Elk Run Trail

We walked a beautiful two-mile snowshoe loop on this lovely network of trails in Elkton, Va.

View the Full Album of Photos From This Hike

Adam Snowshoeing
Adam walks along the Elk Run Trail.

Map  Barn

Christine Says…

We finally got a significant snowfall!  The first day of the storm, we were snowbound at home.  We spent the day digging out and hanging out.  But early the next morning, after the snowfall stopped, we headed over to the Elk Run Trails. The trails, maintained by the Hurricane Running Club, are primarily intended for cross country running and walking.  However, under a heavy bed of snow, they’re simply perfect for snowshoeing.

We parked our car at the Elkton Community Center and set out from the trailhead on the west side of the center.  For much of the first mile, the trail follows parallel to Elk Run Stream.  While you can see houses on the far bed of the stream, the trail still offers a lovely wooded setting.  On this particular day; the deep, soft snow made for slow, arduous progress.

The only climbing on the walk comes as you approach the back side of the Kite Mansion.  One short climb takes you past an old spring house.  Then a shorter, but steeper, ascent brings you up to the east side of the house.  We walked across the columned front of the house and picked the trail back up on the other side.

Adam makes his way across the meadow behind the community center.

Elk Run Christine Snowshoeing

A brief descent brings you back to a dirt road that parallels Route 33.  The trail is completely flat and passes through a tunnel of hemlocks and pines.  Eventually you come out on the road, just east of the community center.  From there, we popped off our snowshoes and walked the brief 10th of a mile back to our car.

It was a wonderful morning in the snow!

Adam Says…

When the weather wants to dump a lot of snow on the ground and you feel like you couldn’t hike anytime soon, grab some snowshoes and hit the trail.  We have been on this Elk Run trail system before in dry conditions, but this trail seems made for snowshoeing.

The only map you can find of this trail system is on the photo link above.  You can pick up a copy yourself at the Elkton Community Center during normal business hours.  Our trip consisted of doing the entire orange trail starting from the west end, but included the green loop trail that takes you up to the Kite house.  We parked at the Elkton Community Center and went behind the building.

We spotted the orange blaze across the field behind the building that denoted the start of the trail system.  The trail was untouched (minus a few squirrel tracks) when we hit the trail and we quickly realized how tough snowshoeing over a foot of fresh snow could truly be.  After a short time, we decided to shed some layers since we were working up a sweat from the effort.  The trail started off with a long scenic walk alongside the Elk Run.

The Kite Mansion
The Kite Mansion.

Christine Approaches  Adam and the Stream

At about .9 miles, the trail begins to start up an ascent and you can then join the green-blazed trail.  Take this up a steep but short hill and at the top of the hill take a right.  This will lead you to the front of the Kite House.

Continue to cross in front of the Kite House and you will see the trail pick up again, going steeply downhill.  At the bottom, you come to a larger trail junction.  We took the orange-blazed trail again, which takes you through a wooded section behind Elkton Middle School.  After about .5 miles, the trail widens and then eventually leads to a road.  Take a right here and follow this back to Elkton Community Center, where you parked.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 2 miles
    (Check out the stats from Map My Hike)*
  • Elevation Change – 100 ft.
  • Difficulty –  1.  The trail is almost completely flat.  However, in deep, unbroken snow, you should expect more of a challenge.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.5.  Wide, flat and well groomed – may be muddy.
  • Views  0.  You’re in the woods the whole time.
  • Streams/Waterfalls – 2.  Elk Run is pretty, but is often obscured by brush.
  • Wildlife – 1.  You’ll likely see a variety of birds and possibly deer.  We saw a beautiful red fox when we walked the trail on Thanksgiving day.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3.5.   There are tons of inter-connected trails.  They’re blazed but unnamed.  Everything loops back, so it would be hard to get lost.
  • Solitude – 4.  Typically, you’ll only see a few people on this trail.

Directions to trailhead:  From I-81, take exit 247 towards US-33E heading towards Elkton, VA.  Follow this 15.6 miles before taking the ramp to the right to US-340N.  Take the first right and you will see the Dairy Queen to the right.  Directly across the road from Dairy Queen is the Elkton Community Center.  Park your car here.  Behind the building, you will see the orange blaze which signifies the start of the orange-blazed trail.

MapMyHike is not necessarily accurate, as the GPS signal fades in and out – but it still provides some fun and interesting information.

