CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — With food and gas prices continuing to climb amid 40-year high inflation, many are looking to save money in any way they can, but it’s still summer, and every now and then it’s nice to get out of the house.
Luckily, north central West Virginia has plenty of fun places to go that are free. Here’s a look at some of them:
Monongalia & Preston counties
Cooper’s Rock State Forest — Entering this state forest in Bruceton Mills is free. Canyon overlooks, picnic shelters, sandstone cliffs for climbing and bouldering, 50 miles of hiking and biking trails are in the park as well as geocaching spots.
Dorsey’s Knob — You can climb Sky Rock and enjoy a bird’s eye view for free.
West Virginia Botanic Garden — From a mediation garden to hiking trails, these gardens on Tyrone Road in Morgantown are free to visit (though donations are welcome) and are open every day from dawn until dusk.
WVU’s Core Arboretum — The arboretum is gorgeous to visit any day, but it also frequently hosts free concerts and guided educational nature walks. Check its events page to learn more.
Cathedral State Park — This park is home to one of the last living commemorations of the vast virgin hemlock forest as well as more than 50 species of wildflowers and six miles of hiking trails.
Valley Falls State Park — Valley Falls was the site of an old lumber and grist mill community, but now it’s home to picnicking spots and 18 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Blackwater Falls State Park — The park is home to some of the state’s most-photographed spots: Blackwater Falls themselves, Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook, as well as 20 miles of hiking trails and geocaching.
Holly River State Park — This is West Virginia’s second-largest state park. Visitors can hike to the falls, swim, have a picnic or play tennis.
Helvetia — This census-designated place isn’t far from Holly River State Park and it’s one of West Virginia’s more unique places. Though it had a population of just 38 during the 2020 census, it was founded by Swiss immigrants in 1869 who were proud of their culture and heritage, making for some very unique architecture.
North Bend Rail Trail — The North Bend Rail Trail stretches 6,800 miles from California to Delaware, and in West Virginia, its west end starts at Parkersburg, Wood County and its east end is at Wolf Summit, Harrison County, not far from Clarksburg. The trail includes several old rail tunnels, so if you’re hiking or biking, bring a flashlight or a headlamp. Part of it runs through North Bend State Park in Ritchie County.
Dolly Sods Wilderness — Dolly Sods, in Tucker, Randolph and Grant counties contains almost a dozen hiking trails and scenic spots like Bear Rocks Preserve.
Audra State Park — This park located in Upshur and Barbour counties includes a boardwalk under Alum Cave’s rocky overhang, hiking trails, geocaching and swimming (at your own risk).