April 26, 2014.
My Navigation class had 2 required class hikes at the end of the semester; the first of these was the High Falls of Cheat (finally!) You can either access the trail by the West Fork Rail Trail where it starts in town or go through Bemis and take a right onto the forest road. The sign for the High Falls trail is a very low-to-the-ground sign: it’s literally a few inches above the road bank. It’s very easy to miss the trailhead, but it’s not too far after a Pack it In Pack it Out sign. There’s a parking area on the right just past the trail. It descends into a forested area before opening into a meadow. You’ll cross the West Fork Rail Trail and begin heading up the mountainside. This is an up and down trail: you’ll use switchbacks to go up one side and switchbacks to go down the other side of the mountain.
Plenty of ramps, trout lily, and trillium lined the trail. You can see the trout lily leaves in the bottom of this Stinking Benjamin’s photo. The switchbacks make this into a much less strenuous hike, but asthma still kicked me in the face on this one and I had to take a few breathers. After a while, the trail spits you out onto the railroad tracks. Make a right and head down the tracks. You’ll pass a couple of small waterfalls – good for trout fishing, but not overly scenic. You’ll see a train stop with some picnic tables and restroom facilities- but you’ll likely hear the falls before you see the stop.
I somehow had expected the falls to be….taller. Don’t get me wrong- they’re impressive and a very wide set of falls – but photos always make them out to look taller than they are. We spent some time at the observation deck and climbing around on the rock piles below the falls. It was much too cold to go swimming.
Our professor had also given us a water filter to play around with, so we sat at the top of the falls and filtered some water to refill our water bottles before heading back up the mountain. This side, hiking up, seemed a lot steeper. It could have just been that we were all pretty worn out, though.