Parsons is blessed with an amazing wealth of natural beauty. Now that the weather is warming up, it's time to get out and explore the rivers, trails and back roads of our beautiful county.
Without ever leaving Parsons you can:
Splash into the Cheat River at one of the three Cheat River Water Trail access points in town. Float your canoe, kayak or other watercraft just downriver to Holly Meadows or paddle as far downstream as Rowlesburg. Find up-to-date river conditions, maps and other info for planning your trip at cheatriverwatertrail.org.
Journey along the Allegheny Highlands Trail. Pick up the trail where it crosses the historic railroad bridge right in the middle of Parsons. Set out on foot or bike toward Elkins, or head in the opposite direction toward Hambleton, Hendricks, and Blackwater Canyon (note: the trail through Blackwater Canyon is undeveloped railroad grade). Trail maps are available at highlandstrail.org. Coming up on June 4, the first annual Parsons Bike & Hike will take place on the AHT.
Picnic along Shavers Fork at the Water Street riverfront area. This peaceful stretch of land along the river bank is the focus of a new park design project.
Stroll the Nursery Bottom Tree Trail, located just off of US-219 at the Monongahela National Forest Cheat Ranger District, where many unusual and interesting tree specimens remain from when this area was used as a tree nursery and CCC camp. Visit the on-site Forest Service office for a brochure with a guided tree walk, as well as maps and information on the many other outdoor recreation opportunities in the forest.
Bike, walk, run and play at Mill Race Park. On Friday nights from June to August, a free outdoor concert series takes place here. You can also get a full-body workout on the exercise stations along the walking trail.
Skate at the Good Vibes Skate Haven at River City Park. Equipment includes a half pipe, quarter pipe, bank, fun box featuring rounded rail and stairs, a flat rail, bench, a kicker, a manual pad and a bi-level skate pad.
Just outside of town, more adventures await.
Just uphill from Parsons is the Fernow Experimental Forest, a section of National Forest dedicated to research on forest ecosystems and management since 1934. Interpretive signs describe the experiments that have been carried out here and their effects. More information and a map can be found here. Within the forest, the half-mile Zero-Grade Trail offers a flat walking surface accessible to a wide variety of users. During the warm seasons many wildflowers can be seen from the trail.
Beyond the Fernow is Otter Creek Wilderness, offering 45 miles of hiking trails spread over 20,698 acres of forest. Plan your day hike or backpacking trip here.
In the small town of St. George, 6 miles north of Parsons on Rte. 72, Blackwater Outdoor Adventures offers whitewater rafting as well as flatwater canoeing, kayaking and tubing.
Holly Meadows Golf Course, located between Parsons and St. George, offers nine holes of golf and a commanding view of the valley.
Horseshoe Recreation & Campground Area, tucked into a hollow along Horseshoe Run about 7 miles from St. George, is a perfect spot to picnic and fish. There is a wide grassy field for horseshoe games and field sports.
Climb up Olson Observation Tower on Backbone Mountain, the site of the first fire tower in West Virginia, for breathtaking views. The tower is approximately 8 miles from Parsons—find directions here.
Leap across the Potomac River in a single bound at the Fairfax Stone. This stone, set by surveyors in 1746, marks the headspring of the Potomac and was later used to demarcate the boundary between West Virginia and Maryland.
The rest of Tucker County is rich in outdoor activities as well, from Canaan Valley to Blackwater Falls. Plan your adventures at canaanvalley.org.
If you've been to any other great outdoor destinations near Parsons, let us know in the comments!