Snowshoeing: Bald Knob from White Grass (WV)

If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in the mid-Atlantic, don’t miss a visit to White Grass!  Their extensive network of trails offer something for every skill level.  Their terrain is beautifully groomed and the people who run the resort are so friendly and helpful.

If you don’t own snowshoes/cross-country skis, White Grass has them available to rent!

Christine at Summit of Bald Knob
Christine enjoys the view from Bald Knob. Below:  The morning started off cloudy; Learning about winter trees with the naturalist; Lots of old cross country skis.

Morning Sun Naturalist Shack and Skis

Adam Says…

It has been over a year since we went snowshoeing.  Our area of Virginia was robbed of any meaningful snow for the past two years, so we decided to cross the border to West Virginia to catch the elusive snow.  Christine’s parents had bought us each a pair of Tubbs Frontier snowshoes for Christmas over a year ago, but it wasn’t until now that we were able to break them in.  We were both very pleased with how they felt on our feet.  They felt lighter than many I had tried before and were a little more sleek than some others I had tried.  This enabled me to not feel too fatigued using them and I also didn’t feel like I had to walk like a cowboy in fear they would cross over and cause me to trip.

We had heard great things about White Grass from other friends of ours that had been there for cross-country skiing.  White Grass maintains a great website where they will post weather conditions, snowfall, pictures, and trail maps.  Check it out to get the best up-to-date information.  They will typically be open December-early March to access their 40km of trails.

When we first arrived at White Grass, we checked in at the lodge.  They informed us they were having a naturalist from the Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge take a group out in about five minutes for a free snowshoe trail talk.  We grabbed our shoes and met up with him.  We were part of a small group of about 7 (including two little children).  The goal of the walk was to teach us about the different trees that can be found in Canaan Valley, how to identify them, and threats to their future.  We spent about an hour walking. The naturalist did a great job of teaching us many things about trees that I didn’t know before.  After the walk, we decided to make make our way over to Hellbender Burritos for two Gendarme burrito bowls to power us up for our big snowshoe trip in the afternoon.

Spring Orchard Trail
We started out along the Springer Orchard Trail. Below: Trail junction; Warming huts along the trail; Adam snowshoes along groomed trails.

Trail Junction  Warming Hut  Adam Snowshoeing

We returned to White Grass and paid our $20 trail use fee.  We asked the woman in the shop for some trail suggestions, and she kindly mapped out a route that would take us to the top of Bald Knob.  The trails criss-cross often and the maps, posted at each junction, a little confusing.  We found ourselves asking other skiers and snowshoers where they had been to help us navigate through the labyrinth of junctions.  We left the lodge and started on the Springer Orchard Trail, on the opposite side of the large Weiss Knob Slope that heads directly down the mountain.  We stayed on this trail for about .35 miles, passing the Plum Orchard trail, until we reached the Highland View trail.  We took a left on this trail and continued upward, crossing past several other confusing junctions.  We stayed on the Highland View Trail for about .35 miles, until we made it up to its end at the Sawmill Flats shelter at .8 miles.  The shelter was a small warming hut.  There were a few ammo boxes that included snacks and there were some containers of bird seed that you could throw out to chickadees.  From this point we made our way following the signs for the Double Trouble trail.  We reached the junction at 1.0 miles, took a right, and headed up the Double Trouble trail.  At 1.3 miles, we reached the Weiss Knob Ascent trail, took another right and made our way to the Roundtop shelter.

The shelter here was also filled with snacks and bird seed.  The birds here were more accustomed to people and would actually eat the seed out of your hand if you wait patiently.  We were also told that someone had left a Gatorade bottle of moonshine at the shelter.  I picked it up and saw some stuff floating in the bottle and decided to pass.  I find it is a good rule of thumb to at least know the person that has made the moonshine for you.  There’s no need to go blind without anyone to blame. 🙂

Christine and Adam at Roundtop Hut
Christine and Adam at Roundtop Hut. Below: Adam feeds a chickadee; Deeper snow as we climb upward; Snow draped on evergreens.

