Escape the city at these West Virginia state parks

Living in a city can be fun and energizing. You have plenty of places to go, things to do and people to see. But having so many options is mentally and physically exhausting and can make you feel like you need to hustle just to keep up. Not to mention, the current events may have you seeking an escape to something different.

Even though life moves a little bit slower here in West Virginia, there are times when you just need to take a break from city life. And there’s no better place to get away from it all than a West Virginia state park, where you can escape digital noise and distracting city lights and take comfort in the calming sights and sounds of nature. So, give yourself permission to leave town for the weekend and enjoy outdoor adventures while you relax your mind and body.

Put down the phone. Where we’re going, you won’t need it.

Staycations and local trips are in these days. Not only is vacationing close to home better for the environment, you get the added benefit of avoiding the stress of planning an expensive out-of-state trip. Now, we know what you’re thinking: “I thought I had to travel far away from the city to experience the beauty of nature.” Think again. If you live in West Virginia’s Metro Valley, you don’t have to travel far to find a state park because Beech Fork is less than 30 minutes from Huntington and Kanawha State Forest is about a 15 minute drive from Charleston.

Here’s what you can expect and why you should check this park and forest off your travel bucket list this summer.

Who needs the beach when you have Beech Fork?

There’s something about being in the ocean on a hot July or August afternoon that makes it feel like summer, but you don’t have to drive hundreds of miles to Myrtle Beach or the Outer Banks to enjoy water activities. Visit Beech Fork instead.

Located in the hills of southwestern West Virginia, this 3,144-acre park has a sprawling lake where you can enjoy boating, kayaking, fishing and other exciting water adventures until the sun goes down. Canoes, kayaks, jon boats, paddle boats and stand up paddle boards are available to rent at the park’s boat dock, or you can bring your own boat to the paved boat launch.

After a day on the water, pitch a tent or park your RV and camp right on the lakeshore for a back-to-basics trip you and your family will never forget. And don’t worry if camping isn’t your style because Beech Fork has six fully equipped vacation cabins where you can enjoy the comforts of home.

If you’re just looking for a place to take a day trip, Beech Fork has plenty of outdoor activities you can enjoy in an afternoon.

  • Take your kids on a walk through the Nature Trail or trek up to the top of the Overlook Trail for a scenic view of the park.
  • Play through the park’s popular disc golf course, which features 18 holes suitable for beginners and pros alike.
  • Go for a swim at the park’s pool, which is open 11-6 Wednesday-Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6.

Click here to see a full list of outdoor activities at Beech Fork State Park and start planning your trip today.

The woods are calling and you must go to Kanawha State Forest.

You don’t have to travel all the way down the Appalachian range to enjoy the kinds of outdoor adventures you get in places like the Great Smoky Mountains. Look no further than Kanawha State Forest.

Tucked away in the heavily forested hills outside Charleston, this 9,300-acre forest is known for an extensive network of trails. There’s the CCC Snipe Trail, which winds its way through stands of hemlock trees, the Alligator Rock Trail, which meanders through Shrewsbury Hollow and features a unique rock formation, and the Overlook Rock Trail, which treats hikers to scenic views. For a wheelchair-accessible interpretive hike, check out the Spotted Salamander Trail. The forest also has several steep and challenging trails that will test the most skilled mountain bikers and easier trails ideal for beginners.

Whether you go for an afternoon or stay for a weekend or longer, there’s always something to do at Kanawha State Forest. And when it comes time to turn in for the evening, the forest has some of the best tent camping sites in the Metro Valley. Click here to see a full list of outdoor activities at Kanawha State Forest and start planning your trip today.

It’s the summer of traveling close to home

West Virginia’s state parks and forests are some of the best places to escape crowds and enjoy wide open spaces. As we actively monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on travel in West Virginia, staff at all our parks and forests are going the extra mile to make sure you feel safe and comfortable during your visit.

While parks are some of the safest places you can be, all guests are asked to follow posted health guidelines for mask use and maintain a physical distance of six feet on trails and in other park areas. For the most recent updates and to see what we’re doing to protect visitors, click here. You can also follow @WVstateparks on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for timely updates.

And as you spend time in nature this summer, remember to Leave No Trace by packing in and packing out all your trash and belongings. By respecting nature, you help us protect our state parks and forests so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

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