Editor's Note: Boone County adventure-tourism student Lilly Bias spent a week on the road with her family discovering West Virginia. Here's what she thought of her staycation experience!
West Virginia has long been known as an energy state, but for some time now its main industry has been tourism. It has quickly changed from being a place where you can stay for only a few days to a destination that offers activities that will make travelers want to stay for an extended period. From its relaxing resorts to its exhilarating skiing and paddling opportunities, our state can appease any explorer’s preference.
As part of Boone County Schools Adventure Tourism program, I was given an assignment—to define the "West Virginia Staycation," which inspired my family and me to explore our extraordinary state last summer.
We began our journey at Summersville Lake. Its beauty was no secret to our family and friends. The lake is well known for its clear mountain waters and excellent clarity for scuba diving. Divers even call it the “Bermuda of the East.”
We began hiking the excellent trails in the area beginning with the Endless Wall Trail, which we completed. Later, we hiked a portion of the Long Point Trail. Then we decided to continue our trip with an exciting day on the water. Our dad pulled my brother and me on an inner-tube and tried to sling us off into the water, then we attempted to do tricks on our water-skis.
Afterward, he drove our boat to a spot where people climb to jump from the rock cliffs. As we watched, we also noticed the paddle-boarders and kayakers gather to enjoy the crystal-clear waters. We went to our camping spot to play games outside, build a fire, eat loads of s’mores, and enjoy great company. The next morning, our grandmother made us biscuits and gravy, and her warm hugs and goodbye prepared us for our next destination.
We drove for about an hour-and-twenty-minutes south to Camp Creek State Park. Its waterfalls are a focal point near the Bluestone River. We took a nice flat walk over to Campbell Falls where the shape of the waterfall allowed us to walk on different levels of the smooth rock. Within this state park, we also found Mash Fork Falls, where we explored the fascinating formations of rock that make up the falls.
We then traveled to another regional park featuring Brush Creek Falls, which is also located on the Bluestone River. Brush Creek Falls Preserve is also home to the remnants of an old mill. We watched thrill-seekers jump into the water below from the top of the falls. When we asked the jumpers about their choice of landing destination, they quickly relayed that without the proper choices being made, the result would not be a pleasant one.
We left Brush Fork and headed into Princeton, an old railroad town that had many murals. We spent some time posing in front of these beautiful works of art.
Afterward, we took our dinner to the top of the mountain to the East River Mountain Overlook, with breathtaking views at about 3,500 feet above sea level. We then hurried to our next destination to catch the sunset at Pipestem Resort State Park.
We spent the day at Pipestem’s Adventure Lake. Pipestem Resort has partnered with ACE Adventure Resort to create an exciting lake that my mother, siblings, and I greatly enjoyed. It consists of inflatable floats that are made for climbing, sliding, and attempting to walk across.
We rode the tram down to the bottom of the Bluestone River Gorge where we had some amazing ice cream. Then we took an easy hike to the Bolar Lookout Tower where the views were breathtaking. We loved this state park so much as it had so much to offer—biking, horseback riding, ziplining across the Bluestone Gorge, and so much more.
Unfortunately, our preplanned itinerary stopped us from spending as much time as we wanted there. We headed out towards Lewisburg, and on the way paused to take in the sites at the Bluestone Lake and the Bluestone Dam that created the lake.
Beartown is an interesting and beautiful state park. As we walked along its boardwalk, we were able to look at amazing rock formations all around us. The fact that much of it was shaded and covered in lichen and moss gave it an otherworldly feel.
From there, we were off to another observation tower—this time at the Droop Mountain Battlefield. This place is famously known for commemorating the site of one of the last battles of the Civil War. We followed a trail lined with reenactors who were dressed in period clothing and living in tents, cooking over open fires, and they even had horses. We followed the trail down to a small museum where they explained the battle.
From there, we were off to another Pocahontas County park—Watoga, the largest park in the state park system. There where we had a picnic lunch and took a hike around a beautiful lake. Our next destination was Seneca Rocks. This is perhaps the most photographed spot in West Virginia.
We traveled to a rock-climbing and adventure outpost that, amongst other things, provides caving opportunities, rock climbing, and a via feratta. This outpost has some of the best scenery for hiking in the eastern United States. We stayed in the home-base at Nelson Rocks and early the next morning we met up with our guide for the day for some serious exploration.
While gearing up for the adventures that awaited, we got to know our guide was a lighthearted man. He assured my very nervous mother that everyone in his charge was going to be perfectly fine. He spoke of the safety precautions that would take place during the trip, as well as making us feel comfortable in our gear.
We began trying to attach the double-carabiner lanyard to the via ferrata. Our guide's experience and knowledge, along with everything involved with the via ferrata, caused my worry to cease regarding the great height we were climbing.
Along our assent was a 200-foot-long bridge with stairs that allow you to see through down to the 150 feet to the bottom of the valley. My siblings and I took a short climb provided for climbers who are seeking more of a challenge throughout the via feretta. This climb was well worth the difficulty. The view it provided was breathtaking and the scenery was stunning. We had a wonderful time with the N-Rocks Company and intend upon returning with more friends and possibly participate in the Full Moon Tours.
We traveled to Holly River State Park and spent the night in one of its beautiful, rustic cabins. Staying in the cabin made the whole experience even more exciting. The next morning as we left our cabin, the park ranger told us of the upper falls, lower falls, and Shupe’s Shute on the Holly River.
Shupe’s Shute is a waterfall that tunnels down into a swimming area below, where we had a wonderful time. From there, we went to the West Virginia Wildlife Center, which held many animals, most being natives. From there we headed to Audra State Park, which sits around the Middle Fork River. There we had a great time on the waterfalls that were perfect for sliding down into swimming holes. After much fun there, we headed for Morgantown.
In Morgantown, we rested and spent much-needed time with our family that lives there. Lastly, we visited Grave Creek Mound. Before climbing atop the mound, we visited the museum that explained its contents. Relics included prehistoric arrowheads and stone tools and early toys from the former Marble King. From the top of the mound, you can see the West Virginia Penitentiary, where tours can be reserved to see the retired prison. We spent that night at the Tree Top Villas with an overlook of the beautiful forest and a private hot tub.
The morning of our departure, we enjoyed some wonderful zip-lining that overlooked the City of Moundsville. We also visited the Palace of Gold, a palace with heavenly views and an amazing story of faith. We then began our trip back home.
Our staycation was wonderful but all-too-brief. The last day was bittersweet. The amazing opportunities and stones left unturned could have had us exploring for months. For West Virginians, the trip home is always the best, and our family duties with our house rental on the Ivy Branch of the Hatfield and McCoy Trail wouldn’t allow us to stay gone for as long as we had wanted.
When you live in West Virginia, a staycation is never far away. This is a paradise where one can hunt, fish, ride, hike, and go on many other adventures. Home in southern West Virginia truly is Almost Heaven!