Babcock State Park: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

Babcock State Park: An In-Depth Family Adventure Guide

State parks have always been a great way to escape the hustle and bustle in our lives as well as a great way to introduce our kids to the world in its purest form. Seeing your little one’s eyes light up as they gaze at nature is one of the warmest feelings for a parent.

The US bustles with several state parks, each unique in its own way. Nestled in the heart of West Virginia, Babcock State Park is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and families alike.

With its breathtaking scenery, diverse recreational activities, and rich history, this state park promises an unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages. If you’re planning a family getaway, Babcock State Park is a must-visit destination, offering a perfect blend of nature, education, and adventure. In this article, we are going to look at what makes Babcock such a revered destination for families;

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What you need to know before visiting Babcock State Park

Encompassing a vast expanse of 4,127 acres, Babcock State Park is a breathtaking destination situated 20 miles southeast of the New River Gorge Bridge. The park’s crown jewel is the Glade Creek Grist Mill, an operational replica of the historic Cooper’s Mill that once graced its grounds.

Visitors can also partake in various recreational pursuits, including hiking, fishing, and mountain biking. For thrill-seekers, the allure of whitewater rafting in the New River Gorge adds an exciting dimension to the park’s offerings. But before you set off for the family adventure, we have compiled some crucial information for you to help ease your planning;

Babcock State Park on Google Map:

1. How much does it cost to go to Babcock State Park?

Unlike some parks that require an access fee, Babcock State Park warmly welcomes families without paying even a cent. This commitment to accessibility makes the park an even more inviting destination for families seeking a budget-friendly adventure.

2. Can you fish at Babcock State Park?

Yes, fishing at Babcock State Park is permitted. At Babcock State Park, fishing enthusiasts are in for a treat as they cast their lines in the park’s two distinct fishing havens. The first option, Glade Creek, boasts a picturesque setting near the iconic Grist Mill.

While the creek may require a bit of climbing and nimble maneuvering over rocks, the effort is undoubtedly rewarded with the prospect of catching a variety of fish species. For those seeking a more relaxed fishing experience, Boley Lake, spanning 19 acres, beckons with its easily accessible shoreline.

The lake permits only non-motorized boats, ensuring a tranquil environment for anglers. Here, fishing aficionados can try their luck at hooking largemouth bass, bluegill, trout, and channel catfish, providing a diverse and exciting fishing experience for all who venture to the waters of Babcock State Park.

3. When is the best time to visit Babcock State Park?

While the Babcock State Park is beautiful all year, the best time to visit is during the enchanting autumn season. As the calendar turns towards October, the park transforms into a vibrant tapestry of warm, earthy hues, enhancing its natural beauty.

The iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill, a highlight of Babcock State Park, takes center stage against the breathtaking backdrop of fall foliage, creating a picturesque scene that photographers and nature enthusiasts alike will cherish. The middle of October marks the peak of the fall colors, offering visitors the opportunity to witness the park at its most stunning and captivating.

Glade Creek Grist Mill on Google Map:

What to do at Babcock State Park

Babcock is an explosive park with so much to offer visitors. To help you plan your itinerary, we have compiled a list of things to do at Babcock State Park as a family;

1. Visit the Glade Creek Grist Mill

The Glade Creek Grist Mill is an iconic symbol of West Virginia and ranks among the most photographed grist mills in the United States. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the mill and gain insights into the historical process of grinding corn into cornmeal.

Operating from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the mill transitions to weekend-only hours after Labor Day and concludes its season on the last Sunday in October. Visitors can purchase the freshly ground cornmeal from the mill at the park’s gift shop.

2. Go boating on Boley Lake

Boating on the serene waters of 19-acre Boley Lake at Babcock State Park is a delightful experience for families seeking a tranquil aquatic adventure. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the marina offers a variety of watercraft for rent, including paddleboats, rowboats, and canoes, providing the perfect opportunity for a unique family outing.

If you have a kayak or canoe, feel free to bring it along. However, it’s important to note that there is no designated boat launch area, adding a touch of uniqueness to the experience – all watercraft must be carried to the water’s edge.

Boley Lake on Google Map:

3. Biking in Babcock State Park

Babcock State Park is a haven for biking enthusiasts, offering a network of diverse trails that cater to riders of all skill levels. With a dedicated 10 miles of trails exclusively managed for biking, cycling enthusiasts can explore the park’s natural beauty on well-maintained paths.

All roads within Babcock State Park, whether paved or gravel, are open to biking, providing cyclists with the freedom to traverse the expansive landscapes at their own pace.


For those seeking a more adventurous experience, several hiking trails are also open to mountain biking, adding an extra layer of excitement to the biking opportunities in the park. From the exhilarating Narrow Gauge Trail to the scenic Wilderness Trail, biking in Babcock State Park offers a thrilling and immersive way to experience the park’s stunning terrain.

