With warm breezes lifting the leaves and bird songs swirling in the air, summer is the perfect time to gather family and friends and head outdoors. But hikers may not like to bird-watch and photographers may not want to canoe. How to keep everyone happy?
The West Virginia State Parks come to the rescue with a season full of themed retreats. Travelers can choose the activities they want, backed up by the natural allure of the Mountain State — just step outside and you’re there.
Hikers can hit the eight-mile Mid-Summer Walk Between the Parks on July 11, a guided walk between Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley Resort State Park through Canaan Mountain.
Master naturalists will lead a trail hike through Tygart Lake State Park
in Grafton on Aug. 25. A bit later, guides will lead hikers on the Margaret Denison Fall Nature Walk Sept. 12 in Kanawha State Forest, just south of Charleston. You’ll be checking out the fungi, pond life, birds and trees, and have time to photograph them as you go.
The 9,300-acre Kanawha State Forest draws birders from as far away as Canada due to its diversity: 19 species of wood warblers nest in its cove forest sites.
The Kanawha also draws hardy souls to its 15th Annual Rattlesnake 50K Run on July 11. This is an ultra-run to challenge your endurance up and down forest trails. Afterwards, the family can relax in the playground and campground.
During Bike the Park on Aug. 8, Watoga State Park,
in the mountains of Pocahontas County south of Marlinton, is offering the perfect way to learn about mountain biking. Both beginners and experienced riders who want to explore some of the park’s 10,100 acres will enjoy an adventure-filled day.
The game is on, though, for the Aug. 9Black Bear 40K Mountain Bike Race through the rigorous terrain of Kanawha State Forest. The race is open to all levels of mountain bikers.
Golfers, too, like the mountain challenge of West Virginia. Some like to tune up their game at the Golf Academy, June 23–25 at Cacapon Resort State Park i
n Berkeley Springs. Professional instructors will offer personalized assessment and advice. Golfers will play the Robert Trent Jones Sr. course, rated one of the 130 best-designed in the U.S. The academy repeats June 30–July 2, July 7–9, July 21–23, Sept. 8–10 and Sept. 22–24.
A state born of the Civil War certainly has history to share, and heritage travelers can choose from a range of park programs.
Nearly every park will celebrate West Virginia Day June 20, including Prickett’s Fort State Park in Fairmont. Admission is just $1, with free birthday cake and lemonade.
Stonewall Resort State Park in Roanoke is devoting June 19–20 to West Virginia Mountain Heritage Weekend, a celebration of Appalachian food, music and craftsmanship.
On July 18, the Trans-Allegheny Clash of Cultures will come alive atHawks Nest State Park in Ansted. American Indian and European cultures fought six wars west of the Allegheny Mountains in what would later become West Virginia. Re-enactors will portray both sides of the conflict.
After hiking, biking, golfing and living history, there’s nothing better than hearing music in the open air, and it’s even better when it’s free.
Camp Creek State Park in Camp Creek will pulse with music on June 14, 1–8 p.m., during Bluegrass Day, showcasing local bands. Dance master Lou Maiuri and his Appalachian Dancers will perform at the Pipestem Resort State Park amphitheater July 17. Everyone’s invited to join in the do-si-do.
Prickett’s Fort has a busy calendar of free outdoor concerts: The Woodticks string band July 24, Lindsey and the Clear Mountain Boys Aug. 7, songwriter John McCutcheon Aug. 21 and the Hillbilly Gypsies string band Sept. 4. Many of the musicians are West Virginia’s own, offering surprising twists on mountain themes.
For reservations to specific park events and more information, call 800/225-5982 or visit www.wvstateparks.com