Every day of my commute I was passing a road that had a tiny sign pointing to a state park that lay to the north. I decided to look it up and saw that it was Audra State Park in the Buckhannon/Philippi area. One weekend when Neal and I felt like doing some hiking, I proposed checking out this park, since neither of us had visited it yet. I was especially interested in the Alum Cave trail and boardwalk.
First of all, it was farther off my commute route than I thought! But that’s OK; it was an adventure. Secondly, the park tends towards the smaller side, with the distinct feel of a community swimming hole. The Middle Fork River is the main attraction, and this stretch is wide and rocky. Aside from swimmers, you’ll find sunbathers on boulders, kids scrabbling over rocks, and folks with fishing poles trying their luck. It’s also a popular picnic spot.
The cave trail was a moderate hike, at least for a flatlander like me. It was definitely not what I am used to, featuring more rocks than dirt and steep slopes that are only sometimes safeguarded with railings. I wore my usual walking shoes, which are up for most hikes, but the uneven footing made me wish I went with my hiking boots instead. It’s a humbling experience to be going slow and careful in sensible shoes and be repeatedly passed by running kids in flip-flops! But Neal says he’s part mountain goat, and that I wasn’t doing too badly. (I suspect everyone who grew up in West Virginia and was outside a moderate amount is a mountain goat compared to me, but I’ll get there eventually.)
Check out this park if you are looking to take a dip, eat a sandwich, or stretch your legs. It can get crowded on warm, sunny days, so if you are looking for a quieter experience, try exploring it earlier in the spring or later in fall, or gamble by heading out on an overcast day. The park also permits kayaking (at your own risk) when the river level supports it, and has both a large picnic shelter and wooded campsites on the river available for rental.