’s Monongahela, made this hike sound like a must-do with lots of solitude and great views of the Blackwater Canyon.  It did warn that the overlooks were on hard-to-find spur trails, but we didn’t give that a second thought.  We tend to have a good sense of direction and aren’t afraid to do a little bushwhacking.

The trail was about what I expected… a narrow path winding its way through dense thickets of rhododendron.  The growth was so thick that the forest felt stifling.  The air was damp, heavy and still.  The footing for the first mile was often muddy and wet as the trail descended.  There were many pink lady slippers growing along the trail.  Other than one short initial descent, the trail was easy and mostly level.

Pink Lady Slipper
Pink Lady Slipper

The part of this hike that was unexpected were the lackluster views.  The fist overlook was pretty easy to find.  It cut a short distance through the rhododendron to a big pile of boulders.  The vegetation was so thick at this viewpoint, that you really couldn’t see down into the canyon very well.  Unfortunately, we never found the second viewpoint despite looking carefully on a couple passes.  We’re guessing that the spur path was completely overtaken by new growth.  I really think the views of the canyon from Lindy Point in Blackwater Falls State Park are as nice as anything in the area.

After failing to find the second overlook, we trekked back to the car feeling a little let down by the hike.  Maybe if we had found the second overlook,  I would have felt more than “meh” about the hike.

Adam Says…

I agree with Christine in that I was underwhelmed.  We could see the canyon along the way, but never found a good way to get to it.  Christine did find one overlook, but she didn’t feel that it was photo-worthy.

We did see more lady slippers on this trail than on any trail we have ever found anywhere.  If you’re into those, this is a good trail to check out.

We made our way to Big Run.  We were also trying to find the Canyon Rim Waterfall that was listed in a book, but we didn’t find it or a way to get down the water to view possible places for falls.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 5 miles
  • Elevation Change – 600 feet
  • Difficulty – 2.  Other than a few short, steep climbs, the trail is mostly level.
  • Trail Conditions – 2.   The trail can be very muddy and wet and is often overgrown by the dense thickets of rhododendron.  There are several small streams to cross.  In low water times, these may be dry.
  • Views – 1.  On the day we hiked, we saw one unremarkable view of the Blackwater Canyon.  The path to the second viewpoint was completely obscured by new growth and we were unable to find it.
  • Waterfalls/streams -2.  A few small, pretty streams.
  • Wildlife – 2.  We saw evidence of recent bear activity, but no actual bears.
  • Ease to Navigate – 2.   The main trail is easy to follow and is blazed yellow.  The spur trails to the viewpoints were extremely difficult to find.
  • Solitude4.  We didn’t see anyone on the hike at all.  There was a family camping along the Forest Road near the terminus of the trail and we saw/heard them.

Directions to trailhead:

From WV Rt. 219, turn onto Forest Service Road 18. After .4 of a mile this will turn into Forest Service Road 717. Follow 717 for about 1.5 miles. You will see a sign for the Canyon Rim trail on the right and a pull-off for parking on the left. The Forest Service Roads are gravel and are quite rough.