Race Day: August 14. Registration: 6:30 a.m.
Attention All Runners: Online registration for the Mountain Trail Challenge 5K and Half-Marathon Races ends in two days! Please click here to complete your sign up before 11:59 p.m., Saturday, August 7. After August 7, you can still register in-person on Race Day, August 14. Just follow the signs to the airfield near the Beaver Creek Campground.
As the largest state park in West Virginia at 10,000-plus acres and more than 40-miles of trails, Watoga State Park is the ideal spot for a late summer half-marathon and 5K. In the half-marathon, runners will traverse through some of the most majestic surroundings in the eastern U.S. Additionally, temperatures in mid-August tend to run on the hot side. Moreover, Watoga runners will be surrounded by a canopy of trees and greens on its half-marathon and 5K courses.
5K and Half-Marathon Specifics
Half-Marathon and 5K Races: August 14, Watoga State Park, 4800 Watoga Road, Marlinton, WV 24954. Follow the signs for Beaver Creek Campground. First up is the Half- Marathon. It begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. Furthermore, the 5K starts at 8:40 a.m., ending at 2 p.m.
Great Places to Stay and Eat!
You can explore lodging options at the park and other places to stay or dine.
Please note that for Race Day registrants, due to the unavailability of Internet services, only cash or checks can be accepted. Also, if you have never been to Watoga, please print your directions or save them to your mobile device prior to leaving home. You will not have internet-based map directions for the entire trip to the park.
See you on Race Day at Watoga, where its many wonders await you on shaded and wooded mountain trails!
In less than two weeks, many people will meet at an old air strip in a remote region of the Allegheny Highlands in West Virginia. Throughout 2021, visitors came to Watoga State Park from near and far for various reasons. Some came to camp, hike, bike, fish or maybe stay in a cabin built in the 1930s. But, this is a group of runners gathering to do what they love: Run on the trails! And run they will at the Sixth Annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge Races. Featured events are the half-marathon and the 5K on August 14.
Mountain Trail Challenge Races at West Virginia’s Largest State Park
As the largest state park in West Virginia at 10,000-plus acres and more than 40-miles of trails, Watoga is the ideal spot for a late summer half-marathon and 5K. In the half-marathon, runners will traverse through some of the most majestic surroundings in the eastern U.S. Additionally, temperatures in mid-August tend to run on the hot side. Watoga runners will be surrounded by a canopy of trees and greens on its half-marathon and 5K courses.
While marathoners and 5K runners alike have been conditioning for Watoga’s challenging trails, volunteers from the Watoga State Park Foundation have been busy getting both courses into game-day ready shape.
So, are you ready to race? Here are a few last-minute details. Online registration ends August 7 at 11:59 p.m. After August 7, registration is in person only, on Race Day, August 14 at 6:30 a.m. at the Beaver Creek Campground Check-in Station. Here is the registration site for both races.
All race proceeds benefit the park through the Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. Your donations may be tax deductible.
Half-Marathon and 5K Races: August 14, Watoga State Park, 4800 Watoga Road, Marlinton, WV 24954. Follow the signs for Beaver Creek Campground. First up is the Half- Marathon. It begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. The 5K starts at 8:40 a.m., ending at 2 p.m.
Course Updates and What Our Volunteers Are Doing
Word has it that the course surface is in excellent condition thanks to many volunteers who have been diligently removing encroaching plants and roots since 2020.
Behind the scenes at Watoga and on race day, more than 60 volunteers are working diligently to make the Mountain Trail Challenge Races the best ever. They have been busy marking the courses, using signs and flagging ribbons as well as mile point markers.
Moreover, on race day, others will be assisting with food, snacks and refreshments for the runners. You may even notice our volunteer communications team throughout the park, strategically located to ensure runners’ safety. So, look for our volunteers along the trails and other unexpected places cheering you on, staffing first-aid stations, and providing much-needed hydration. If you are able to volunteer to help the Foundation assist Watoga to become even greater than it is now, please complete this online form.
Don’t be surprised if you see a photographer or two along your route capturing your smiles and grimaces along the way. That Mountain Trail Challenge Races t-shirt you run so hard to receive is also ordered!
Editor’s Note: Spring photos at Watoga State Park always catch our eye. This year’s images are presented through the eye of Angie Hill, a Pocahontas County resident. Angie is Director of Accounting at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Even More Spring Photos . . .
Angie Hill often explores Watoga’s 40 miles of trails and scenic overlooks. The first item she always packs in her camera and lens.
