Located just a short drive from New River Gorge National Park, Babcock State Park is a great place to spend a few hours or few days! Babcock State Park is best known as the site of the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill, one of the most photographed landmarks in West Virginia. However, with over 4,100 acres of land protected by the park, there are numerous options for recreational activities. Explore miles of park trails that lead through mountain scenery, along creeks and over swinging bridges. Go fishing or boating on Boley Lake. Need accommodations while visiting the area? Stay onsite at the 52-unit campground or rent one of 28 cozy cabins.
The park is a popular destination year-round, but you can expect it to be especially crowded in the fall. Plan to arrive early in the morning or late in the day when visiting on weekends, or any days throughout the fall. We hope our guide will give you an idea of what to expect when visiting Babcock State Park, including what to do and other helpful information for planning your trip!
BACOCK STATE PARK HISTORY
Babcock State Park was one of the first state parks to be established in West Virginia. Having been heavily impacted by timbering, coal-mining and disastrous forest fires, and considered nearly worthless, the bulk of the current park land was deeded to the state of West Virginia in 1934. Between 1934 and 1937, two Civilian Conservation Corp camps, Camp Lee and Camp Beaver, were established on the grounds of the present-day Babcock State Park. The young men went to work building roads, trails, administration buildings and cabins. The park was opened on July 1, 1937.
Additional facilities were added to the state park beginning in the 1960s—a campground, more cabins and 18-acre Boley Lake. Although the original CCC camp buildings are gone, the state park campground is located at the former site of Camp Lee.
The famous Glade Creek Grist Mill was completed in 1976 and is a fully operational replica of the original Cooper’s Mill, which once ground grain on Glade Creek. The new mill was created using parts salvaged from three different mills in West Virginia. The main part of the mill structure came from the Stoney Creek Grist Mill, dating back to the 1890s. It was disassembled and moved piece by piece to Babcock State Park. The water wheel was salvaged after a fire destroyed much of the Spring Run Grist Mill. Other parts for the mill came from the Onego Grist Mill. At the turn of the century, over 500 mills thrived in the state of West Virginia. Now the Glade Creek Grist Mill serves as a living monument and provides visitors an opportunity to see a grist mill in operation.
ACTIVITIES IN BABCOCK STATE PARK
Babcock State Park map, courtesy of West Virginia State Parks
Babcock State Park is free to visit and offers stunning scenery and a variety of recreational activities. The park headquarters, located at the Glade Creek Grist Mill parking lot, is a good place to start a visit to Babcock State Park. This rustic administration building also houses the park gift shop (open seasonally).
When visiting Babcock State Park, choose from the following activities:
- Visiting the Glade Creek Grist Mill. The Glade Creek Grist Mill is a West Virginia icon and one of the most photographed grist mills in the United States! We found the lighting at the mill especially beautiful early in the morning. [It was helpful staying nearby at the state park campground since we beat the crowds and had the park to ourselves during both a late evening and early morning visit!] When operating, visitors can also tour the mill and learn how corn was ground into cornmeal. The grist mill is open Memorial Day through Labor Day. After Labor Day, it is only open on weekends and closes for the season on the last Sunday in October. Cornmeal ground at the mill is also available for purchase from the park gift shop.
- Boating on Boley Lake. The calm water of 19-acre Boley Lake makes a great spot for boating with the family. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, paddleboats, rowboats, and canoes are available for rent at the marina. You can also bring your own kayak or canoe. There is no boat launch area, so all boats need to be carried to the water’s edge.
- Fishing. There are two fishing options at Babcock State Park—Boley Lake and Glade Creek. For those fishing from the shore or by boat on Boley Lake, bring bait for trout, largemouth bass, and bluegill. Glade Creek offers and alternative to casting on a lake and is best for those who don’t mind a bit of hiking and scrambling to find an ideal spot along this trout stream. West Virginia fishing licenses are available for purchase online from the WV DNR.
- Biking. 10 miles of trails at the park are managed for biking. All roads at Babcock State Park (both paved and gravel) are open to biking. Some hiking trails in the park are also open to mountain biking, including the Narrow Gauge Trail, Ridge Top Trail, Twin Hollow Trail, Connector Trail, Old Pond Trail, Manns Creek Gorge Trail, North Slope Trail, Short Cut Trail, Wilderness Trail, and Triple Creek Trail. See the park map and trail descriptions for more information.