Adam Feeding a Chickadee Deeper Snow Snow on Spruce

We continued from this point following the signs to Bald Knob.  You will cross a Boundary trail and then make a right on the Bald Knob Trail to wind up the mountain.  The trail then takes a sharp right and a junction where you can continue to hike up the Bald Knob Trail.   We reached the summit at around 2.1 miles.  The scenery was breathtaking and you could see skiers on the Canaan Valley Ski slopes and mountains off in the distance covered in snow.  The wind is strong here at the top, so we didn’t stay incredibly long, but made our way back down.  We returned down the Bald Knob Trail to the Roundtop shelter and back down the Double Trouble trail.  However, instead of heading back to the Sawmill Flats shelter, we followed Double Trouble until it led us to the Lift Shack, crossing over the Weiss Knob slope.  Right behind the Lift Shack, we then took the Barton’s Bend Trail until we reached the Falls Overlook trail.   We took a left on the Falls Overlook Trail and then a left on the Three Mile Trail until it brought us back to the White Grass lodge.  Our return trip was around 2 miles, taking our snowshoe hike to be around 4.2 miles.

I had three big highlights on this trail.  Feeding birds out of my hand, the peaceful scenery through the spruce on the Bald Knob trail leading to great views, and looking back and seeing my wife smile.  I told her that her face was going to be sore from all the smiling she was doing.  We really had a wonderful time at White Grass and we can’t wait to return.  We will probably take the Three Mile Trail all the way up to the Roundtop Shelter next time.

Christine Says…

I love some parts of winter – the snow (too bad there can’t be snow without cold), the potential for workplace closures, and most of all snowshoeing!  For Christmas of 2011, my parents bought us snowshoes.  And well… many of you will remember winter of 2011-12 as ‘the winter that never happened’ in Virginia.  The only measureable snow we had was in October.  The rest of the season passed – mostly warm and sunny – leaving our snowshoes to gather dust in the garage.  This winter hasn’t been much better, but thankfully we live just a couple hours from Canaan Valley.  Even though the areas lies less than 90 miles away as the crow flies, they have vastly different weather.  It’s almost like a small chunk of Canada dropped into a bowl located in the mid-Atlantic.

Christine and a Chickadee
Christine feeds a chickadee.

Bald Knob Trail Roundtop Hut Christine on Snowshoes

We got up early on a Sunday morning and drove over to White Grass – one of the only big Nordic centers in our region. The entire drive, we saw nothing but bare grass and muddy fields.  I’ll admit that I was a little worried that we were driving over for nothing.  But as we grew closer, bare fields gave way to a dusting of snow and then smooth, billowing drifts.  On the final drive up to White Grass, the road was not even cleared.  As we pulled in to the parking area, an exuberant, bearded man gesticulated dramatically, guiding us to a parking spot. Every employee of the resort that we talked to during the day was super friendly and full of information happily shared about the area.

We headed into the lodge to get information and pay our trail use fees.  The lodge is warm, cluttered and cozy, lacking the slick, commercial feel of most ski operations.  Even though it wasn’t yet 10:00 a.m., it was packed with people chatting and enjoying hot beverages.  The woman at the cash register told us we had arrived just in time to go on a free snowshoe walk with a naturalist.  We had about five minutes to gear up and meet the group.  She told us to run on ahead and to pay our trail fee later on.  We ran back to the car, grabbed our snowshoes/poles, put on our layers, got the camera gear packed up and made it back just in time for the walk.  The walk was more talking than active snowshoeing, but I enjoyed learning more about the areas fragile ecosystem.

The snowshoe walk finished up a little after 11:00, so we decided to drive into Davis for an early lunch before our longer snowshoe trek.  At lunch, we learned something interesting – you can’t buy a beer in West Virginia on Sunday until 1:00 p.m.  The restaurant was pretty crowded, and I don’t think I saw a single table not try to order a beer. I guess everyone was visiting from out of town and didn’t know the law.

Christine Snowshoeing
Christine snowshoes uphill.  Below: Approaching Bald Knob, Bald Knob View, Enjoying the Summit

Approaching Bald Knob Bald Knob View Adam and Christine

After lunch, we headed back to Whitegrass.  With our trail feed paid and our route mapped out, we headed up the trail.  When I heard that we were walking up to the summit of Bald Knob, I was a little hesitant at first.   Hiking up to the summit of Bald Knob didn’t necessarily conjure pleasant feelings; rather I remembered the last time I attempted to climb that peak.  It was probably about 15 years ago when I was not a regular hiker and generally quite out of shape.  Adam and I had hiked Bald Knob from the Canaan Valley Ski Resort side.  We made it to the top, but it involved tears and suffering on my part.  I remember the trail being unbearably steep and thought it was going to kill me.

