If you are visiting West Virginia and are looking for something unique yet touristy to do, look no further than this blog post. When you combine the rare and unconventional beauty of Smoke Hole Caverns with the traditional mountain town experience of Blackwater Falls, you have yourself the perfect West Virginia day trip.
If you are outdoorsy, West Virginia is the place for you. I am not outdoorsy, but I am born & raised here, and therefore have become grandfathered in to knowing how to show you around. I have vivid childhood memories of going to both Smoke Hole Caverns and Blackwater Falls. When someone tells me they want a mountain town experience, this is always one of the trips I recommend.
Driving To Smoke Hole Caverns/Blackwater Falls
- Note: This part of the blog post will be written assuming you are located in or near Morgantown, WV. Depending on where you live in WV, this might not be a day trip for you (more like a weekend trip). But if you live near Morgantown or anywhere on the left side of the Eastern Panhandle, you could definitely do this trip in a day!
- Pro Tip: When doing this trip, I would recommend seeing Smoke Hole Caverns first, then driving up to Tucker County to see Blackwater Falls after.
The drive from Morgantown to Smoke Hole Caverns and then to Davis/Thomas is both a blessing and a curse. It will take you roughly 2 hours & 15 minutes from Morgantown to get to Smoke Hole, another ~50 minutes to get to Davis/Thomas, and then roughly 1 hour & 30 minutes to get back to Morgantown. That is the curse. The blessing is getting to drive through a lot of the “country roads” West Virginia is known for and take in all its naturalistic splendor!
Smoke Hole Caverns – Cabins, WV
Smoke Hole Caverns got its name from Native American settlers who used the caverns to smoke wild game. The smoke would billow up into the sky and it became such a common sight that people started referring to the area as “smoke hole.”
Smoke Hole Caverns are undoubtedly one of the most unique looking caverns you will ever experience in your lifetime. The mineral water flowing through the crevices create stalactites and stalagmites: cone-shaped rock formations that can grow so big they become “wavy” and weigh up to 2 tons.
The tour starts out looking like a typical cave, but once you get so far in, you will see the ceiling and sides of the ground floor covered with stalactites and stalagmites!
Things to Know About Touring Smoke Hole Caverns
- You do NOT need to buy tickets in advance! Tickets are purchased inside the resort gift shop when you arrive, and you will be booked on the next tour.
- Tours run every hour and last roughly 45 minutes
- The caverns are cold and damp inside – bring a jacket!
- You will have to climb up and down some narrow steps that can be slick with water from the inside of the caverns. Wear tennis shoes and take your time walking through.
Once you purchase your tickets from the gift shop, you can browse through the store until your tour is called. The gift shop is really cute and has a lot of WV souvenirs. They also carry men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, jewelry, candles, and other decorative items.
Smoke Hole Resort
I did not do this (and neither would you if you are doing Smoke Hole as a day trip), but it is worth mentioning that you are able to stay the night at Smoke Hole Resort and explore more of this part of West Virginia! They offer log cabins, cottages, log motels, and RV camping. For things to do, Seneca Rocks and Dolly Sods are nearby tourist areas which are popular for hiking and scenic views.
Blackwater Falls | Exploring Davis, WV
Blackwater Falls State Park is located in Tucker County, WV in the town of Davis. There is another town right next to Davis that is very similar, called Thomas.
Davis, WV and Thomas, WV are what you think of when you hear the words “mountain town.” They are perfectly quaint, rural, and give you a sense of peace and serenity when you visit. Because they are side-by-side and have the same free-spirit vibe, I have heard a lot of people refer to the area as “Davis/Thomas.”
Blackwater Falls State Park is a major WV tourist attraction and draws people in from everywhere. There’s something so peaceful about hiking down the short trail and looking at the falls from one of 2 overlooks.
Blackwater Falls is easy to find/easy to get to. Once you get into Davis, there will be a sign on the right side of the road that says “Blackwater Falls State Park.” Turn down Blackwater Falls Road, and the parking lot is about 1.5 miles down the road at the Trading Post.
Hiking Blackwater Falls
Once you arrive at Blackwater Falls State Park, the path to get down to see the falls is pretty short. I actually debated on whether or not I wanted to refer to this as a “hike” because much of the trail is man-made steps as opposed to what one traditionally thinks of in terms of hiking trails.
The hardest part about this trail is coming back up the steps when you’re finished. Going down is pretty fun!
Once you get to the bottom, there are 2 main overlooks where you can see the falls. One is smaller and higher up. The other is further down and allows you to get a closer view.
Blackwater Falls isn’t the only waterfall you can explore in Davis/Thomas! Elakala Falls is another waterfall near Blackwater Lodge that is on a hiking trail. This is a great option for those that are looking for a more traditional hiking experience.
- It is important to clarify here that parking for Elakala Falls is different than parking for Blackwater Falls. For Blackwater Falls, you drive to Blackwater Falls State Park, and for Elakala Falls, you drive to Blackwater Lodge.
Once you start hiking Elakala Trail, you reach the falls pretty early on. It is important to note that this hike takes you overtop of the falls, rather than to a viewpoint where you can look out and see the falls the way that Blackwater Falls does. IMO, this is the only downside of this hike. There is nowhere to get a really great, unobstructed view of the falls.
Nevertheless, the entire hike is beautiful, peaceful and relatively easy to do! It is 0.6 miles out and back and took us roughly 20-30 minutes. The trail is also marked by red squares that are nailed into the trees (pictured below), so it’s easy to stay on the path.
Pro Tip: There are a ton of hikes to do around Davis/Thomas! Check out this website for some of the most popular hikes to do in Tucker County!
Shopping and Dining in Davis, WV
On the main drag of Route 32 sits an adorable downtown area with boutique shops, restaurants, a brewery, and more. In terms of shops, there is an art gallery, spice shop, outdoor clothing and equipment, and my favorite, The Wandering Caravan.
My Favorite Restaurants in Davis, WV
Stumptown Ales Brewery
Did you know we love our craft beer here in West Virginia? That was a rhetorical question.
Stumptown Ales is located towards the end of the strip of shops and restaurants on Route 32. They brew all of their beer, with their focus being hoppy IPAs. Of note, I am a wheat beer girl, and can vouch that their wheat beer is amazing. They also make a stout called Porter? I Barely Know Her! – that is a fan favorite amongst many. I tried it when I was there, and it didn’t feel “heavy” to me the way most porters do!
If you need further convincing to try Stumptown Ales, I’ll say this: My friend and I walked in right at 5pm when they opened their doors. By 5:02, the entire taproom was full of people. That many locals can’t be wrong!
Exploring Thomas, WV
Although most of the attractions in this area are in Davis, I couldn’t end this post without highlighting Thomas, WV too. The “sister-town” to Davis, Thomas has equally cute shops and restaurants that I wanted to point out.
Similar to the downtown Rt. 32 area in Davis, Thomas has a (smaller) downtown strip of vintage/antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. I didn’t write down the name of any of the shops, but they are all along the same strip and easy to find.
Restaurants on the strip and worth checking out include:
- TipTop Coffee – best for breakfast; at present time, they do not have a lunch menu
- Picnic Taco – their bowls are amazing
- The Purple Fiddle – a well-known hipster bar with live music
- Farm Up Table – serves breakfast/lunch/dinner; closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays