KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va (WOWK) – My first love might be weather forecasting, but my second love is the great outdoors! Many people that I speak to while out and about in our region say they also enjoy exploring and soaking up views and all of the natural features our area has to offer, but say they never have enough time to do so.
Look no more! If you work in the Charleston area, there is a beautiful and serene waterfall that you can enjoy with just a ten-minute drive and a ten-minute walk.
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 three different occasions by 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 am very glad to have found it! It is a very serene and cool place to eat lunch or to sit and contemplate. Even in the summertime when temperatures are in the low 90s, it’s still in the 70s in this comfortable little nook.
It’s easy to find with a little searching
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. From the Elkview side, drive south on US-119 past the four-way at Big Chimney, past Rollin’ Smoke Barbecue on your left, and about another three miles, the turnoff will be visible to your left to hop 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, and you’ll begin to go up a hill. Right as you crest the hill, you’ll see a 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 part of the Coonskin Park trail system, along with the Hemlock Trail are 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!
I hope you get a chance to enjoy this waterfall! It is one of about a hundred in our area. Each waterfall is unique in its own way, and this one is no different! It happens to be one of my favorites!