- Picnicking. There are two picnic areas at Babcock State Park—Manns Creek Picnic Area, which includes a playground and game courts, and Sugar Camp Run Picnic Area.
- Taking a Scenic Drive. The main road which passes through the park, Park Forest 802, has several overlooks with views of the mountains.
- Visiting Natural Arch. Located off the side of the road and not far from the main park entrance, a short woodland trail leads through a natural sandstone arch.
THE BEST HIKES IN BABCOCK STATE PARK
Since there are 15 park trails providing over 20 miles of hiking opportunities at Babcock State Park, we felt it deserved its own section. The trails have a wide range of distance and difficulty, so be sure to check out the park trail descriptions for more details. NOTE: Many of the trails are out-and-back and cannot be combined with other trails to make a loop. Be sure to figure for double the distance (and time) for out-and-back hikes.
- If you only have time for a short hike, check out the Island-in-the-Sky This trail ranges from easy to difficult depending on which trailhead you choose to access the top. The trailhead behind the grist mill is only 0.5 miles but is moderately difficult since it is all uphill and has some rough terrain. This part of the trail leads along some interesting cliffs and up a couple ladder-style obstacles through boulders to a gazebo overlook. The other option is to use the trailhead at the sharp curve in the road on the way up to Boley Lake (there is a small parking area along the edge of the road). From this trailhead, it is a quick and easy walk to the gazebo. Although the views from the gazebo are largely obscured by trees, there are a few social trails leading to the edge of the cliffs and providing some views. Follow the trail to the end (or return the way you came if you used the 2nd mentioned trailhead) and walk down the road to return to the grist mill parking lot. There are two trailheads for Island-in-the-Sky—just behind the Grist Mill and at the small parking lot in the sharp curve in the road to Boley Lake. NOTE: Due to the ladder-type obstacles, this trail may be challenging for those with dogs. Although ours climbed the first obstacle (wooden ramp), we had to lift him up the second small ladder. Be careful when near high cliff areas due to steep drop-offs.
- The Skyline Trail is a good option if you have a few hours to explore. The 2-mile (one-way) Skyline Trail follows a cliff line and has three overlooks. The trail is considered moderate. Hike it as a 4-mile out-and-back or make a 4.5-mile loop by connecting Skyline Trail to Rocky Trail, Narrow Gauge Trail and Sewell Road. There are two trailheads for the Skyline Trail—across the road from Cabin 5 and at the Manns Creek Overlook in the Manns Creek Picnic Area.
- Rocky Trail is a short, steep trail that connects Skyline Trail to the Narrow Gauge Trail. This beautiful stone staircase was built by the CCC in the 1930s. Some prefer to descend the steep staircase from the Skyline Trail; however, it might be best to hike the loop in the clockwise direction (from the Narrow Gauge Trail) and climb the staircase in wet conditions.
- The Narrow Gauge Trail is 2.25 miles (one way) and follows the old bed of the Manns Creek Railway that connected Clifftop with Sewell until its closure in 1956. This moderate trail includes a swinging suspension bridge that crosses Glade Creek. The trail comes to an end at Sewell Road. There are two trailheads for the Narrow Gauge Trail—one can be found on the service road between the campground and the economy cabins (21-28) and the other is located on Sewell Road about 0.75 miles below cabin 13. Park in the lot for the grist mill and walk beyond the grist mill, up Old Sewell Road and beyond the cabins (8-13) to reach the trailhead.
- If you are seeking an easy trail to hike with younger children, Lake View Trail is a 1-mile loop around Boley Lake. The main trailhead is accessible from the parking lot at Boley Lake. However, for a more difficult hike, follow a spur trail from the gate above the grist mill. This 0.5-mile spur trail is uphill and connects to the Lake View Trail.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO NEAR BABCOCK STATE PARK?
There is plenty to do to near Babcock State Park to keep you busy for several days. Our recommendations include:
- Explore New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. This park encompasses and protects 73,000 acres of land and a 53-mile stretch of New River—one of the oldest rivers in the world! The rugged landscape surrounding the gorge was once home to coal mining camps. Now millions of visitors come to New River Gorge to enjoy the scenery and its many recreational opportunities, including hiking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and fishing.
