11 glorious wildflower trails in West Virginia


The return of spring and summer brings out the color in West Virginia wildflowers and flowering trees. Pair a wildflower hike with a picnic lunch while you spend the day soaking up the sunshine. West Virginia State Parks and Forests as well as national recreation areas in the state have picnic areas near hiking trails, or you can plan a picnic at a nearby park as suggested below.

Here are just a few great places to spot wildflowers:

1. The WVU Core Arboretum showcases a rainbow of spring wildflowers like trout lily, dwarf larkspur, Virginia bluebell and the rare trillium. You can explore on your own or join one of the free guided walks that begin in April. A great picnic spot nearby is Dorsey’s Knob park, which offers stunning views of Morgantown.

2. In the New River National River, Grandview is known for its spectacular overlook of the New River’s horseshoe bend as well as blooming rhododendrons. While you’re there, take a hike on the 2-mile Little Laurel Trail to view a great diversity of spring wildflowers.

3. The Sunrise Carriage Trail is a hidden gem within Charleston city limits, connecting downtown Charleston to the South Hills. The shaded gravel path is known for its variety of flowering plants, both domestic and wild. Once you’ve walked the trail (and hopefully did a little shopping at Bridge Road Shops), stop for a bite to eat at a South Hills restaurant or take a picnic lunch out to Coonskin Park.

4. The high plateau of Canaan Valley Resort State Park is conducive to the growth of a variety of mountain wildflowers. Blackwater River Trail’s wide, open wetland is a great place to view spring wildflowers like blue vervain and swamp milkweed along a 1-mile loop.

5. In late spring, the 6.2-mile Turkey Run Trail in the Fernow Experimental Forest is awash with bluebells and many other spring wildflowers. The forest is just a short drive from Canaan Valley Resort and Blackwater Falls State Park, which make a great base for your outdoor exploration.

6. In the Dolly Sods Wilderness, late spring is an ideal time to find a variety of wildflowers like the wild bleeding heart that grows along Big Oaks Trail. And you don’t even have to venture off Forest Service Road 75 to see a wide variety of wildflowers like thimbleweed, fireweed and turk’s cap lily (also known as tiger lily).

7. The rocky soil of Cacapon Resort State Park doesn’t deter some of the hardiest of wildflowers from growing here. On Central Trail, an easy 5-mile loop, you’ll find wild blueberries as well as a variety of flowering plants.

8. The 2.7 mile Alum Creek and Cave Trail at Audra State Park offers spectacular scenery, from the towering Alum Cave to ripping waters of the Middle Fork River. But hikers love this trail best in the summer, when they walk through a shady tunnel of blooming rhododendron.

9. Oglebay Resort is known for its immaculate gardens and flower beds, but you’ll also find a variety of wildflowers among the A.B. Brooks Discovery Trail System behind the Schrader Environmental Education Center. Plan a picnic lunch at nearby Grand Vue Park, which features scenic views of Moundsville.

10. The Highland Scenic Highway presents stunning mountain views along the driving route. In the spring, stop to stretch your legs at Honeycomb Rocks, where you’ll find trillium blooming among wild ramps. Extend your visit to Cranberry Glades for more wildflower viewing.

11. The unique boreal ecosystem of Cranberry Glades Botanical Area showcases a variety of plants more commonly found in northern climates, including two carnivorous species, purple pitcher plant and sundew. The half-mile boardwalk includes interpretive signs describing the flora and fauna of the area. A few miles away, Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park has several picnic shelters and an observation tower.

Guided Wildflower Walks

If you need help identifying the flowers you find in the forest, you might want to join one of the guided wildflower walks that take place in the spring.

  1. The annual West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage at Blackwater Falls State Park features two days of guided walks in Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods and the Fernow Experimental Forest.
  2. The Osbra Eye Memorial Wildflower Walk takes place on the fourth Saturday of each April at Kanawha State Forest, The walk covers several trails featuring spring blooms like blue phlox (also known as wild sweet william), jack in the pulpit and trout lily, plus flowering trees like umbrella magnolia and pawpaw.
  3. Chief Logan State Park hosts the Sue Browning Wildflower Hike every year in mid-April. Visitors might spot up to 100 species of wildflowers, including larkspur, celandine poppy and Dutchman’s breeches, along with flowering trees like redbud and dogwood.
  4. The annual New River Gorge Wildflower Weekend features ranger-guided hikes in the New River Gorge National River, Babcock State Park, Hawks Nest State Park, Little Beaver State Park, Pipestem Resort State Park and Tamarack.

Where will you be going?

This post was last updated on March 5, 2018