However, this time, I found the terrain easy, pleasant and totally manageable – even on snowshoes!   One of the nice things about White Grass is that the trail grooming takes some of the exertion out of snowshoeing.  When you snowshoe on fresh, unpacked powder, the shoes do keep you aloft on the snow — but only to a degree.  In fresh powder, you sink down and a certain level of ‘slogging’ is required.  At White Grass, most of the trails are packed and machine-groomed.  There are usually a pair of cross-country ski tracks worn into the snow, and then smooth packed trail alongside.  As snowshoers, we’re careful to stay off of the ski tracks, as the blades on the bottom of shoes can easily chew up the established tracks.

Walking the trail system at White Grass was so fun!  As Adam mentioned, I smiled the entire way!   I loved chatting with other people we met along the way.  I was enthralled by the gorgeous, snow-draped scenery.  I had a blast hand-feeding the chickadees at the warming up.  I have a slight phobia of flying things (bad experience with a bat and several moths over the years), so at first I looked away and closed my eyes as the chickadees fluttered down.  But after a few landings, I opened my eyes and watched the birds perch.  When they land, they are weightless; the only thing you feel is a slight pinch from their gripping feet.  One chickadee sat on my hand long enough to eat several seeds.  So fun!

When we made it to the summit of Bald Knob, I stood in awe of the beautiful, snowy valley laid out before me. The wind was whipping and clouds were moving in, so we didn’t stay long.  The walk down went by so quickly — all downhill.  We were back at the main lodge within an hour.

Expansive View
Even though Whitegrass is popular and heavily used, you never feel like it’s crowded. Below: Adam checks out the old, abandoned ski lift apparatus; Adam says hello to a friendly Whitegrass dog.

Old Lift Building Whitegrass Dog

I’m hoping that we’ll get another chance to visit White Grass one more time this season.  If we do get to go again, I definitely want to plan a meal at the White Grass Cafe.  The food people were eating in the lodge looked amazing!  We would have eaten there, but we already had plans to eat at another local favorite – Sirianni’s.  We love their pizza and can’t visit the area without going there to eat.

If we make a return trip, I’ll also be sure to take a few photos of the actual facilities – the lodge, the cafe, etc.  In the rush to meet the naturalist on time and my eagerness to spend as much time as possible on the trail, I neglected to take any photos of the facilities.  They are really cute, so I feel bad that I forgot.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 4.2 miles.  This is approximate.  It was hard to gauge mileage when the trails crossed each other so frequently and were labeled on the maps in kilometers.
  • Elevation Change –  973 feet
  • Difficulty – 2. The trail did go uphill most of the way up, but the grade was only seriously steep in a few spots.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.  The trail was in excellent shape.  They spend a lot of time grooming the trails, so it was fine to have both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing on the same trails. 
  • Views4.  The views from Bald Knob are some of the best you’ll see of Canaan Valley.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 1. Only a few streams that you pass on the trail.
  • Wildlife – 2. Red squirrels, Chickadees, and pileated woodpeckers were spotted.
  • Ease to Navigate –1.5. You have to pay very close attention to the trails and maps at the junctions to keep your bearings.
  • Solitude –2.  The trails in this area are heavily trafficked, so expect to see others.  We still felt that we had plenty of room for ourselves though as people are spread across all the distance of trails.

Directions to trailhead:  The best directions can be found here  From Route 32 at Canaan Valley, take Freeland Road.  Follow the signs to White Grass.

Snowshoe Trek on the Middle Ridge Trail (WV)

With all its snow, Canaan Valley provides wonderful opportunities for southerners to try out snowshoeing.  The 2.5 mile Middle Ridge trail in Canaan Valley State Park is a pleasant trek through the woods.

Doe in the Woods
A whitetail doe watches us in the woods.  Below: Adam walks along the trail, being careful not to ruin the cross country ski tracks; The Blackwater River is covered with snow and ice; A sign cautions cross country skiers to take care on the steep hill.