“Photography has always been an outlet for me, said Hill. “It gets my mind off the stressful things in life and helps me focus on the delicate flowers, the curiosity of wildlife, the magical mossy and pine tree forests, and the magnificence of sunrise and sunset. Photography and hiking help me realize that there are much larger things in life than my troubles and brings a different calmness that all will be just fine in time.”
Hello everyone! Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Kayla Bowyer, the new naturalist here at Watoga State Park. This is the debut of the Naturalist Notebook. My name is Kayla Bowyer.
As a naturalist, it’s my job to talk so please allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I have been at Watoga for about a month. Already, I can say that it feels like home. The rolling hills and valleys, and the winding curves that are a blast to drive, at least now in the summer, remind me of my childhood growing up in the smaller hills and valleys of Northeast Ohio.
I grew up in a small town in Ohio, where it was basically a stop light and a flea market. My home base was about 45 minutes south of Youngstown and about 45 minutes to an hour west of Pittsburgh. But possibly the best point of reference for folks that grew up in the Mountain State is that I grew up 30 minutes from Newell, the home of Fiestaware. And yes, it’s just as beloved across the river as it is here.
If you have visited this part of Ohio, you’ll recognize that it’s not flat and is full of forests and creek valleys. This is the place my education truly began, with the trees and the wildlife.
I was lucky enough to live at the top of a hill. From there, I could see all kinds of wildlife, from indigo buntings to flying squirrels to deer who followed my horse in his daily travels. It was a wonderful place to grow up. Watching Steve Irwin and Jeff Corwin only helped to fuel my interest in the environment and nature.
My Career Passion
I followed this passion all the way to college. I attended the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, a Division 3 school just outside of Canton. There, I pursued a degree in Environmental Science graduating in May of 2020, a Class of Covid grad.
I ended up pursuing a naturalist career after meeting and working with the naturalist at Beaver Creek State Park. Since then, she has moved forward to Wingfoot State Park in Akron. Importantly, teaching has always come much more naturally to me, but I never had the passion to be a classroom teacher. So, I felt rather stuck in trying to figure out what to do with my passion.
Once I met the naturalist at Beaver Creek, I knew that I had found a name for what I wanted to do, and I pursued it as my heart’s desire. I have been able to follow this passion to many beautiful places, from Lake Erie to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Initial Musings from Watoga’s Naturalist Notebook
Few places feel as wonderful and welcoming as Watoga State Park. The hills and the hollers are gorgeous, filled with beautiful Appalachian flora and fauna. I have been taking a hike once a week on my days off . They’ve been the highlight of my week. From the Anne Bailey Trail to the Dragon Draft Trail, this park is full of satisfyingly rugged hikes and adventures.
My goal as a naturalist is to introduce many folks to adventures that they may not realize are here in Watoga. From hikes to campfires, I plan on including weekly adventures that guests can explore and experience, with each one different from the last. When you come down to the programs, bring family and friends and a willingness to learn and explore. I also encourage guests to ask questions and tell their stories; I may be the one talking but I want to learn as much from you as you can learn from me. There will be some Naturalist Notes you have never read about before at Watoga.
This Naturalist Will Keep You Informed
To find out what programs that I am hosting, follow the Foundation’s web page and Facebook page, The Pocahontas Times, or stop by the office for a pamphlet on what programs will be going on that weekend. My naturalist programs are scheduled for Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, unless there is a special event during the week.
I look forward to meeting you as you come down to visit this beautiful and one of a kind park. It’s a large and wondrous place and I will gladly guide you through it.
When Kayla is not busy crawling in and around Watoga’s creeks or trying to find several Dragon’s Tails in the Brooks Arboretum, she will share more musings with you in the Naturalist’s Notebook. Watoga welcomes you to her magical woods, Kayla.
Happy 4th of July from Watoga State Park. We have some phenomenal Watoga naturalist activities during the 4th of July weekend for all ages to enjoy. For more information, please contact the office at (304) 799-4087 or email Naturalist Kayla Bowyer at kayla.r.bowyer at wv.gov. The following schedule is just for July 2 through July 4. We’ll be releasing a full slate of programs and activities soon.
Friday, July 2nd
Beautiful Birds-11 a.m.
Meet Naturalist Kayla at the boat dock for a birding walk around the lake. Bring your own binoculars or some will be provided.
Butterflies and Moths-2 p.m.
Stop by the Nature Center to learn about the differences between butterflies and moths and the species that call Watoga home! Take home a butterfly craft and coloring sheets as part of a memorable 4th of July!
Creek Crawl-3:30 p.m.
