Posted in Hiking, Park Reviews for Neighboring States, West Virginia

West Virginia: North Bend State Park – Various Trails

We spent a day hiking a series of smaller trails at North Bend State Park in West Virginia. Although the trails were short, they scenic. The trails we hiked include: Giant Tree Trail, Giant Pine Trail, Castle Rock Trail, and the Overlook Trail.

Castle Rock viewed from behind it

Getting Oriented
In the map below, the lodge is the colored magenta and it’s located near the center of the map. Southwest of the lodge and across the road from it is the Giant Pine Trail. The Giant Tree Trail is directly north of the lodge, but south of the North Fork Hughes River. To get to its trail head we parked at Picnic Shelter #2; I’ve colored its icon yellow to make it more noticeable. To access the Overlook Trail and the Castlerock Trail we parked at the Jughandle Day-use Area. It is located near the park’s dam which is east of the lodge in the lower, right-hand area of the map.

Excerpt of the park map for North Bend State Park
Giant Pine Trail

The Giant Tree Trail is a 0.6 mile loop trail. The trail head is across from the lodge parking area. The loop path descends down to a hollow, crosses a small stream and returns uphill back to the starting point. And yes, we did see a few tail pine trees along the way.

Entrance to Giant Pine Trail across the road from the lodge parking lot

On the Giant Pine Trail
The trail is marked with yellow plastic diamonds
Crossing a small stream
Deb on Giant Pine Trail
Almost back to entrance
Giant Tree Trail

The trail-head for the Giant Tree Trail is adjacent to one of the narrow forest roads. We followed it to picnic area #2 where we to parked. We then walked down the road back to the trail-head. The trail is a half-mile one-way. It drops down to a hollow where two streams join together and then rises up to a roadway on the opposite side of the hollow. It ended up near an area with small cabins. As it is not a loop, you must return via the same trail for a total distance of one mile.

Parking at a picnic area down the road from Giant Tree Trail
Walking along the forest road en route to trailhead
Trailhead for Giant Tree Trail
Giant Tree Trail also uses yellow diamonds
On the trail
Confluence of creeks
Trail above the one of the creeks
Ferns on the side of the trail
Almost at trail’s end. The trail is not a loop, so from the end we returned back along the trail.
Castle Rock Trail

The Castle Rock Trail was one of our favorite trails in the park. Park at the Jughandle Day-use Area near the dam. The trailhead is at the dam and crosses the North Fork at the dam’s base. It proceeds along the creek and makes a sharp turn to the northeast.

Trailhead by the dam
Approaching dam
Approaching sharp bend in gravel road

As you come to the bend in the “U-turn”, don’t make the turn. Instead, you look at the ridge that’s inside the “U”. It ascends up from the trail. Because of the shade, it’s difficult to make out, but there is a dirt trail with a blue diamond blaze going up this ridge. Proceed up the dirt trail. As you ascend this ridge there is an increasingly steep drop-off to the trails on either side. Just before you reach the peak of the ridge you’ll encounter a towering rock outcropping ahead of you. This is the castle rock.

Trailhead for Castle Rock Trail at sharp bend in road
Trail uses blue diamond marker

The trail gets steeper here, so take your time, be careful, and enjoy the rock formation. After castle rock, you’ll pass through a pine grove and reach an opening with a scenic view. You can see the top of the dam and the lake beyond. If you look to the left of the lake on the hill side, you’ll notice a wooden deck that is lake’s overlook.

Approaching Castle Rock. Dam is visible to the right
Castle Rock
I am standing next to Castle Rock to give you an idea of its size.
Passing through pine grove
End of the trail. Emergency spillway is ahead. Above on hillside the wooden overlook platform is visible.
Telephoto shot of overlook

At this point, if you want to visit the overlook, you have three choices.

  1. Retreat the way you came back to the U-turn of the gravel trail. Take the bend to the overlook trail up to the platform.
  2. Go cross country directly to the overlook, up very steep grassy slopes (not recommended)
  3. Go forward and then left to the paved path. Take the path down to the left till it reaches an intersection with the overlook trail. Take the overlook trail up to the wooden platform. On the way back, take the gravel trail all the way back to the dam.
Paved path down to Overlook Trail. Its to the left from the very end of the Castle Rock Trail
Overlook Trail

We think the Overlook Trail is so named because it’s easy to overlook. 🙂 From the dam, the gravel trail takes a sharp 180 degree turn (and intersects the Castle Rock Trail) and continues to parallel the North Fork of the Hughes River.

Near the point that the river bends again, the gravel path veers to the right and ascends to the top of the dam (and intersects the other end of the Castle Rock Trail.) Ahead, you’ll discern that the trail continues through the weeds. Although not completely obvious, this is the Overlook Trail. The trail continues through an overgrown field, eventually reaching the woods.

You’ll see both blue and red (Overlook Trail) diamond markers for the trail. When you reach the top of the hill, veer to the right to go to the Overlook viewing deck.

Overlook Trail. On the right is the ridgeline traversed by the Castle Rock Trail.
At the river bend
Here the gravel trail ascends up towards the far end of the Castle Rock Trail and the top of the damn.
At the bend in the trail, the narrow unlabeled gravel path is the trail to the overlook!
On the trail to the overlook (really!)
Trail up hill to overlook has (widely spaced) red and blue markers
Trail with markers on downed tree
Upon reaching the top of the hill, take the trail that veers to the right to get to the overlook

From the platform, you’ll have a great view of the lake and the top of the dam.

The overlook platform
Panoramic photo from overlook (Click on photo to enlarge)
Additional Information

  • Address: 202 North Bend State Park Road, Cairo, WV 26337
  • Geo-coordinates: 39.222452, -81.111069
  • Link to Google Maps

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

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