CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Looking for a beautiful spot to enjoy a bite to eat on your lunch break, or just looking to get into the woods to take in the scenic air? Look no further than the Coonskin Grotto!
The Coonskin Grotto is a beautiful nature spot in Kanawha County, with a waterfall that you can enjoy within just a 12-minute drive and a 12-minute walk from the Capitol City.
From above, the Coonskin Grotto looks like a hole in the Earth! It’s a great place to relax on a hot afternoon. When it’s 90 degrees outside, it’ll be in the 70s at the Grotto!
The waterfall is known by the locals as “The Grotto.” A grotto by definition is another term for a large cave. The area that makes up The Grotto is a crevice that Coonskin Falls drops and collects into. There is plenty of room for shelter thanks to large rocks overhead – I’ve actually taken shelter on several different occasions from thunderstorms booming overhead.
By now, you probably can assume The Grotto is located within Coonskin Park! I stumbled onto it by accident in 2017 while searching for wild mushrooms in the fall, and I am very glad to have found it! It is a very serene and cool place to eat lunch or to sit and contemplate.
Directions to reach the Coonskin Grotto
First off, if you’re heading north from Charleston, drive onto Interstate 79 and hop off of Exit 1 (Mink Shoals) and head north on US-119 for approximately 1 mile until you see a turn-off for the park, which bears right across a new bridge.
From the Elkview side, drive south on US-119 past the four-way at Big Chimney, past Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue on your left, and in about another three miles, the turnoff will be visible to your left to cross the modern bridge connecting Coonskin Park with US-119 over the Elk River.
Once over the bridge, continue on the pavement that takes you through Coonskin Park. You will see the golf course, a skateboard park, and Herscher Lake on your right before a sharp turn to your left. Continue on the pavement, and go past the tennis courts on your right. Then, you’ll begin to go up a hill.
Right as you crest the hill, you’ll see a gravel parking lot beside a road that juts to the left straight up a mountain. That’s where you should park. Directly across from the road going up the mountain, you will see the head of the trail, marked with a beautiful stone structure that says “Alice Knight Memorial Trail.” Your hiking begins!
You’ll follow this trail for about a 1/3 of a mile. If you have more time, take it slow, as there is plenty to check out.
This area is part of the Coonskin Park trail system. Along with the Hemlock Trail, this area is one of my favorite areas to search for wild mushrooms. You will see a large rock overhang that is neat to check out on your left right before you get to the spot. Once you’re past the rock overhang, start listening for the sound of rushing water. Just ahead is a trail that will drop down toward the creek. Take that trail, and about 50 yards down will be the falls!
There are about a dozen neat trails to check out at Coonskin Park. Check out the map below to see how they connect!
One note for those looking to check this out. Although the Coonskin Grotto flows virtually continuously during the spring, fall and winter, Coonskin Falls can dry out during periods of heat and dry weather during the summertime. However, just about anytime after it rains, the Grotto will be flowing once again, ready to be enjoyed.
There is also one more note. A ladder that takes you down to the Grotto at its entrance was destroyed recently. It is still very trekkable, but exercise a little caution heading down! A new ladder should be built soon.