Bear Town State Park: A natural wonder in the heart of West Virginia

By Jonathan Eggleston,  RealWV

As a photographer with a deep love for the wild and wonderful, I recently revisited an area that holds a special place in my heart–Bear Town State Park.

This 110-acre park is located on the eastern summit of Droop Mountain, 7 miles southwest of Hillsboro in northern Greenbrier County, (with a small portion of the park also located in Pocahontas County).  This hidden gem is a paradise for anyone that has a love for the outdoors.

My first encounter with Bear Town was many years ago as a kid,  mesmerized by its surreal landscape. The park, officially established in 1970, got its name from residents claiming the many cave-like openings in the rocks made ideal winter dens for black bears in the area. It also refers to the many deep, narrow crevasses that crisscross the area and appear from above like the streets of a small town.

These unique structures were formed over millions of years, shaped by the forces of wind and water. The result is an otherworldly landscape that seems straight out of a fantasy movie.

This area served as a natural refuge and a fascinating landmark for indigenous peoples long before settlers arrived. Over time, it became known for its striking beauty and significance. The park was developed into a nature boardwalk to preserve these unique rock formations and the surrounding forest, offering a sanctuary for wildlife and a haven for visitors seeking solace in nature.

Walking through Bear Town as an adult, I was struck by how the place has retained its magic. The massive sandstone boulders, (some towering over 20 feet high) are covered in a soft blanket of moss, giving them an ethereal glow in the light of the forest. Narrow passageways between the rocks lead you deeper into this natural labyrinth, each turn revealing new textures and patterns etched into the stone.

Home to an array of wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, and various bird species, Bear Town is a living tapestry of West Virginia’s rich natural heritage. For nature lovers like me,  it’s a rare opportunity to capture these creatures in their undisturbed habitat.

This Park highlights the importance of environmental preservation. The trails, maintained to minimize human impact, guide visitors through the park while protecting its delicate ecosystem. Educational programs and guided tours offer more information into the geological  significance of the area, allowing a deeper appreciation for its preservation.

As I captured the afternoon light and shadows on the rocks, I couldn’t help but feel a strong connection to the land. Each photo became a moment frozen in time.  Returning to Bear Town brought back a flood of memories, enhancing my appreciation for its timeless beauty.

Infrared Photography at Bear Town:

One exciting aspect of my visit was the opportunity to experiment with infrared (IR) photography. Infrared cameras can capture light in the infrared spectrum, which is invisible to the naked eye but reveals a unique perspective. Bright green foliage will reflect infrared light, creating a colorful image against the dark rocks and forest shadows.

Equipped with my IR camera, I wandered through the park, eager to see how the lush moss and foliage would transform in this different light. The results were pretty magical and a fun experiment!  The green moss took on a purple/orange appearance, while the sandstone formations stood out in stark contrast. The interplay of light and texture in these infrared images offers a fresh and captivating view of Bear Town, highlighting its mystical beauty in a way that you typically don’t get to see.

Here are some of the images captured during my IR session:

Bear Town State Park offers a much-needed break from the norm, a place where time seems to stand still, and the beauty of nature takes center stage. For photographers, it’s a playground where every image captures the timeless splendor of West Virginia’s wilderness!
So,  whether you’re an avid nature lover, photographer or a curious traveler, a visit to Bear Town is sure to leave you spellbound, just as it did for me!

Jonathan Eggleston is a freelance photographer and writer who specializes in professional portrait,  nature, landscape and astro-photography. This article is part of a series exploring some of West Virginia’s most beautiful natural landmarks.

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