Just 12 miles east of Parkersburg, WV, the 2,600-acre Mountwood Park has nearly 30 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, plus a 50-acre lake for fishing and paddling. The park is rich in history, dating back more than 150 years.
While the park opened in the early 1980s, the area was once a booming oil town dating back to the mid1800s. Shortly before the American Civil War ended, W.C. Stiles purchased several thousand acres and began drilling for oil. With the discovery of oil, the population of the new town of Volcano exploded to more than 5,000 residents until the town was destroyed by fire in 1879. While the town was never rebuilt, what remains is a 2,600-acre park that is a hiker’s paradise.
What Makes It Great
A great trail to start with is the gravel-surfaced Walter Taitt Trail, at 2.6 miles roundtrip. The first 0.4-mile is on the Nature Trail, which has signs describing the different plants and animals. The trail then continues on to the turnaround at the ruins of the once grand 25-room Stiles mansion. Known as Thornhill Mansion, this is a great spot to take a break and explore the home’s ruins— there are signs describing the caretaker’s home, a cellar, and a large cistern that provided the mansion with running water. At this point, you can backtrack and return to the trailhead the same way you came up, or mix things up and take one of the several trails that intersect with the Walter Taitt Trail, like the Prolog, Power Line, Mansion, or Caretaker.
Some other cool options include the route along the .4-mile Rat Snake Trail to the .86 -mile Copperhead Trail loop, and back along the Rat Snake Trail. Or you can enjoy the out-and-back on the Tecumseh Trail, which is just longer than 3.2 miles roundtrip. If you want to put in some more mileage, try linking up some of the shorter trails. You can go around the whole park if you want!
All around the park you will find historic relics. Keep an eye out for an old pump house, wood stove oil storage tanks, and stone foundations of old homes. On your way out of the park, stop by the World War II submarine memorial that will be on your left. A large torpedo marks the memorial that honors the submariners that lost their lives serving their country.
Because the park is so popular with mountain bikers (and home to the the Challenge At Mountwood bike race), the trails are well-maintained by the River Valley Mountain Bike Association. This also means you will likely see some bikers on the trails, so stay alert.
Who is Going to Love It
Whether you are a looking for a stroll through the woods, a day outside with your family, or a more serious hike, Mountwood has something for every skill level. The trails are also open to mountain bikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiing (snow permitting).
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From I-77, head east on Highway 50 to Volcano Road. When you get to the park, follow the signs to the marina. Parking is limited at the trailhead, but there is more parking at the marina, and the trail is just a short walk up a paved road— just follow the signs for the Nature Trail.
There is no admission fee for the park, and parking is free.
The park office is not always open, so get a trail map from the park’s website before you go.