Cathedral State Park
Thousands of visitors come to Aurora each year to visit the only remaining stand of virgin hemlock in West Virginia, and one of few left in the country. The name originates from the soaring canopies of trees, hundreds of feet above, that filter sunlight and cast an ethereal glow within the forest. The reverential silence one experiences is comparable to visiting an ancient church.
Backstory and Context
Originally Brookside Woods, the 133-acre plot of land that sits just east of Aurora along U.S. Route 50 became a state park in 1942 and is now part of the Brookside Resort National Register Historic District. Brookside was a resort born in the mid-1800s, when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad came through the nearby Oakland Depot in Maryland. In the summer months, many city dwellers in Wheeling, Philadelphia and Washington D.C escaped their hot industrial habitats and retreated to the cool, quiet mountains of West Virginia.
Six major trails and several footbridges traverse the park and its waterways, where visitors discover more than 30 tree species and more than 50 species of wildflowers. The combination of ancient Hemlocks, rhododendrons, ferns, mountain stream, and wildlife offers excellent hiking and photography opportunities. The Cathedral Trail follows Rhine Creek through the forest allowing the opportunity to see a variety of plant and tree species. Cathedral has a picnic area with two shelters and a playground area. Shelters may be reserved by calling the park office. Restrooms are also located in the picnic area.