Camping is America’s quintessential summer pastime, and the Mountain State is an outdoor paradise.
photographed by Carla Witt Ford & Nikki Bowman Mills
Camping is America’s quintessential summer pastime, and the Mountain State is an outdoor paradise. As more and more folks flee urban environments looking to disconnect from everyday life, improve emotional well-being, and reconnect with relationships, West Virginia has become a go-to destination. Here’s our guide to being a happy camper.
Relax You’re too tents!
It isn’t just folks from outside West Virginia’s borders who are seeking serene spots to gather with friends around a campfire. In fact, according to the KOA’s 2022 North American Camping Report, most campers prefer to keep their trips close to home, with 56% camping within 100 miles of their homes and the majority choosing national and state park campgrounds or privately owned campgrounds and land. There are many ways to experience Almost Heaven as your outdoor “hotel room.” From traditional tents to tricked-out tree houses to mansionlike motorhomes, it’s time to hit the open road and relieve some tent-sion. Here are a few ideas to inspire you.
Traditional tent camping can take you deep into the woods or perch you on the banks of a lake. Looking for a fun family destination? Pipestem State Park has 82 campsites plus an adventure zone, a splash park, ziplining, and a golf course. If you are a treasure hunter, then “cache” in with a stay in Berkeley County, home to the world’s leading destination for geocaching. Traveling with a large group? Then check out Buffalo Gap Retreat in Hampshire County and reserve an entire island. Chestnut Ridge Park & Campground in Monongalia County is surrounded by Coopers Rock State Forest and the West Virginia University Forest and offers 50 wooded primitive tent sites. Experience the state’s highest peak at Spruce Knob Lake Campground or head to Pendleton County to Brandywine Lake Campground in Brandywine, located on a remote 10-acre lake with easy access to multiple hiking and mountain biking trails and a swimming beach.
Interest in RVing is at an all-time high. According to RVShare, recreational vehicle rentals have more than tripled since 2020. If you love ATV trail riding, head to the Hatfield–McCoy region, where a plethora of campgrounds will give you easy access to trails. With a par 3 golf course, Brooke Hills Park in Wellsburg is a great spot for exploring the Northern Panhandle. Big Ridge Campground abuts Lost River State Park near Mathias and caters to people who ride horses in the park, and if you are looking to relax lakeside, check out Stonewall Resort in Roanoke or Beech Fork State Park in Barboursville. Blackwater Falls State Park is one of the state’s most visited sites, and its campground is always in high demand. WV Living readers voted the immaculate campground at Summersville Lake Retreat and Lighthouse Best of West Virginia more than once. Watoga State Park—West Virginia’s largest state park, with more than 10,000 acres of land in Pocahontas County—is home to two campgrounds. And if you are looking for a dense forest setting, Holly River State Park is the state’s second largest.
Yurts, Teepees, and Fire Towers
Have you been to the tippy top of West Virginia? Visit Tomlinson Run, one of the first state parks to offer yurt rentals. Their five-person yurts come with a propane stove and cookware, a picnic table, cooler, and lantern, and one set of bunk beds. Looking for a teepee? Yokum’s Vacationland’s Princess Snowbird Campground is located just across the road from Seneca Rocks, and if a fire tower is more your speed, the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower at Seneca State Forest offers a unique experience with unparalleled views. Another location for an elevated experience is the rustic yurt Ulan Bator at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center Campus—you’ll never experience stars quite like this. Mountain Lake Campground and Cabins has three yurts with wooded views of Summersville Lake. If you want the experience of a yurt without roughing it, then check out the nicely appointed wooden yurts at Walker Creek Farms and Cabins in Clay County. You’ll even find yurts at the newly constructed Lone Pine Campground at Doddridge County Park.
Glamping and Geodomes
What is glamping? It’s a luxurious way to experience nature, and geodomes are the new go-to glamping trend. WV Glamping Domes in Alderson and Elk River Hotel and Cafe offer geodomes where you can sleep by a river while you look up at the stars. Country Road Cabins in Hico also offers luxury glamping tents with hot tubs and a brand new tree dome called Moonshiner that melds the tree house experience with that of a geodome. Looking for safari-style Tentrr sites, where all the setup is done for you and is hassle-free? Check out Lost River State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, Hawks Nest State Park, Cacapon Resort State Park, and Coopers Rock State Forest. Each of these canvas tents has a wooden platform deck and is furnished with a queen-size memory foam mattress, side tables, and a propane tent heater as well as a picnic table, a fire pit with a grill, a solar shower, and a portable camp loo.
Looking for a more elevated experience and, instead of sleeping under the trees, you want to sleep in them? Then check out Grand Vue Park’s Treetop Villas in Moundsville, The Cabins at Pinehaven in Beaver, or the Airbnb called Cozy West Virginia Treehouse in Shepherdstown. If you are heading to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the tree houses at Country Roads Cabins are close by, and their swinging bridges will bring out the kid in you. Another great option is the Kilimanjaro Safari Treehouse at Four Fillies Lodge, which is luxuriously secluded in Peterstown.