3. Picnicking at Babcock State Park

Picnicking at Babcock State Park is a delightful experience, offering families two distinct areas to enjoy the outdoors. Manns Creek Picnic Area, complete with a playground and game courts, provides an ideal setting for families with children. While the little ones engage in playful activities, parents can relax at picnic tables surrounded by the lush greenery of the park.

For those seeking a more tranquil spot, the Sugar Camp Run Picnic Area offers a serene setting amidst nature’s beauty. Picture-perfect landscapes and the soothing sounds of babbling creeks create a peaceful ambiance for a leisurely family meal.

4. Take a scenic drive through Babcock State Park

Embarking on a scenic drive through Babcock State Park along Park Forest 802 is a captivating journey that promises breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. As you navigate the winding road, the landscape unfolds in a series of awe-inspiring overlooks, each providing a picturesque snapshot of the park’s natural beauty.

5. Hiking in Babcock State Park

Adventurous families can embark on an exhilarating hiking adventure amidst the breathtaking landscapes of Babcock State Park. The park has 15 well-maintained trails that offer over 20 miles of diverse hiking opportunities.

Catering to hikers of all skill levels, the trails vary in both distance and difficulty, ensuring that everyone, from beginners to seasoned trekkers, can find a route that suits their preferences. Here are the top hiking trails in Babcock State Park;

1. Island-in-the-Sky

This hiking trail offers a diverse and rewarding experience, catering to hikers of varying skill levels. Accessible from two trailheads, this trail presents a choice between a moderately difficult ascent from behind the Grist Mill or a quicker, easier route from the parking lot near the sharp curve en route to Boley Lake.

The 0.5-mile trail behind the Grist Mill challenges hikers with uphill sections, rough terrain, and ladder-style obstacles amid fascinating cliffs and boulders. This part of the trail leads to a captivating gazebo overlook with panoramic views. On the other hand, the trailhead at the sharp curve provides a swift and straightforward path to the gazebo, though tree cover partially obscures the views.

Completing the trail loop, or retracing steps for those using the second trailhead, hikers return to the Grist Mill parking lot, concluding a memorable adventure on the Island-in-the-Sky trail.

2. Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail is a captivating option for those seeking a moderate yet rewarding hiking experience at Babcock State Park. Covering a distance of 2 miles one way, this trail unveils the beauty of the park as it meanders along a cliff line, treating hikers to three breathtaking overlooks.

Accessible from two trailheads—across the road from Cabin 5 and at the Manns Creek Overlook in the Manns Creek Picnic Area—the trail offers flexibility for hikers to choose their starting point.

Whether you opt for the 4-mile out-and-back journey or decide to extend your adventure with a 4.5-mile loop by connecting to Rocky Trail, Narrow Gauge Trail, and Sewell Road, the Skyline Trail promises a scenic exploration.

3. Rocky Trail

The Rocky Trail hiking trail, a short but invigorating pathway, serves as a vital link connecting the Skyline Trail to the Narrow Gauge Trail. Winding its way through the enchanting landscape, this trail is distinguished by a magnificent stone staircase, a testament to the craftsmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s.

The steep ascent of the staircase provides a challenging yet rewarding climb, offering hikers stunning views of the surrounding scenery. While some adventurous souls prefer descending from the Skyline Trail, it is often recommended to hike the loop in a clockwise direction, starting from the Narrow Gauge Trail, especially during wet conditions.

This ensures a safer and more stable ascent up the stone staircase, allowing hikers to fully appreciate the historical charm and natural beauty of the Rocky Trail.

4. The Narrow Gauge Trail

The Narrow Gauge Trail, a captivating 2.25-mile journey, invites hikers to traverse the historic path once used by the Manns Creek Railway, connecting Clifftop with Sewell until its closure in 1956. This moderate trail offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s railway history, winding through scenic landscapes and presenting an opportunity to explore remnants of the past.

One of the highlights of the trail is a swinging suspension bridge that spans Glade Creek, adding an element of excitement and adventure to the hike. The trail’s endpoint is Sewell Road, providing a satisfying conclusion to the trek.

Where to eat around Babcock State Park

While the enchanting Babcock State Park may lack on-site dining options, the surrounding West Virginia towns offer a variety of culinary experiences to satisfy your family’s appetite after a day of exploration. Consider a visit to Rainelle, Fayetteville, or Ansted, each with its unique charm and local flavor. Here are our top picks of places to eat around Babcock State Park;

1. The Lost Paddle Bar and Grill

Dining at The Lost Paddle Bar and Grill is more than just a necessity; it’s a culinary adventure that complements the outdoor excitement of a day well-spent. Indulge in their famous wings, each bite bursting with flavor, or savor the richness of the black Angus burger, a culinary masterpiece made from a custom grind of chuck, brisket, and sirloin.