Join Naturalist Kayla at the Nature Center to learn about the critters that call our creeks home. Get wet and catch amazing creek creatures.
Saturday, July 3rd
Lend a Helping Hand-10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Roving Ranger-1 p.m.-3 p.m.
Find Naturalist Kayla floating around the office and CCC museum. Feel free to ask her questions about the park, programs, and critters that call Watoga home.
Follow the Dragon’s Tail-4 p.m.
Join Naturalist Kayla for a hike along Dragon Draft Trail through Brooks Arboretum. We will cross multiple creeks with moderate to difficult terrain. Wear closed toed shoes, bring water, and walking sticks are highly recommended. You won’t be disappointed as this is one our favorite Watoga naturalist activities.
Starry Night Stories-8 p.m.
Join the Watoga State Park Foundation behind the Riverside campground check-in station to honor the age-old tradition of telling stories under the stars. Enjoy both the beauty of the night sky and the entertaining tails woven by our story tellers.
Sunday, 4th of July
Slimy Crafts -11 a.m.
Stop by the picnic tables near the swimming pool to make Americana slime. All ages are welcome to come and create glittering slimes.
Corn Hole Games-1 p.m.
Join us for corn hole fun and games. No entry fee. Bring the whole family. Meet at the playground by the pool.
T-Shirt Tie Dye-3 p.m.
Join us to create your very own tie dye t-shirt. We have onesies, ladies t-shirts, children’s, and adult t-shirts. Sizes range from youth medium to adult 3XL (numbers may be limited). Please purchase your shirt in the gift shop before coming to the swimming pool, near the picnic tables.
We’re looking forward to seeing you at our Watoga Naturalist Activities from July 2 through July 4. Happy 4th of July from Watoga State Park and the Watoga State Park Foundation.
Do you know how easy it is to help The Watoga State Park Foundation make worthwhile improvements at the park? On the positive side, it doesn’t cost you a penny! In fact, it takes just a minute or two to change a couple of settings on your Amazon account. Voila! In essence, help us make your smiles for Watoga memorable.
Moreover, a portion of all your future purchases at the online retailer goes directly to the Foundation to help the park. Without a doubt, that definitely counts as several smiles for Watoga.
Besides it’s so easy that we’re going to let Amazon’s step-by-step directions explain how to do this on your phone or computer:
You Too Can Help Watoga While You Shop
AmazonSmile is a way customers can support their favorite charitable organization every time they shop with Amazon, at no additional cost.
Customers who shop at smile.amazon.com will find the same Amazon they know and love, with the added bonus that AmazonSmile will donate a portion of the eligible purchase price to the charity of your choice.
Signing up is easy!
How to sign up for AmazonSmile
If you shop using the Amazon app on your mobile phone:
1. Open the Amazon Shopping app
2. Navigate to the main menu (=)
3. Tap on Settings and then select “AmazonSmile”
4. Select your charity and then follow the on-screen instructions to turn ON AmazonSmile in the mobile app
5. Once AmazonSmile has been activated in your app, future eligible app purchases will generate a donation for the charity you have selected.
If you prefer to shop using a web browser:
1. Visit smile.amazon.com
2. Sign in with the same account you use for Amazon.com
3. Select your charity
4. Start shopping! Remember to checkout at smile.amazon.com to generate donations for your chosen charity. Tip: Add a bookmark to make it easier to shop at smile.amazon.com.
Keep Watoga Smiling
Please choose The Watoga State Park Foundation as your designated charity. Without a doubt, it is greatly appreciated. Please share this information or link with your friends and family. When you donate smiles to Watoga, we smile too.
Happy shopping! Remember to smile today.
The volunteers at Watoga State Park work tirelessly behind the scenes to improve your experience at the park. Consequently, individuals and businesses graciously donate time, services, talents, materials, and yes, monies too. After all, they never expect anything in return. Above all, here at the Watoga State Park Foundation, our volunteers, donors, organizations, and businesses selflessly help the park.
Built in 1887: A Cabin Well Worth Saving
Significantly, in 2018, the Watoga State Park Foundation began discussing the deteriorating condition of the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off of the Anne Bailey Trail. Without intervention, money and volunteers, this pioneer cabin, built in 1887, certainly would no longer be a part of Watoga’s rich and storied history.
Further, by the summer of 2019, critical foundation work began on the historic Workman-Jarvis Cabin off the Anne Bailey Trail. Of course, skilled tradespeople and our volunteers were on site.
There’s still some work to do. After all, we’ll get there. But now, because of all of you, the finish line is in sight for the Workman-Jarvis Cabin restoration project.