Walking Along Along the Blackwater River Steep Hill Caution

Adam Says…

We wanted to go snowshoeing at least once this winter.  We enjoyed going to Canaan Valley last year, so we decided to take another trip to the high country of West Virginia.  There are several short trails throughout Canaan Valley State Park that are suitable for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

Snowshoes can be rented for a day behind the Canaan Valley Lodge near the ice rink for $20/adult.  You can also pick up a map and trail guide of the Canaan Valley Resort area at the lodge.  The last two times we had rented more modern, aluminum snowshoes; this time, they had the traditional snowshoes with rawhide webbing.  While we felt the traditional snowshoes seemed a little heavier initially, I actually found they were a little easier to use.  The snow tends to not get piled on the top as often as with the modern snowshoes, making them feel a little lighter while on the trails.

Tubbs Snowshoes
We rented snowshoes from Canaan Valley State Park.

We left the rental center and drove to the Balsam Swamp Overlook.  From here, the trail starts cutting down across the meadow.  At .2 miles, take a right on the green-blazed Middle Ridge Trail.  This trail starts off with a short, steep uphill before easing to a gentle incline for the first mile.  You then go down a steep hill until you reach the view of the Blackwater River at 1.2 miles.   This area along the river has the best views of the meadow and the mountain ridges in front of us were covered with rime ice.

The trail takes a sharp left at this point and you follow the river for about .1 mile.  At 1.3 miles, you reach a junction with a spur trail to the Railroad Grade Trail.  Ignore this spur and continue on the green-blazed Middle Ridge Trail.  You will begin your ascent.  The trail ascends about 150 feet over the next .7 miles.  While the map made it look quite tough, I felt that the elevation was not too bad.  Near the crest, the trail tends to wind through the forest.  You will then start your descent.  At 2.1 miles, you will reach another junction leading to the Ridge Top Trail.  Ignore this trail also and just stay on the Middle Ridge Trail.  You will then steeply descend the Middle Ridge Trail.  Stay straight on the trail until you reach your vehicle at the Balsam Swamp Overlook.

Rest Stop at the Trail Junction
Adam takes a rest stop at the trail junction.

This snowshoe trip was more challenging than the Deer Run-Mill Run trails that we did last year, but it was worth it.  The snow tends to keep people away from many of the hiking trails, so I really find it quite peaceful when all you can hear is your breath and the light crunching of the snow below you.

We finished up our trip with a short drive to Sirianni’s Cafe in Davis, WV.  It is probably our favorite pizza place on the planet and you shouldn’t miss it.  If you have the option, try to get a seat near the back left of the restaurant and read the notes/business cards placed under the glass-covered tables.

Christine Says…

I love making a quick trip over to West Virginia for a day of snowshoeing.  It’s become one of my favorite winter traditions!  We chose to go on a weekend right after the area received a little over a foot of new snow.  The conditions were great – the snow was a bit heavy and soft, but it was still fresh and pristine – a real winter wonderland.

I liked the traditional showshoes we rented.  They were made by Tubbs and looked like snowshoes that explorers or fur trappers in the 1800’s might have used.  The trail we chose didn’t offer any grand views or spectacular scenery, but it was a beautiful walk through the woods.  The few trails we’ve showshoed on before were completely flat, but the Middle Ridge trail has a couple “easy” climbs.    I say easy in quotes because climbing in showshoes is always harder work than walking on a dirt trail.  It’s also tough to snowshoe across deep, unbroken snow.  Even though the snowshoes hold you aloft and prevent you from having to go post-holing through deep snow, you’ll still sink a little bit if the snow is deep and soft.

Trees and Snow
The trees and fresh snow made a beautiful and stark landscape. Below: Adam looks down on the trail from the Balsam Swamp parking area; Walking uphill across the open meadow; The snow was heavy and deep.

Adam looks at the trail Walking Uphill Deep snow

We really tried our best to stay off the cross-country tracks, but in some places the trail was too narrow or the tracks were already trashed by other walkers.  I have to admit, I was thankful whenever we got a chance to walk on already-broken snow!

The lowest point on the trail is along the Blackwater River.  We couldn’t see the river at all under all of the ice and snow.  It looked more like an open field than a river basin.  After leaving the river, we had a slow and steady uphill back to the top of the ridge.

I enjoyed coming across a lone doe making her way through the deep snow.  Deer in the Canaan area are very accustomed to humans, so she made no effort to run when she saw us.  It gave me the opportunity to get a couple photos.