- Visit a nearby West Virginia State Park. There are six other West Virginia state parks in the areas surrounding New River Gorge: Hawks Nest, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield, Bluestone, Little Beaver, Camp Creek and Pipestem Resort. See the West Virginia State Parks website for more information on any of these parks.
- Go whitewater rafting at Gauley River National Recreation Area. Take on the Gauley River’s whitewater rapids as you pass through scenic valleys and gorges.
- Visit Bluestone National Scenic River. This pristine 10.5-mile section of the Bluestone River offers excellent fishing, boating, and hiking.
HOW TO GET TO BABCOCK STATE PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION
Babcock State Park is located in Clifftop, West Virginia, just east of New River Gorge.
- Babcock State Park is about an hour and a half from Charleston, WV. Directions from Charleston, WV, to Babcock State Park.
- The park is only about 20 minutes from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center at New River Gorge National Park. Directions from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center to Babcock State Park.
ENTRANCE FEES FOR BABCOCK STATE PARK
Babcock State Park is free to visit.
WHERE TO STAY IN BABCOCK STATE PARK
Stay on-site to enjoy all the area has to offer! Babcock State Park has both cabins and a campground-- both with pet-friendly options.
Babcock State Park Cabins: The park has 28 cabins for rent in three different sizes/styles—vacation cabins (large modern cabins), legacy cabins (CCC cabins) and economy cabins (1-room, studio style). All provide linens and have full equipped kitchens. A few cabins are pet-friendly (1-2, 9, 12-15, 17-18 and 24-27). 13 of the cabins are located near the grist mill, and the rest are located deeper within the park. All cabins have Wi-Fi.
Babcock State Park Campground:
- Location: The Babcock State Park Campground is situated off Route 11 (Clifftop Road), just 3 miles north of the state park. Directions from the Glade Creek Grist Mill to the Babcock State Park Campground.
- Accessible via:
- Reservations: Open from mid-April through late October. Babcock State Park Campground.
- Capacity: 52 sites—28 electric and 24 non-electric sites.
- Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: Yes / No / No.
- Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets and showers.
- Pet friendly:
- Additional details: This campground is extremely popular since it is just a 2-minute drive to the Canyon Rim area of New River Gorge National Park. Book in advance. Other amenities at the campground include laundry machines in the bathhouse building, ice and firewood for sale, a dumping station, and a water fill-up station.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BABCOCK STATE PARK
Although the park is open to visitors year-round, the Glade Creek Grist Mill and other facilities are only open seasonally. The campground, cabins, picnic area restrooms and certain area gates typically open in mid-April and close the end of October.
During the warmer months, you can hike, mountain bike, boat and fish. In the summer, the park also offers nature tours, movie presentations and organized sports and group activities. However, with the warmer weather comes the crowds. Mid to late spring is an ideal time to visit to avoid crowds.
If you are looking to photograph the Glade Creek Grist Mill, it is accessible year-round. This location is especially busy during the peak fall foliage season. Since parking spaces are limited near the grist mill, finding a parking spot can be difficult during the busy fall season, as well as weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
ARE PETS ALLOWED AT BABCOCK STATE PARK?
Dogs and cats are welcome in the park (and other WV state parks and forests). However, they must be leashed and restrained. Visitors are also expected to clean up after their pets.
NOTE: If you are planning to hike with your dog, you may want to skip the Island-in-the-Sky Trail due to the ladder-style obstacles. Some trails, like the Narrow Gauge Trail, also have swinging bridges. Know your pet’s limitations.
IS THERE CELLULAR SERVICE IN BABCOCK STATE PARK?
Cellular reception is limited in the Glade Creek Grist Mill area. Babcock State Park Campground offers Wi-Fi for guests. The cabins all have Wi-fi as well.
RELATED INFORMATION ON BABCOCK STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Nearby the area is the amazing New River Gorge National Park. Be sure to check out our New River Gorge National Park Itinerary!
- Check out our extensive blog that covers What to See and Do in New River Gorge National Park.
- When you get back from your trip, check out our unique custom, vintage travel posters made from your own photo! They are truly one-of-a-kind and make great gifts!