These Thanks Are For Our Volunteers and Donors!
The following quote aptly describes the volunteers at Watoga State Park.
“Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they have the heart.” – Elizabeth Andrew, author
With that in mind, the Watoga State Park Foundations extends its sincere appreciation to the following volunteers, businesses, and donors for your help with this project. Without you, this never would have been possible.
Anne and Sollie Workman
The Workman Family
Beckwith Lumber Company
Glades Building Supply
Interstate Lumber Company
Jim C. Hamer Lumber Company
Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Pocahontas County Historical Society
News You Can Use To Volunteer Or Donate
Moreover, we will keep park visitors, volunteers, and donors updated on completion dates, activities under development, and what this cabin may mean to you in the near future.
We close with a quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and author: “Only by giving are you able to receive more than you already have.”
About the Author
John Dean is a writer, editor, and journalist. He is a member of the Watoga State Park Foundation Board of Directors. You can reach John at .
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
In mid-August, Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races return to West Virginia’s largest state park.
Running and walking enthusiasts prepare to be “on your mark” for details about the Sixth Annual Watoga State Park Mountain Trail Challenge Half Marathon and 5k events. Next, let’s “get set” with August 14, 2021 as a key date on your calendar. Now, it’s time to “go!” Tell your friends, family and fellow racing comrades. Of course, it is best to register as soon as possible. Early birds do receive discounts. Registration details are here.
All race proceeds benefit the park through the Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc.
Are You On Your Mark For Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon And 5k?
So, when is this? Details? Where? Course descriptions?
When and Where: The races will be Saturday, August 14, 2021, Watoga State Park, 4800 Watoga Road, Marlinton, WV 24954.
Start and Finish Lines: Both of Watoga’s Half Marathon and 5k Races start and finish at Watoga’s Beaver Creek Campground. At the old airstrip here, Gov. William C. Marland would land his plane in the mid-1950s to stay at a Watoga cabin in the woods. These days there is plenty of space (acres and acres of grassy flat land) for runners to stretch, warm up, and spread out before the races begin.
What and When: First up is the Half Marathon. It begins promptly at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. The 5k starts at 8:40 a.m., ending at 2 p.m. We’re almost ready to “get set” for the races.
Course Details: The 13.1-mile half marathon course challenges runners. Experience Watoga’s, beautiful shade trees, flora and fauna at elevations ranging from 2,560 feet to 3,200 feet. Occasionally, admire the uniqueness of part of Watoga’s 40 miles of trails as you traverse along the Allegheny Trail, Busch Settlement Trail, and Honeymoon Trail to mention a few.
View the Half Marathon course map here.
Get Set By Knowing Your Course
Up next is the 5k, which is open to runners and walkers alike.
Course Details: Along this 3.1-mile route, you will experience the beauty of tall pines, hemlock trees, and other hardwoods before traveling west into the woods. Certainly, take in the clusters of dense rhododendrons along Beaver Creek as your course joins the Allegheny Trail, making this journey a breathtaking finish as you return to the airstrip.
See the route for the 5k here. Please note that the 5k course may be slightly modified from years past. Likewise, take a look at this 2019 YouTube video of racers, course challenges, and the scenic beauty that awaits you at the park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races .
It’s Time To Go!
Now that you’ve found your mark, became set, you’re ready to go by deciding which race to enter. Here is the registration site for both races.
Additionally, our volunteers will be along the trails and other unexpected places cheering you on, staffing first-aid stations and providing needed hydration at Watoga State Park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races! Let’s go, racers!
About the Author
While growing up at Watoga for more than 16 years, John C. Dean explored parts or all of the race routes, including the “Road Not Taken.” Moreover, say hello to John along with Jack and Max, his two black Labrador Retrievers, along the wooded park’s Half Marathon and 5k Races’ panoramic vistas on August 14. He won’t mind if you ask how he liked spending a day lost in Watoga’s expansive woods. John is a journalist, writer, and legal editor. He also is a member of the Watoga State Park Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors. John can be reached at .
In Part One of the Top 10 Things to Do at Watoga State Park, we utilized a musical theme. This blog has a historical angle. This list is not ranked in any particular order.
Stay at a Historic Cabin or at One of Three Campgrounds — A Top 10 Must-Do
To fully enjoy what Watoga offers as the state’s largest park, plan on staying several days or a week or two at one of its 34 cabins or at one of 100 camp sites.
