Planning a bus tour? School field trip? Or golf outing? Look no further than West Virginia State Parks and Forests, says parks spokeswoman Sissie Summers.
“The key elements to happy passengers and travelers are: scenic and historic views as backgrounds for group photos, ample free parking, accessible restrooms, good food and secure, clean accommodations,” Summers said. “In addition, parks are affordable and make every effort to make groups welcome.”
State Parks and Forests in the Mountain State offer a variety of lodging choices, from campgrounds and cabins to lodge rooms and cottages, all set in scenic locations with amenities designed to meet the daily needs of visitors.
History buffs will be pleased with Blennerhassett Island, Prickett’s Fort and Cass Scenic Railroad. These parks offer well-preserved and unique perspectives on bygone eras. Other parks that welcome field trips include Droop Mountain and Carnifex Ferry battlefields and the Pioneer Farm at Twin Falls State Park.
Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, located on the Ohio River in Wood County, is open for tours May through October. Visitors are transported by the Island Belle sternwheeler to the island to enjoy historic Blennerhassett Mansion as well as the Putnam-Houser House. The grounds are a lovely setting for picnics. Horse-drawn wagon rides and bike rentals also are available. The museum in Parkersburg is open year-round. For information on special events and tours, visit www.blennerhassettislandstatepark.com or call 304-420-4800.
Prickett’s Fort State Park in Marion County uses a living history style of interpretation to preserve, document and exhibit the past. The fort is a re-creation of the original 1774 structure which served as a refuge from Native American war parties on the western frontier of Colonial Virginia. Visitors are invited to tour the Job Prickett house, built in 1859, and museum and visitors center. Tours are offered mid-April through October. For more information, visit www.prickettsfortstatepark.com or call 304-363-3030.
Cass Scenic Railroad State Park in Pocahontas County transports visitors to an era when steam-driven locomotives were an essential part of everyday life. Ride the original Shay steamers through a series of switchbacks up the mountain to Whittaker Station or Bald Knob, at grades up to 11 percent. Visitors can visit a re-created logging camp at Whittaker Station or participate in special evening train packages such as “The Murder of Lumberjack Johnny Parker” mystery train, Fiddles and Vittles trains, Harvest, or Halloween trains. Visit www.cassrailroad.com or call 304-456-4300.
Golfers enjoy the greens at Pipestem, Cacapon, Stonewall, Canaan Valley and Twin Falls resorts. These parks offer a variety of recreational, dining and lodging opportunities as well. State Park golf courses cater to groups with tournaments or daily greens fee play and golf packages. Pipestem and Cacapon are particularly attractive to group outings.
Pipestem State Park in Mercer County features breathtaking views of the Bluestone River Gorge. The resort has modern conference facilities; two challenging, beautifully manicured golf courses; a full-service restaurant; indoor and outdoor swimming pools; fishing; and horseback riding. Visitors also can join the park naturalist for a bird walk or visit area attractions such as the Bluestone Dam, historic Bramwell or Tamarack. Visit www.pipestemresort.com or call 304-466-1800.
Cacapon Resort State Park in Morgan County offers golfing, hiking, lake swimming and fishing, horseback riding and wobble clay (trap) shooting. Accommodations include the resort’s vintage lodge and popular restaurant, as well as three types of cabins for year-round rentals. Located in the Eastern Panhandle, Cacapon is close to historic destinations such as nearby Berkeley Springs State Park and Harpers Ferry National Park. Visit www.cacaponresort.com or call 304-258-1022.
Groups seeking winter activities should check out Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker County, Summers said. The area usually gets plenty of snow, providing ample opportunity for cross-country skiing and sledding. The rope tow transporting sled riders up the mountain is a great feature for winter guests to Blackwater Falls. Warm weather is a popular time at Blackwater for hiking and fishing, and the park’s namesake, a beautiful five-story waterfall, is one of the state’s most photographed images. Amenities include a full-service restaurant, conference center, game room and indoor swimming pool and cabins. Visit www.blackwaterfalls.com or call 304-259-5216.
The 10 lodge parks and even more areas welcome groups. The most recent addition to the park system is Chief Logan State Park in Logan County. A great setting for group meetings, Chief Logan Lodge, Hotel and Conference Center is equipped with 75 modern rooms and suites, a restaurant, guest laundry, indoor pool, fitness room and hot tub. Just a 15-minute drive from the lodge, Chief Logan State Park features a museum and outdoor swimming pool. During the summer, the park is host to the outdoor drama, “The Aracoma Story” and in winter, the park’s annual Christmas lights show is a popular tourist attraction. Visit www.chiefloganlodge.com or call 304-855-6100.
Whether it’s a motor coach arriving at Hawks Nest as an itinerary stop or a school field trip, chartering a train ride or Island Belle Sternwheeler trips, or a golf outing, call the parks in advance to make arrangements. For more information about group bookings, visit www.wvstateparks.com