Kanawha State Forest is a majestic place, spanning over 9,300 acres of diverse landscape. This gorgeous forest is a nature lover’s retreat from the tiring commotion of daily life. Not only is Kanawha State Forest most famous for its challenging and scenic hiking and biking trails, but it also incorporates some of the most beautiful picnic spots in North America.
The park has undergone modern renovation in an effort to provide accessibility to those that are disabled. This massive forest is popular amongst nature explorers due to its wide variety of wildlife, trees, plants and wildflowers. There is also a pond in the middle of the forest surrounded by beautiful flora and fauna where you can fish to your heart’s content.
Several playgrounds and camping sites are scattered around the forest offering privacy and space for children to play and for you to relax. The park offers picnic sites that have picnic tables, grills and access to clean drinking water along with amenities such as toilets, shower, and electricity hook ups. Being in Charleston the park can be accessed from different points making it extremely accessible and convenient to get to.
Situated near the community of Loudendale, West Virginia, Kanawha State Forest is conveniently about seven miles south of downtown Charleston, off WV 214. Even though you can drive there, it is advisable not to bring a big rig or large motor home as the campgrounds aren't spacious and neither are the roads leading to them. It is best to visit the park in a car with tents or bring a smaller RV that is less that 26 ft. They are several ways leading to Kanawha State Forest and you can pick and choose the most convenient one depending on where you are coming from. You can also access the park through either the picnic area between Polly and Dunlop Hollows or from Davis Creek Road.
Kanawha State Forest has 46 campsites out of which 25 have electrical and water hookups. These campsites also have coin-operated laundry and two bathhouses available for use by campers and visitors. The roads that lead to the campgrounds are quite narrow and steep and are meant for smaller pop-ups and travel trailers. You are allowed to stay at the campgrounds for a stretch of 14 days at a time and generator use is not permitted from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. which is the designated quite time at the campgrounds.
The campsites are also equipped with picnic tables, grills, fire pits and playgrounds for children to spend time playing while you relax and take in the refreshing air and atmosphere. Even though the forest is open year-round, it will be next to impossible to navigate in the snowy conditions in winter. Spring and fall are the best months to plan a visit to the forest and enjoy its many wonders.
Kanawha State Forest is home to the largest population of Cerulean Warbler, an extremely pretty blue bird that is as rare as it is beautiful. The forest also supports an abundant species of Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Wood Thrush, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Carolina Wren to name but a few. Apart from the numerous local bird species, Neotropical migrating birds also visit the forest for its plant life and habitat. 18 different varieties of warblers alone enhance the radiance of the landscape along with thousands of different types of flowers and trees that are unique to this neck of the woods.
For those people who bike because it is a great way of staying in shape or a way of relieving stress, Kanawha State Forest is the best place for you. There are nine special designated mountain biking trails that have over 25 miles for you to explore and enjoy. While riding across these trails you come into contact with some astonishing landscape with diverse species of flora and fauna. The Bollard Trail and Black Bear Mountain Bike Trail are quite steep and narrow at points and mountain bikes are definitely recommended on these particular biking trails as they are mostly made from packed stone and dirt.
There is a shooting range inside Kanawha State Forest that is open daily and is free for the general public. The range only has paper targets to aim at but also offers shooting stalls that are convenient for visitors who want to test out their shooting skills. Guns and ammunition are not provided at the park so along with the firepower, make sure to bring your permits as well.
There are over 25 miles of hiking trails in Kanawha State Forest that range in difficulty levels. One of the trails, The Spotted Salamander is famous for being built for blind people and people who are in wheelchairs so that they too are able to enjoy the natural landscape. Most of the trails are easy hikes that can be taken on by even the less experienced hiker. Some trails, like the Lindy Trail, Overlook Rock Trail, and Rocky Ridge Trail have steep ascents that make them more challenging. However, the trail itself is either stone or dirt the whole way which means you can trek along at a good pace.
There are many fishing opportunities at the pond located in Kanawha State Forest. The areas surrounding the pond are overgrown with vegetation but many areas still provide ample room for a spot of relaxing fishing. The two-acre Ellison Pond in Kanawha State Park is filled with trout, bluegill and bass so ever amateur anglers can experience the thrill of having a fish on the line. It is also possible for individuals who have licenses, to fish and hunt in specific areas of the forest.
There are some beautifully developed picnic sites in Kanawha State Forest. These designated areas have a number of picnic tables, grills and restroom facilities. There are nine picnic shelters in total available at a minimal rate for a day of fun filled activities. It is recommended that you make reservations in advance, especially if you are coming in a large group. You can enjoy beautiful sunny days with your family and friends and appreciate the parks immense natural beauty.