Beyond its spectacular beauty, abundant wildlife, and natural resources, the area is also brimming with recreational opportunities.
Over 225 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, cycling, motorcycling, and ATV adventures weave through these forests. Lakes, rivers, and streams glisten and flow with a range of paddling experiences and also swim with fish worth reeling in. Rocks stand ready for climbing and rappelling. There are geocaches to find. Birds worth watching. Dog parks where your four-legged pal can run. Golf courses to play, from nine-hole to miniature to disc. And so much more to explore.
However you define outdoor fun—from getting splattered with mud while racing along a mountain bike trail to snapping photos while seated comfortably on the deck of a historic sternwheeler riverboat—you’ll find lots of ways to do it here.
Whatever your passion, here are some great places to get outdoors in and around Parkersburg:
Mountwood Park promises “something for everyone!” and delivers the goods in abundance. The park’s 2,000 acres are woven with trails for avid runs, casual strolls, biking, and horseback riding: choose a trail that matches your endurance levels. The 30-mile hike/bike single-track network, open year-round, is one of the Mid-Ohio Valley’s oldest trail systems and an enduring favorite—the annual spring Challenge at Mountwood draws hundreds of racers from several states. The new Pumphouse Trail, a 1.4-mile “flow trail” designed for intermediate-level mountain bikers, is natural and machine-built. Featuring bridges, rocks, drop-offs, rollers and banked switchback turns, it’s open to both foot and mountain bike traffic in either direction. The 30-mile horseback riding trails, open April through October, are augmented with horse stalls and three pole barns. Mountwood ATV Adventures, West Virginia’s newest regional trail system, is located on 600 acres across U.S. Route 50 from the main park area. It boasts 25 miles of graded trails ranging from easy to difficult, all marked for direction as well as level of challenge. Find more fun at the archery range, disc golf course, dog park, and 50-acre lake swimming with trout, catfish, large-mouth bass, crappie, muskie, carp and sunfish. To help you pack in as much time for adventure as possible, you can even stay overnight in cabins or at the campground.
North Bend State Park a Quest program for easy planning of a custom outdoor adventure. Whether you can spend an hour or several days, choose activities that match your interests, pick accommodations (if needed) that fit your style (camping, cabin, or lodge), tap into shuttle services (if needed), and get ready for fun with learning along the way: All Quests include a leader or instructor. Or tap into park activities on your own. Hike 26 miles of trails on 14 different routes that vary in length and difficulty, including the paved, level “Extra Mile” trail. Or pedal the more than 20 miles of single-track trails that run through the park for mountain bikers of all experience levels, from short loops to multi-trail courses. The Old Farm Trail, a modern flow trail, meets NICA standards for accessibility and safety. Miles of lightly-traveled country roads surround the park, perfect for road cyclists. The park also offers easy access to the 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail, which is part of the 5,500-mile American Discovery Trail (the nation’s first coast-to-coast, non-motorized trail). Nearly flat with a crushed limestone surface, this trail is great for leisurely walks or long rides on mountain or hybrid bikes. The North Bend Rail Trail utilizes a former main line of the CSX Railroad on a corridor with 35 bridges and 13 tunnels along the way, at least one of which is rumored to be haunted. With North Bend Climbing Guides enjoy rock climbing and rappelling. At North Bend Outfitters rent a canoe, kayak, Jon boat, or pontoon. Get out on the 305-acre lake or North Fork of the Hughes River to fish for bass, crappie, muskie, and catfish. A nine-hole golf course, three geocache sites, volleyball courts, miniature golf course, and an outdoor swimming pool offer more options for outdoor recreation.
Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge manages more than 3,500 acres of land and underwater habitat along nearly 362 miles of the Ohio River, providing natural habitats for more than 200 species of birds, 100 species of fish, and 47 species of freshwater mussels. Exhibits in the Visitor Center showcase native fish and turtles, describe conservation efforts and detail the environment role of freshwater mussels. In addition to year-round educational programs, the refuge offers wildlife watching, fishing, hunting, kayaking, and hiking opportunities. Trails include a loop around a butterfly garden and a 1.2-mile trek through upland forest.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, the fifth-largest island on the Ohio River, is a 500-acre haven. From May through October, reach it riding the Island Belle sternwheeler riverboat from Point Park. Once here, tour historic structures including the Palladian mansion designed for aristocrats Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, ride a horse-drawn wagon, picnic under black walnut trees, or explore the grounds. Walk or bike 6.5 miles of nature trails—you can bring a bike over with you or rent one on the island.
There are even more temptations to get outside. Walk the nature trail at Fort Boreman Historical Park, which overlooks the Ohio and Little Kanawha Rivers at the former site of a Civil War fort. Paddle the Ohio River Water Trail Parkersburg, which boasts 39 miles of the Ohio River and 18 miles of the Little Kanawha River. Whoosh the bowls, rails, mounds and Whip De Dos at Fort Neal Skate Park. Watch for birds while hiking trails that range from a half-mile to two miles at McDonough Wildlife Refuge, a 277-acre wildlife haven. Play tennis, basketball, softball or baseball at Jackson Memorial Park, where you can also find playground equipment, a swimming pool, a train caboose, a 1950s fighter jet, and picnic areas.
There’s so much to discover, it’s best to plan to stay awhile.
by Hope Scamehorn Philbrick