The rest of the hike along the ridge and back down to the parking area was easy and quick.  After changing clothes and turning our snowshoes in, we headed over to Davis, WV for our pizza lunch.  Sirianni’s was recently named West Virginia’s best pizza by USA Today.  In addition to great food, I love the atmosphere in their little restaurant.  It’s such a warm and cozy place!

Sirianni's pizza
We got to sit in our favorite little corner booth at Sirianni’s – best pizza in West Virginia.  Below:  People from all over have written notes to tuck under the glass tabletops in the back corner of Sirianni’s – such fun to read!;  Sirianni’s is right on the main street through Davis, WV.

Table notes at Sirianni's Davis WV

Trail Notes

  • Distance – 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Change – about 300 feet total.
  • Difficulty – 2. The snow makes this easy trail a little more challenging. Take some breaks when you’re tired, but overall, this trail is quite manageable for most people.
  • Trail Conditions – 3.  While there were cross-country ski tracks, we tried to avoid those at all times for other people.  Walking on snowshoes and establishing new tracks can be challenging, so it is best if going with others to alternate who is breaking the trail.
  • Views –2. The only views are of the meadow and mountains near the Blackwater River.
  • Waterfalls/streams 2. You have views of the Blackwater River, but you won’t be getting too close to the river from the trail.
  • Wildlife –3. You are likely to see some deer on this trail any time of year.
  • Ease to Navigate – 3. Without any previous tracks, this could be challenging, but look for the green blazes on the trees.
  • Solitude –5. We were the only ones on the trail, but this trail is used somewhat often by cross-country skiiers.  If you’re going when it is not snow-covered, I would lower the solitude rating, since it is a popular, short hiking trail.

Directions to trailhead: The Canaan Valley State Park is located off Route 32.  For snowshoe rentals, follow the signs from the entrance to the Canaan Valley lodge.  This trail takes off from the Balsam Swamp Overlook.

Snowshoeing in Canaan Valley (WV)

Snowshoeing is a fantastic way to get great exercise and enjoy winter scenery.  We’ve been lucky over the past two years.  Above-average snowfall has given us several opportunities to enjoy a winter sport that isn’t very common in our area.  Snowshoeing is a perfect recreational activity for anyone – it requires no special skills.  If you can walk, you can snowshoe.

Canaan Valley provided a beautiful winter wonderland for a day of snowshoeing.

Christine Says…

Last Saturday, we took a trip over to Canaan Valley for a day of snowshoeing.  I really can’t think of a better way to spend a winter’s day outdoors.   There is something so peaceful about walking atop the fresh snow surrounded by the hush of the winter woods.

We were extremely fortunate with timing on this trip.  The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect.  The Canaan area had about nine inches of fresh snow on Thursday into Friday (on top of the two+ feet of snow already on the ground).  When we arrived on Saturday morning, roads were completely clear but the new snow was still practically untouched.

Adam takes a look over the frozen Blackwater River.

After renting  gear from Canaan Valley Resort, we set out on the Blackwater River Trail as a warm-up.  The trail is a pretty ¾ mile loop that starts off near the golf course and skims alongside the river.   The snow was waist deep, soft and powdery, but the snow shoes kept us aloft and allowed us to only sink a few inches down into the snow.  Most of the trail was completely untouched other than a short section that still had faint cross-country ski tracks. To navigate, we had to rely on blazes since no trail was visible.

It’s amazing how much more physically demanding snowshoeing is than normal hiking.  You wouldn’t think a few inches of light, fluffy snow would cause so much resistance, but it does.  I love the workout I get on snowshoes!  By the end of the loop, my legs were already a little tired but we were just getting started.

After finishing our warm-up loop, we headed over to Canaan’s campground area to hike the circuit of trails created by Mill Run, Abe Run and Deer Run.  All-in-all, the trails cover about 2.5 or 3 miles.  Even though the distance was longer, these trails were much easier to walk.  Earlier cross-country skiers and snowshoers had already traversed these trails, so there was no virgin snow to trudge through.

The ice sparkled on the tree tops.

The area was spectacularly beautiful, draped with snow and ice that sparkled under the clear blue sky.  Every time I looked up, the crystallized tree branches looked like prisms, glittering in the sun.  We saw loads of whitetail deer in the woods.  They were all chest deep in the snow.  As they struggled to move forward, they all paused to stare at us with their wide, blinking eyes.  It was almost like they were saying “Hey, snowshoes  – no fair!”

