Ansted, West Virginia
Home to Hawk’s Nest State Park and the Mill Creek Rail Trail. I have visited this place many times and always look for new aspects of interest here, as it is quite a wonderful and beautiful, historic place.
Hawks Nest Road and the Hawk’s Nest Rail Trail, follow the Mill Creek down to the New River, just above the Hawk’s Nest Dam. This is a public river access point, so expect to encounter pick ups pulling boats in and out on this narrow gravel road. Parking is available at the top of the rail trail and there is a rather large area at the bottom along the river.
The 1.8-mile Hawks Nest Rail Trail follows the path of a former Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad branch. It passes by several waterfalls and an abandoned coal mine along Mill Creek. The rail trail is a remnant of early mining operations. The Mill Creek mine at Fox Branch was in operation from 1921-1950 and it’s entrance is still visible today from the road and as well as the trail.
Most people will come here just to see the main waterfall or to walk the rail trail. Of course, you can’t go wrong if that’s all you have in mind for this area, however, there is a whole lot more here. Hawk’s Nest Lodge is above on the hill and offers tram access up and down. There is also a really great overlook which offers a nice view of the New River. Here’s a link to the state park website. This place would be a great hub for waterfalling in Fayette/Nicholas County. If it’s the same quality as the other state park facilities I have stayed at, it should suit you well. W.V. has some nice accommodations in the state parks. There are also a number of other nice trails in the area. Turkey Creek has several falls as well, and is not to be ignored.
To access this area, follow US 60 from Gauley Bridge on the western end, or from US 19 on the eastern end at Hico, to the town of Ansted. The state park facilities are on US 60. Getting to the rail trail is a bit tricky if you’ve never been, and if they move the Rite Aid, it will be difficult. But, basically, there is a turn onto what looks like the entrance to a really tight parking area right in front of the Rite Aid store. Just at the front door of the store. Very sharp turn. Follow across the front of the store and around to the right, and when you get to an intersection, look back behind to your left. You’ll see a tunnel that goes under US 60. That’s where you want to go.
At the top of the road and the rail trail are several waterfalls, a mill ruin, and an old railroad trestle. To access the falls and the mill ruin, park in the pull offs just before the trestle. Begin to venture off to your left. You will find a trail that will take you down to creek level near the ruins of the mill. Upper Mill Creek Falls will be on your left, and Westlake Falls, just on the other side of the ruin to your right, with the trestle rather prominent. You can’t miss that. You should be able to get in the creek here, unless it’s a real gully washer.
One of the things that I like about this creek is it’s sheer beauty no matter what season I am there. I always find something stunning here. I particularly like the area above the main falls, about halfway down Hawk’s Nest Road. There are some really gorgeous creek scenes above the main falls and they are quite accessible.
I have also, recently, discovered another fair size waterfall on this creek. I have never seen anyone show an image of this falls before, though, I’m sure it’s no big secret, as it’s right beside the road. It’s just hard to get to and hard to see. Just down from Mill Creek Falls you will see what I was told is a “powder shed”. It’s right beside the road. The shed is a brick structure, approximately 6′ x 6′ with a sheet metal roof. The falls is just above this and though it might be beside the road, you can only see it through trees and brush. Access at the falls is dubious at best. It’s pretty steep and dangerous from the road side at and below the falls. It seems the best way to get to this falls is by creek walking about 50 yards from a pull off below the falls, which is just below the powder shed on your left. I might name this Powder Shed Falls if nobody complains, since it doesn’t seem to have one. This might not be too easy to access during any kind of high water and I don’t know if it can be viewed or photographed from the rail trail as it does seem to face the road on it’s descent. It may, however, be a major looking waterfall during heavy water, as off to it’s side is a creek wide drop of at least 6′ and maybe a bit more. I’ll have to schedule a visit during heavy rain sometime.
Just down from the Powder Shed, you will notice the Fox Branch mine entrance across the creek. This is Fox Branch and there is a nice waterfall here, but it only runs when it’s wet. You will probably have to be on the rail trail to even see this waterfall. There are also some artifacts and ruins from the mining days, as well as some old bridge abutments, etc., in this area. Here’s a picture of the Fox Branch by my friend Amanda Jean.
At the bottom of the road you will see the Hawk’s Nest Tram as well as the rail trestle across the New River. There is also a gift shop down here, believe it or not. One of three in the park. They sell my book here but you probably need to go up top to get it. What’s best about this spot is that you can see the river and there is a lot of parking so you can hike down river to see the dam and Turkey Creek Falls if you’re so inclined. To get to Turkey Creek’s lower falls, after you park, walk about 1/4 mile down stream to the dam, and you will come to the bottom of Turkey Creek. There is about a 25 foot fall here. You can’t miss it. As you can tell from the images below, it’s looks do change according to weather.
There are also additional falls on this creek and they are very pretty, but your best bet is to drive back to the top and park at the Hawk’s Nest Overlook, Picnic Shelter, and Gift Shop parking lot, which is not the same as the lodge and west on US 60 from the lodge, just a short way. My book is for sale in the gift shops here. If it’s not at this one, it will be at the lodge gift shop.
The trailhead for Turkey Creek will be at the western end of the parking lot and drop down into the forest parallel to the road for a ways, and then when you hit the creek, it just follows the creek down hill. It’s not terribly rough, but you may need to exercise some caution when getting down into the creek in some places. This next photo is a good example. I believe there is one more nice waterfall below this one on Turkey Creek.
All in all, much to see in Ansted. There are also several museums and other local color to indulge your time. You are also close to WV 16 and Beckwith Rd., which has many falls. Fayetteville is another good hub spot, with access to the New River Gorge and the Gauley River NRA areas easily accessible. Check out my article on Gauley River NRA.