West Virginia Department of Commerce Activity or Simple Relaxation - State parks fill a variety of travel interests

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Activity or Simple Relaxation - State parks fill a variety of travel interests

West Virginia Travel Journal

When it comes to things to do and places to go, state parks and forests in West Virginia offer activities, facility improvements and vacation options.  “From a new campground at Little Beaver State Park, birds of prey programs scheduled across the state or additional cabins for a vacation anytime of year at  Blackwater Falls, parks and forests are open and gearing up for 2012,” says Sissie Summers, programming services administrator with the state park system.

New Cabins at Blackwater Falls
Thirteen 4-bedroom cabins at  Blackwater Falls are the newest addition to the park system.  “The new cabins are on the north side of the park and meet the expectations of visitors looking for home away from home,” says Rob Gilligan, park superintendent.  Complete with dishwasher, washer/dryer, microwave and additional amenities, these units can be rented year-round.

“There are families that have come to Blackwater for years and the original cabins on the south side are as popular as ever.  There is a comfortable feeling of coming home and regardless of the new units, some folks are very content with tradition,” Gilligan says.  Blackwater Falls now has 39 cabins, the 54-room lodge with restaurant, indoor pool and fitness center, 65-site campground, nature center, hiking trails and the scenic view of the falls.  For information about Blackwater Falls, call 304-259-5216.

Birds of Prey
Three Rivers Raptor Center is scheduled to present the “Wings of Wonder” programs at state parks and forests across the state.  In 2012 guests and visitors are invited to attend and learn about birds of prey in West Virginia.  The program is free to attend.  “We receive very positive comments and sincere thanks from people about the birds of prey program. Both children and adults can appreciate that raptors are very amazing birds,” says Summers.

Parks  include: Tygart Lake (May 4),  Blackwater Falls (June 24), Bluestone (June 29), Holly River (July 6), Greenbrier State Forest (July 7),  Watoga (July 21), North Bend (August 11),  Blennerhassett Island (August 12) and Tomlinson Run (August 25).  Additional areas will be added as scheduled.

Camping is Cool

Family Camping in West Virginia
Twenty-nine areas in the state park system have campgrounds.  “Camping is one of the best outdoor traditions a family or individual can enjoy.  The price remains reasonable in an age of fluctuating prices and there are options of where to go,” says Summers. The newest campground is at Little Beaver.  A 46-site campground features some with electric and water, and other sites with water only.  “Twelve sites are currently able to be reserved,” says Erik Evans, superintendent.  “The lake and fishing, biking and hiking, and now camping, expands our outdoor recreation and activities. This will be our first full season with a campground at the park,” says Evans. Little Beaver is easily accessible from Interstate 64: take Exit 129A and go two miles south on WV 307.  Little Beaver fills a missing niche in camping in the Raleigh County area.

Parks and forests with campsites available to be reserved include: Babcock, Beech Fork, Blackwater Falls, Bluestone, Camp Creek, Canaan Valley, Cedar Creek, Chief Logan, Holly River, Little Beaver, North Bend, Pipestem, Stonewall, Tomlinson Run, Twin Falls, Tygart and  Watoga state parks.  State forests with campsites available to be reserved include: Coopers Rock, Greenbrier, Kanawha and Kumbrabow.  Areas with first-come, first-served sites are:  Audra and  Moncove Lake state parks, and  Cabwaylingo and Seneca state forests. Wildlife management areas with campsites include  Berwind Lake, Bluestone, Panther and Plum Orchard Lake. Most areas with reservable campsites also have some first-come, first-served sites. 

Mailed reservation applications are accepted from February 15 – March 14.  Beginning March 15, reservations may be made by phone or in writing. On April 1 reservations are accepted via write-in, phone, or walk-in.  All campground reservation, open dates and use guidelines are online at wvstateparks.com.

Cass Scenic Railroad

Cass Scenic RailroadCass Scenic Railroad
Cass Scenic Railroad opens for the 2012 season on Memorial Day weekend.  There is a trip to Bald Knob, the third-highest point in West Virginia, at noon every day except Mondays.  Trips to Whittaker Station, about halfway up Cheat Mountain, run every day from Memorial Day weekend through October 28, 2012 with the exception of eight mid-week days in September.  Evening trains at Cass Scenic Railroad include 15 Bluegrass Bar-B-Que evenings, nine scheduled Ribs and Rails, a Harvest Day and a Halloween Train. Evening trains include a meal and entertainment. They require advanced reservations and depart at 5:15 p.m. Renovated company houses at Cass are rented year-round. Call 304-456-4300 for details and information.

Outside and Active
Hiking and biking at parks and forests are outdoor favorites. There is no charge to enter state- operated parks and forests.  “A picnic lunch and a hike on your own or joining a park naturalist on a scheduled hike is a nice day outside,” says Summers. Birding and eagle watches are becoming increasingly popular as bird watching interest escalates across the nation.

Biking is an option on most state park trails.  The North Bend Rail Trail and Greenbrier River Trail are longer-length options for hikers, bikers or equestrian travel. 

Geocachers frequently place approved caches in parks and forests.  “There are some minimal guidelines to place caches. When everyone maintains caches properly, it keeps them accessible and current for anyone geocaching,” Summers says. There are more than 60 caches located within the state park system.  

Disc golf is coming to several state parks in 2012 and 2013. “Our disc golf is popular,” says Jeff Layfield, superintendent at Greenbrier State Forest.  The 18-hole course at the forest was made possible by the generous contributions of local residents and volunteer efforts.  “It is park system support in its highest form,” says Layfield. “It’s giving back to places that have served as reunion sites for families for generations and by people who recognize the need to expand options for outdoor recreation.” Stonewall Resort also currently has disc golf. Other areas planning installation of disc golf are Pipestem Resort and Tomlinson Run. Disc golf enthusiasts will welcome these courses as they come on board.  

The West Virginia State Parks system has 49 areas.  From resorts with lodges, golf and major conference facilities to quiet campgrounds and cabins, West Virginia’s parks and forests offer vacation spots within a reasonable drive, with affordable overnight rates, activities and outdoor recreation.

For more information, visit  wvstateparks.com or call 800-CALL-WVA and ask for a specific park or forest.