Experience a rustic cabin built with pine and chestnut logs in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Legacy cabins utilized native stone for foundations, chimneys, and fireplaces. All cabins have undergone extensive renovations and updates to kitchens, bathrooms and fixtures, except for Cabins 16 and 19 (Vacation cabins). Classic cabins (Cabins 3, 8-9, 14-15, 18, 28, and 33) feature various room layouts and bedroom options. If you’ve never stayed in a cabin at Watoga, this should be on your Top 10 list.
Moreover, for camping enthusiasts who prefer a more rugged experience, you can “rough” it at Laurel Run Primitive Campground. But, the Beaver Creek and Riverside campgrounds have more modern conveniences with electric hookups, laundry centers, and bathhouses.
From the Riverside Campground, you can cast a line into the Greenbrier River or hike on the 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail.
Bordering Beaver Creek Campground is Calvin Price State Forest. Enjoy a nature-filled hike in the eastern part of this 9,500-acre forest along the Allegheny Trail. Meanwhile, you may hunt with the proper license.
Locations: Cabins are in strategic locations of the park. Beaver Creek Campground is just past the park’s north entrance. Riverside Campground is near the River Cabin Area, close to Seebert. The Primitive Campground is off of Kennison Run Trail.
Watoga’s Dark Skies
How dark are the skies here? Really, really dark. The pitch blackness envelopes you, making it difficult to see the person standing right beside you. Admire the Milky Way Galaxy, other constellations, Supermoons and a sky unlike any you’ve ever seen before. Scientists estimate the universe is 13.8 billion years old.
There are so many stars, you’ll have difficulty choosing which ones to wish upon. Catch a glimpse of one of the 13 astronomical zodiac constellations depending on the time of year. For even more amazing sights, bring your binoculars or telescope to focus on a definite Top 10 favorite. Stay tuned for potential history-making news about Watoga’s dark skies.
Just look up while you’re here.
Locations: All around you.
The Swimming Pool
After exploring the park’s many trails and scenic overlooks, you can take a break at the swimming pool, the first-ever built at a state park. It’s also the last major project completed by CCC workers in 1940. Notice the stonework as you walk up the steps to the main entrance to the pool.
Once there, relax, grab a bite to eat at the snack bar, or complete a few laps as the children enjoy the water slide. The main pool’s depth ranges from three feet to eight feet, with a separate wading area for toddlers. While the water was brisk in year’s past, it is much warmer now thanks to solar panels.
Location: Next door to Cabin No. 20, near the Activities Center.
Lightning Bugs — An Enlightening Top 10
Remember when you were younger and chased after lightning bugs as soon as darkness fell? You may still want to do so. We know your children will, especially at Watoga where different species of those mesmerizing lightning bugs thrive. We think the fascination with lightning bugs is a perennial mainstay of the Top 10 things to do at Watoga.
Recently, the Division of Natural Resources confirmed the existence of a colony of synchronous fireflies in a still-secretive location. Time will tell if Watoga will be the next Great Smoky Mountains National Park for firefly watching. However, there could be a firefly festival in the Watoga’s future. One state expert thinks that Watoga and West Virginia may become the new lightning bug capital of the U.S.
Likewise, we’ll be releasing more details about this Watoga wonder in June’s issue of Wonderful West Virginia magazine.
Location: Almost everywhere in the park you can see different species of fireflies. But the location of the synchronous fireflies will not be revealed until a conservation management plan is put into place at Watoga to protect their habitat.
Have A Top 10 Get Together With Friends And Family
Watoga gets you away from it all. You can feel the stress melt away. So take a walk. Enjoy your surroundings. Listen to how quiet it is. Relax.
Since Watoga’s opening in 1937, it’s been a place to get together [link to book maybe] For decades, families have held family reunions and picnics at many different places in the park.
Presently, the remodeled Activities Center, is the new gathering place for weddings, receptions, birthday parties, meetings, and more.
Locations: Pick your spot in the expanse of 10,100 acres.
Create Your Own Top 10 At Watoga
When you visit Watoga, immerse yourself in a bygone era, complete with today’s modern amenities. Create your Top 10 (or 50), make lifelong memories, and catch a lightning bug or a shooting star. Relax and sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows. Maybe later tell a captivating ghost story or two. The dazzling display of lightning bugs and star-filled skies are awaiting your arrival at Watoga.
Then when you are home, let us know what your Top 10 things to do at Watoga are.
About the Author
For his first 16 years, John C. Dean lived in the park. Even today, he’s fascinated by the hypnotic display of majestic lightning bugs. John’s inspiration to be a writer came from many nights looking upward at Watoga’s dark sky treasures. Recently, he was elected to the Watoga State Park Foundation’s Board of Directors, but will continue writing about park news and its history. You can reach John at .