I recently skipped my normal Sunday morning church service and made a trip to Beartown State Park where I found myself in a perfect place to worship, surrounded by one of West Virginia’s finest “sanctuaries.”
This 107-acre park, located in Hillsboro, has an elaborate half-mile boardwalk which allows you to explore an Appalachian mountaintop covered with giant boulders, steep crevasses and eye-soothing trees, ferns and fauna.
The Beartown boardwalk weaves through dramatic sandstone cliffs, covered with thousands of eroded pits. Some are the size of small marbles, while others are large enough to shelter a native black bear, West Virginia’s official state animal. The WV State Park website says the name Beartown was chosen due to locals’ claims the cave-like openings provide ideal winter dens for the area’s bears, adding that the narrow crevasses form a crisscross pattern which looks like the streets of a small town when seen from above.
The day I visited Beartown, the atmosphere was so serene, most visitors were silent, or spoke in quiet whispers. I had to chuckle after I crossed paths with a little girl who was walking with her parents. When I greeted this young couple and said, “Hello,” their daughter put her index finger to her lips and shushed me. Not sure if this was instinct, or from parental instruction, but the youngster let me know that this wasn’t the place for an intrusive conversation.
It was hot and dry the day I visited so it was refreshing to find the temperature at Beartown about 10-degrees cooler than Lewisburg, thanks to the shade provided by ancient hemlocks. I’m told the boardwalk is slippery when wet, but I’d still like to return for an early morning visit before the fog burns off. I think it would be kind of spooky and fun because I could imagine fairies and nymphs, and maybe even a bear or two hidden in the surrounding mist.
If you love taking photographs, like I do, make sure you bring a large memory card because you could spend hours capturing the unique rock formations with all the subtle variations in highlights and shadows. Here are a few of my favorites:
Trip Advisor has more than 70 online reviews of Beartown with titles like “Magical,” “Geologic Gem,” “Wild and Amazing,” and “One-of-a-Kind.” I join many others visitors who say, “Don’t Miss It,” if you’re ever in the southeastern part of the Mountain State.