7 state park getaways to help you get the most out of your summer trip
Plan to visit several parks on one Almost Heaven road trip
Do you have a West Virginia state parks bucket list? With a little bit of strategic planning you can check off several parks or forests in a single day or long weekend. The following parks are within a short drive of each other, allowing visitors to make the most of their Almost Heaven getaway.
Family Camping Vacation
This itinerary has a little something for everyone: outdoor recreation, Civil War history and scenic train rides. Plan a stay in the cabins or campground at Watoga State Park, where you can enjoy hiking and fishing and at nearby Seneca State Forest. Discover Beartown State Park and stroll the boardwalk through towering rock formations, then swing by Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park and climb the observation tower to survey the grounds where an important Civil War battle was fought. Wrap up your vacation with a visit to Cass Scenic Railroad where you ride an authentic steam locomotive to an old logging camp on the mountain.
High Country Road Tripping
Two of the state’s best-known parks are only a few miles apart, so there’s no excuse not to visit both of these on one vacation. Set on a plateau high in the mountains, Canaan Valley Resort State Park offers skiing and tubing in the winter and mountain biking, golfing, and hiking in the warmer months. Venture up the road to Blackwater Falls State Park to view the spectacular falls and hike to several other smaller but just as beautiful waterfalls. During the winter, Blackwater Falls boasts the longest sled run on the East Coast.
New and Gauley River Exploration
Visitors to the country’s newest designated national park, the New River Gorge, will want to consider a stay at Hawks Nest State Park with its newly renovated lodge perched on the rim of the gorge. At the bottom of the gorge, jet boat tours take passengers on a breezy ride near the base of the New River Gorge Bridge. If it’s privacy you seek, plan a stay in one of the historic Civilian Conservation Corps cabins tucked into a jungle of rhododendrons at Babcock State Park, just downstream from the park’s iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill. While you’re in the area, pack a picnic lunch and head over to Carnifex Ferry Battlefield to learn about the Civil War battle and watch rafters navigate the Gauley River far below.
Adventure in the Bluestone Gorge
Set up base camp at Pipestem Resort State Park because there’s plenty to do here, from the water playground on the Adventure Lake to the Pipestem Peaks Zipline. Explore waterfalls and trails at nearby Camp Creek State Park and Forest, then set aside a day for a boat ride on Bluestone Lake at Bluestone State Park. (Fishing boats, pontoon boats, kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the marina.)
Spa Session Weekend
Pamper yourself and a loved one with a soak in the Roman baths at historic Berkeley Springs State Park. (Don’t forget to bring containers to fill from a tap of clear mountain spring water to take home.) Plan your overnight stay down the road at Cacapon Resort State Park, where you can book a session at its brand-new spa or spend the day on the resort’s championship golf course. Both of these state parks are in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle in Morgan County.
If you love water activities you’ll want to build your vacation plans around this region. Stonewall Resort State Park offers a wide range of activities from golf to water sports, as well as fun boat rentals like the CraigCat mini power boat. The quieter setting of Tygart Lake State Park is ideal for a day of fishing or an exciting day at the Adventure Lake. Plan for some hiking at Valley Falls State Park and take in the beauty of the waterfalls on the Tygart Valley River. Take the kids to Audra State Park where they can swim in an old-fashioned swimming hole on the Middle Fork River. Then, wrap up your vacation with a history lesson at Prickett’s Fort State Park, which commemorates late 18th century life on the Virginia frontier, and a day stop at Watters Smith Memorial State Park where a homestead depicts pioneer life from 1796 to the early 1900s.
Bike Riding Excursion
Bring your bike to North Bend State Park because you’ll want to spend hours exploring the tunnels and bridges of the 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail that connects to the park, which recently celebrated a grand reopening after renovations. Bike rentals are also available if you can’t haul yours on this trip. Recover from your long-distance bike ride the next day with a sternwheeler ride to Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park for a guided tour of the reconstructed 18th century mansion and grounds. You can reserve your sternwheeler ride in advance online.
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