Marion Co., West Virginia, offering outdoor recreation, fall-themed treats

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. (WV News) — With October firmly taking root, Marion County offers a variety of outdoor, fall-friendly activities for those looking to get out and about a few more times before the cold weather begins to hit, as well as autumn-themed treats and desserts for food lovers.

Between the county’s two state parks, rail-trail system and more, those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities this month don’t have to travel very far, according to Leisha Elliott, executive director of the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“The rail trails are a great opportunity to be outside and enjoy the somewhat cooler temperatures,” Elliott said. “The fall leaves make it such a nice environment to walk or ride bikes. Fishing is the same, as far as it being another opportunity for people to be outdoors before winter weather forces us to be indoors.”

In addition, Elliott said that for lovers of fall foliage and weather, visits to Valley Falls State Park and Pricketts Fort State Park are necessities during the month of October.

Once the cool weather rolls in and the leaves start to change, Valley Falls State Park becomes one of the county’s most visited destinations, and Brett Harshbarger, the park’s superintendent, said that it’s easy to see why the park is so popular.

“We have the waterfalls here, and that’s a draw year-round,” Harshbarger said. “But, especially in the fall, once we start getting some color in the trees, we have a ton of weddings because they want the fall foliage for the background and the pictures. We also have a ton of photographers coming out to do photo shoots. Of course, we always have people coming out to hike and bike. People want to get out and see some color, see the waterfalls and enjoy one of the prettiest spots in the state during the fall.”

Elliott said that in her opinion, Valley Falls is one of the biggest must-see destinations in the entire state.

“Valley Falls State Park is a beautiful recreation area where people can social distance and enjoy being outside and enjoy the fall colors,” Elliott said. “Whether you’re looking to just spend some time outside or hike for exercise or mountain bike, Valley Falls has it. People need to take advantage of the natural beauty they can find in West Virginia.”

However, Valley Falls isn’t the only state park worth visiting in Marion County. For those who also want to get out and see the fall colors — but also don’t mind a bit of history — they can also visit Prickett’s Fort State Park.

In addition to the rail trail system and access to the Monongahela River, Prickett’s Fort contains a true-to-life 18th century fort and a 19th century home, both of which are available to tour throughout the fall season.

In late November and early December, the fort will also be hosting candlelit Christmas tours of the fort, as well as other festive activities.

Elliott sung the praises of Prickett’s Fort, as well.

“Prickett’s Fort offers a multi-layered way to enjoy the outdoors,” Elliott said. “There is the fort itself and they’re doing tours. They still have some activities planned for the fall that are also outdoors that people can enjoy. You have the rail trial right there at the fort, so people can bike and walk.

“There’s an observation deck that looks over the river, and you can launch a boat or kayak there. Families can just go and enjoy time together. It’s a nice time to be outdoors and enjoy the fall leaves and the weather while it’s nice to be out.”

Greg Bray, the state park’s executive director, too, encouraged those available to come visit Prickett’s Fort and other destinations across Marion County this autumn.

“We always have a good fall because people are out looking at leaves,” Bray said. “If you’re going to a WVU football game, stop by. It only takes an hour on your way to Morgantown during a game. We always encourage people to stop and visit and look at the leaves and enjoy the programming here. There are other things going on in Marion County and throughout the state, so you can make a day of it. Just get out and enjoy yourselves. Enjoy life a little bit.”

For residents or visitors looking to have fun outdoors while still enjoying the Halloween vibe that comes with October, Coal Country Miniature Golf has brought back it’s “spooky golf” sessions for the month, which feature both Halloween decorations at each hole and employees in costume lurking around to give golfers a good fright.

“They decorate for Halloween, and it’s family friendly, so it’s not outrageously scary, but it’s a lot of fun,” Elliott said. “It’s a good opportunity for people to be outside, especially when the weather is nice. They’re surrounded by the fall leaves, and it’s a lot of fun for the family.”

Finally, of course, Elliott said that no fall-themed adventure in Marion County would be complete without a visit to one of the county’s several businesses that stock special, seasonal desserts, drinks and more during the the next couple of months.

“I know several of our ice cream shops and restaurants feature pumpkin flavored treats,” Elliott said. “Pufferbelly’s does a nice job with some of their different fall flavors. Our Back Porch in Mannington has homemade pumpkin rolls that they serve with ice cream and caramel sauce. There are pumpkin flavored coffees at The Joe. People can enjoy the change of seasons with a change of flavors.”

Fairmont News Editor John Mark Shaver can be reached at 304-844-8485 or jshaver@theet.com.

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