One of the best things about Charleston is the easy access to amazing hiking and biking opportunities. Just moments from downtown, Kanawha State Forest offers nine trails covering more than 25 miles. “The Spotted Salamander” is a paved, level walkway with braille interpretive nature stations designed for both visually impaired and physically challenged guests. Encourage the kiddos to look for (but not touch!) frogs’ eggs in the vernal pools next to the trail. Maps are available at the park office, and naturalists regularly lead guided hikes and wildlife programs for visitors.
Make a short drive to South Charleston for outdoor family fun. Little Creek Park is full of trails, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and a Soap Box Derby Track. Three main trails, the Loop Trail, Rock Ridge, and Little Creek, aren’t overly crowded, so social distancing is an easy task. On the Loop Trail keep your eye out for the Devil’s Tea Table, a beautiful rock formation along the trail. The Tea Table is a great place to snap a few photos.
Pro tip: Take extra shoes for the kids! They will love playing in the creek that runs along the trails, and the little beaches are perfect for dipping your toes while skipping rocks.
Coonskin Park is one of the most beautiful parks in the region and just 10 miles from Downtown Charleston. Explore woodland and riverside trails by foot or bike. Find the grotto, a perfect spot for pictures.
Picnic shelters of all sizes, horseshoe pits, and a modern playground make Coonskin the perfect spot for a reunion or birthday party. A pond with paddle boats and stocked with fish provide hours of fun for children of all ages. There’s also a wedding garden, amphitheater, Olympic-size pool, and a handicapped accessible 18-hole par three golf course.
If you prefer to stay in town, head across the South Side Bridge to the Sunrise Carriage Trail. The Carriage Trail begins at the foot of the hill behind the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Depot, which itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Drivers can park at the bottom of the hill or at the top. Dogs are welcome if they are leashed. Along the way you’ll find several historical gems, including the graves of two female Civil War spies and a memorial to Christa McAuliffe, American teacher and astronaut. The view from the top is breathtaking!
If kayaking is on your agenda, be sure to join the Tour de Coal community float. This annual event takes place in June to highlight and support the work of the Coal River Group, an environmental organization with the goal of restoring the Coal. The float starts at the Coal River Group’s Science & Education Center at Meadowood Park in Tornado. Float leisurely – it’s not a race – for 12 miles along the Coal River to the city of St. Albans, where finishers can celebrate at Yak Fest in Olde Main Plaza.
You don’t have to wait for the community float to enjoy the river. The Tour de Coal is just one section of the 88-mile Coal River “Walhonde” Water Trail. Anglers and kayakers can access the river at multiple launch sites year-round. To get started, visit the Science & Education Center to learn more about the trail, the river’s history, and its bright future. Rental businesses operate out of the headquarters and can get you on the water as quickly as you’d like.
The Elk River Rail Trail is roughly 37 miles with several river access points for kayaking, boating, and fishing. A kayak launch at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center is one of the more unique access points along the trail. Communities along the Elk River Rail Trail, like the town of Clendenin, are rising to meet visitors’ demands for kayak rentals, restaurants, and lodging.