By John Clise
I took a trip through eastern West Virginia and just across the Virginia border to see some sites and hot some spots. One of the best I got to see is Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory in Monroe County.
It’s a former fire tower turned raptor observatory point. And quite a point it is. The views are amazing. You can literally see for miles. The day I was there wasn’t so good for raptor watching. The winds were generally blowing in the wrong direction but the day before watchers spotted six bald eagles, three golden eagles and a variety of hawks passing through. Since then there have been big bird sightings daily. Just my luck I guess. No worries. I’ll be heading back soon.
I did hear and see a few ravens and a hawk at a distance catching an updraft. The ravens were a bit playful. I hadn’t seen that in ravens before. Most of the bird viewing opportunities take place during the fall migration which takes place from mid-August through the end of the year.
The observatory is located along the Allegheny Trail at an elevation of 3812 feet. It’s a bit cooler at that the elevation so proper attire is suggested. The trek to the tower from the parking is about a mile so proper footwear and water is also suggested.
There is a bench about half way or so to allow for resting. I took advantage of the bench. Very nice. New construction. And very welcome to this out-of-shape hiker and would-be bird enthusiast.
Hanging Rock tower is an old fire tower on top of Peters Mountain. Its proximity to the Allegheny Trail allows for year round casual visitors, but most of the birding activity takes place during the fall migration season which runs from mid-August thru the end of the year. There is no electricity or running water. There is a bathroom facility. It is a porta-toilet that is kept as clean as possible.
Be sure to take drinking water. Other things you should consider are comfortable hiking shoes, hat, sunglasses, binoculars and an extra layer of clothing. It is usually 8-10 degrees cooler on top.
The hike from the parking lot is a little less than a mile and will take anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes depending on your enthusiasm. The trail is well marked with yellow blazes. The side trail to the tower is blazed in blue.
Here a few more pictures from the vista of the observatory.