The patio, adorned with two wood-fired pizza ovens, adds a touch of authenticity to their award-winning pizza selection, with bubbling crusts that are a feast for the eyes and taste buds alike.

The Lost Paddle Bar And Grill on Google Map:

2. Firecreek BBQ & Steaks

Step into a world of culinary delight at Firecreek BBQ & Steaks in Fayetteville, where a gastronomic adventure awaits. Indulge in the finest steaks that will tantalize your taste buds with each juicy bite, leaving you craving for more. The aroma of mouth-watering barbecue fills the air, promising a flavor-packed experience that’s sure to satisfy your cravings.

Firecreek BBQ & Steaks on Google Map:

3. Wood Iron Eatery

Indulge in a culinary delight at Wood Iron Eatery, a charming coffee house cafe nestled in the historic Ankrom-Dickerson House in Fayetteville. As a small, chef and wife-owned establishment, Wood Iron Eatery offers a unique and intimate dining experience.

Immerse yourself in the cozy atmosphere and savor the flavors of their carefully crafted menu, which spans from delectable breakfast options to satisfying lunches and irresistible baked goods. The café takes pride in being a full-service espresso bar, ensuring that coffee enthusiasts can relish a perfect cup of java.

Wood Iron Eatery on Google Map:

Where to stay at Babcock State Park

The park provides a range of accommodation options, including cozy cabins and a well-equipped campground, both of which offer pet-friendly choices for families traveling with furry companions. If you prefer the convenience of nearby hotels, there are also lodging options near the park, ensuring you have flexibility in choosing the accommodation that best suits your family’s preferences and needs.

1. Hotels

1. Quality Inn New River Gorge

Nestled just minutes away from the iconic New River Gorge Bridge and surrounded by a haven of outdoor activities, Quality Inn New River Gorge offers a perfect retreat for both adventure seekers and those looking to unwind. This Fayetteville hotel places you in the heart of a recreational paradise, with opportunities for golfing, hunting, fishing, rock climbing, and white-water rafting at the nearby New River Gorge National River.

Quality Inn New River Gorge on Google Map:

2. Comfort Inn New River

Nestled conveniently off Route 19, the Comfort Inn New River in Oak Hill, West Virginia, is a gateway to several scenic and recreational wonders. The hotel’s prime location provides easy access to notable attractions such as the awe-inspiring New River Gorge Bridge, the Historic Fayette Theater, the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine, and the family-friendly Babcock State Park, where fishing, hiking, boating, and more await.

Comfort Inn New River on Google Map:

2. Cabins

Staying in the cabins at Babcock State Park is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the park’s natural beauty while enjoying the comforts of home. With 28 cabins available in three distinct sizes and styles, there’s an option to suit every family’s needs.

The vacation cabins, spacious and modern, provide ample room for larger groups, while the legacy cabins, reminiscent of the Civilian Conservation Corps era, offer a charming and historical atmosphere.

For a cozier experience, the economy cabins, designed in a studio style, are perfect for smaller groups or couples. Each cabin is thoughtfully equipped with full kitchens and provided linens, ensuring a hassle-free stay. Families with furry members will appreciate the pet-friendly options, allowing everyone to join in on the adventure. Whether you choose a cabin near the iconic grist mill or opt for a more secluded spot within the park, the cabins provide a serene retreat, complemented by the convenience of Wi-Fi connectivity throughout.

3. The Babcock State Park Campground

Located just 3 miles north of the state park off Route 11 (Clifftop Road), this campground provides easy access to the breathtaking Glade Creek Grist Mill. With 52 well-equipped sites, including 28 electric and 24 non-electric options, the campground caters to a range of camping preferences.

For those seeking modern conveniences, the campground offers flush toilets and showers, providing a touch of comfort amid nature. What makes this campground particularly appealing is its proximity to the Canyon Rim area of the New River Gorge National Park, just a 2-minute drive away, making it an ideal base for exploring the wonders of the region.

Given its popularity, it’s advisable to make reservations in advance. Additionally, the campground provides essential amenities such as laundry facilities, on-site sales of ice and firewood, a dumping station, and a water fill-up station, ensuring a hassle-free and enjoyable camping experience for all.

Babcock State Park is a great spot for families to reconnect with nature, each other, and the past. With its scenic beauty, historical sites, and abundant recreational opportunities, this West Virginia gem is a perfect destination for a family adventure.

Whether you’re exploring the Grist Mill, camping under the stars, or enjoying outdoor activities, Babcock State Park offers a memorable experience that will leave your children with a newfound appreciation for the great outdoors.

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