It’s funny how different a trail can feel under a blanket of snow.  Both the areas we snowshoed are areas I’ve hiked countless times in spring/summer/fall.  The snow completely transforms the trails into something unfamiliar and beautiful.  It was really a great day.  I don’t think I stopped smiling for the three straight hours I was on snowshoes.

Adam Says…

A month ago, we ventured out to Canaan Valley to try and do some snowshoeing.  Christine was battling the flu and we had consecutive days of rain, so we decided to come back and try it again in February.  This was only our second time snowshoeing, but we know this is an activity we both enjoy.

We rented our snowshoes from the Canaan Valley lodge and then drove over to the golf course to begin the Blackwater River Trail.  We parked and started putting on our gear when another car drove up and parked behind us.  We brought snowpants, but opted against putting them on because we felt they may be too hot (regretfully, our jeans got quite wet).  The couple in the vehicle asked if you could cross-country ski this area, somehow missing the ski sign about 20 feet away.   They got into their gear quickly and seemed to want to race us to start.  The woman as she started said, “Could you please keep your snowshoes off our tracks if you get in front?”  This is a given rule of etiquette – snowshoers should leave ski tracks undisturbed whenever possible.  However, she was a little rude in her delivery.  The couple got a little ways in front of us, but then she fell over.  While her husband just stared at her offering no assistance, Christine and I helped her to her feet.  She thanked us, demonstrating just a tinge of guilt from her attitude at the beginning of the trail.  The snow was probably about 3 feet high on this trail and our snowshoes would sink down about 8-12 inches each step on the fresh powder.  This does make for some great exercise and I could definitely feel my heart pound on occasion.  When we got near the riverside with the beaver dams, just a few feet away I saw a bald eagle take off from a nearby tree.  This was such a treat to see such a majestic bird soaring in the peace of the snow-covered, mountainous valley.  We continued on the trail and again caught up to the couple on skis.  The woman had fallen again and her husband just told her, “Put one foot in front of the other”.  He eventually came downhill to her to try and help as we passed them and made our way back to the car.

Abe Run, Mill Run and Deer Run create a series of interconnected loop trails.

We made our way to the Deer Run/Abe Run/Mill Run trip by parking at the campground.  We did this trail the first time we tried out snowshoeing.  The snow was a little more packed down on this trail, which made for an easier traverse.  The trail crosses through many nice forests and the snow was still sticking heavily to the branches of the trees, providing a picturesque backdrop to a nice dose of exercise.  This series of trails is nice because there are many options to shorten the trip.  The Abe Run and Mill Run Trails are loops that spur off the Deer Run trails, so you can eliminate them if you are getting tired.  The Deer Run Trail is about 1.5 miles; Abe Run is .75 miles; and Mill Run is 1 mile.  You should pick up a map beforehand at the lodge.

When we were almost back to our car we saw another group of cross-country skiers and we knew they were getting ready to enjoy a beautiful trail through the woods.  We got back to our car and then headed to one of our all-time favorite pizza spots, Sirianni’s, in Davis, WV for a much-earned warm meal after a tough bit of exercise.

Trail Notes

  • Distance – Blackwater River Trail: ¾ mile – Deer Run/Abe Run/Mill Run: Varies 1-4 miles
  • Elevation Change – Negligible
  • Difficulty – 3.  The deep powdery snow provided a good workout.
  • Trail Conditions – 4.  The snow was perfect.
  • Views –0. No views, but gorgeous winter woodland scenery.
  • Waterfalls/streams – 0. There are some streams and rivers along the trails, but everything was frozen.
  • Wildlife – 4. Lots of deer and a bald eagle!
  • Ease to Navigate – 5. Very easy to follow.
  • Solitude – 4. The park is typically very quiet if you’re away from the ski slopes.

Special Note: Canaan Valley offers all day rentals of snowshoe equipment for $20/adult $18/child. (Blackwater Falls State Park and White Grass also offer trails and equipment rental)

Directions to trailhead:
Canaan Valley Resort is on Rt. 32 about halfway between Harman and Davis.  It’s really in the middle of nowhere.  At the junction of Rt. 33 and Rt. 55 in West Virginia, continue on Rt. 33.  In Harman, pick up Rt. 32 and follow signs to the park.