Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia is a favorite of many photographers. The park features several picturesque waterfalls, as well as a few beautiful overlooks. Although there are several waterfalls in the park, Elakala Falls stands out to most photographers. It may not be the highest of the falls, but it certainly is beautiful.
If you want to learn more about all that Blackwater Falls State Park has to offer, please see this guide that we’ve published. This article will focus exclusively on Elakala Falls.
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Although Elakala Falls is quite popular with photographers, it usually doesn’t attract as many visitors as the namesake Blackwater Falls. At Blackwater Falls there is a nice wooden walkway and deck for observing the falls, and you can even get views from a few different perspectives. The ease of those views and the fact that the park is named after the falls makes it the most popular location in the park.
Elakala Falls is actually a series of 4 distinct waterfalls on Shays Run as it descends into Blackwater Canyon. Elakala Falls #1, pictured above, is easy to reach by a short trail and is usually what people are referring to when they speak of Elakala Falls. Elakala Falls numbers 2 through 4 are downstream, and each one will require a bit more effort to reach.
Let’s start with Elakala Falls #1. The Elakala Trail leads to a bridge over Shays Run a short distance from the trailhead and parking lot. The bridge actually crosses right over the waterfall and you can see it in the photo at the top of this page. You can photograph the falls (although not that well) from the bridge. For a much better view, continue the path worn by many photographers to the base of the falls.
What you will find at the base of the falls will depend on the water level. Typically there is plenty of space to set up a tripod and get a nice view of the falls. The photo at the top of the page was taken shortly after a major storm and the water level was very high, but there was still enough room for a tripod. Typically, when the water level is normal, Elakala Falls #1 is known for the beautiful rings/swirls that can be photographed in the water, as shown in the photo below.
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Once you have photographed the first waterfall you can decide if you would like to continue on to see any of the other three waterfalls in the series. There is no official trail and it does require some scrambling to make it all the way. Getting to the second waterfall is not too bad, thanks to the unofficial trail that has been worn down by many hikers and photographers. The second is the shortest waterfall in the series at about 15 feet.
Going beyond the second waterfall is recommended only for experienced hikers because the terrain is steep and rocky. However, if you are able and willing to make it, you’ll be rewarded with outstanding scenery to photograph. The third waterfall is the highest in the series at about 40 feet.