What to do on your first trip to a West Virginia state park

Your first trip to a West Virginia state park or forest is an experience you’ll want to remember!

Planning your first trip to a West Virginia state park or forest and you’re not sure what to do first? Here’s a handy guide to help you get the most out of your getaway, no matter what time of year you visit!

1. Choose your accommodations

When you plan a getaway at a West Virginia state park, you’ll need a place to stay. Take your pick from tent or RV camping to cozy cabins or modern lodge rooms. We’ve got something for everyone. Our parks also have full-service restaurants, so you won’t even have to venture off site to get a bite to eat.

Want a truly unique experience? Plan an overnighter in a yurt at Tomlinson Run State Park or book a stay in the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower at Seneca State Forest.

2. Take in the scenery

West Virginia’s state parks and forests preserve some of the most beautiful lands in the Mountain State. But did you know you can find some jaw-dropping scenery right near the park entrances? You don’t even have to hike out to see it.

Check out the Cheat River Canyon overlook at Coopers Rock State Forest. Spend some time at the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park. Or take in the awe-inspiring views of the New River Gorge at Hawks Nest State Park.

Our lodges offer some amazing views, too. Enjoy scenic views of the Bluestone River Gorge while you dine at Pipestem Resort State Park or survey the placid waters of Tygart Lake from the back porch of Tygart Lake State Park.

3. Explore history

Our parks also preserve a lot of history, from pre-Colonial days to Civil War battles to coal mining and beyond. Tour the sites and learn the unique stories behind every park.

You’ll discover fascinating landmarks like George Washington’s Bathtub, which is a replica of the rock pool where the founding father liked to soak on his visits to the warm mineral springs of Berkeley Springs State Park. Climb to the top of the observation tower at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and read signage detailing the last major battle in the Civil War conflict fought there. At Cass Scenic Railroad State Park you can ride an antique steam engine up the mountain to an old logging camp, and even stay in one of the restored company houses in the town of Cass. Or, if you visit Chief Logan State Park, be sure to pay a visit to the Museum in the Park exhibits that pay homage to the Mountain State’s rich coal mining history.

4. Go for a hike

West Virginia State parks and forests offer hundreds of miles of trails. They offer various levels of length and difficulty, from the gentle grade of North Bend Rail Trail to the challenging climbs at Kanawha State Forest. You’ll even find boardwalk paths like the one winding through the towering rocks of Beartown State Park.

Join a guided hike or head off on your own to discover wildlife, wildflowers, waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Before you head out, make sure to stop by the park office to pick up a trail guide.

 5. Try something new

One of the best things about exploring a West Virginia state park or forest is that there are endless opportunities to do something you’ve never done before!

Explore up to 15 miles of ungroomed cross-country skiing trails at Pipestem Resort. (Rentals are available at the Pro Shop.) Test your marksmanship skills with wobble clay shooting at Cacapon Resort State Park. Sign up for a Quest program at North Bend State Park and learn fun outdoor skills like rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and orienteering. If you’ve never been horseback riding, you’ll find riding opportunities at several parks, including Lost River State Park. And if you’re keen to try fishing, you can fish right from your campsite along the 720-acre reservoir at Beech Fork State Park. (But first make sure you purchase a fishing license at www.wvfish.com.)

You can also plan to visit the park nature center to learn about native plants and animals or join in an arts and crafts session or other fun activity.

6. Bring memories home

Making memories is what spending time at a West Virginia state park or forest is all about. But if you’d like a physical token to remember your trip by, don’t forget to visit the park gift shop to pick up a souvenir. You can find a wide selection of T-shirts, postcards, coffee mugs and West Virginia-made products in all our park gift shops. And be sure to take plenty of photos to capture your memories!

Need further trip inspiration? Check out our State Parks Blog for travel ideas and destinations!

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