At a mere 1.2 square miles and 1500 residents, chances are pretty good that you haven’t heard of Parsons, West Virginia!
We stumbled upon this quaint little town in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains by chance late last August, while seeking out a campground along our “avoid-major-highways-if-at-all-possible” route from Tennessee to New York. Did I mention it was also our first official day as full-time nomads?!
Staying off the beaten path and driving the state and county roads of West Virginia, we saw some amazing scenery, both natural and man-made, on the way:
Located an hour and a half southeast of Morgantown and at an elevation of 1,649 feet, Parsons was the site of one of the first land battles of the Civil War. On July 13, 1861, Confederate General Robert S. Garnett was the first officer killed in battle during the war on Corrick’s Ford Battlefield.
The only campground in town was Five River Campground, and it happened to be a perfect home base for a couple relaxing days spent working and exploring the beautiful Alleghenies of West Virginia.
Family-owned and host of the annual Pickin’ in Parsons bluegrass festival, Five River is situated on a rolling, grassy ribbon of land behind a row of businesses and homes, just off the main street in town. We were surprised how secluded and peaceful our surroundings were, given its proximity to town. It looks far more like a golf course than a campground!
We never even had to leave the campground to experience nature and take a relaxing walk with the dogs – a couple minutes’ stroll from our site and bordering one side of the campground is the beautiful Shavers Fork River.
Five River Campground has 42 full hookup RV sites (but many more tent sites), with the restrooms and showers housed together with a small laundry area. The wi-fi was surprisingly fast, so we spent our day catching up on some work before venturing out to explore.
On our second and final night in town, we made the 30-minute drive over a mountain pass into nearby Thomas, West Virginia, for dinner.
Thomas is conveniently near the gorgeous Blackwater Falls of Davis, WV. The state park and falls are named for the Blackwater River that majestically falls five stories before continuing its path through an eight-mile long gorge. The “black” (but really more like amber) water is colored by tannic acid from fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. This unique, dark-colored waterfall is said to be one of the most photographed sites in West Virginia.
The town is also at the head of a new 30-mile rail trail (a repurposed train route) that connects the city of Thomas to nearby Elkins, West Virginia – a 30-mile downhill journey through the Blackwater Canyon. The route is very popular with bicyclists wanting an easy day’s ride through nature. We unfortunately didn’t have time to partake in the rail trail, but it’s on the list for next time!
We did take the recommendation of the campground owner to check out the Purple Fiddle in Thomas that evening. A quirky organic eatery housed in a former general store, it’s a favorite watering hole for microbrew lovers. They also serve up wine and fancy coffees. The Purple Fiddle is named for the impressive number of touring musicians (of varying fame and genre) performing live most nights on the venue’s indoor stage or outdoor patio.
We couldn’t have asked for a better first experience with nomadic serendipity in this lesser-known area of West Virginia, and can’t wait to return!