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Pipestem Resort is in the southern part of West Virginia. It is a beautiful place with beautiful scenery, stunning overlook views, trails, a beautiful river, places to lodge, places to camp, and places for great food.
There is a LOT that could be said about Pipestem Resort as the area is practically a “complex” of amazing things to see and do. Beyond saying, “this place is awesome – you should go”, I will only briefly mention what we did. Hopefully we will go back, do more and write more.
What time of year?We were there mid-May in the middle of the week.
Where we camped
Down the road, south of all the other stuff (equestrian, golf courses, overlooks, lodge, sports lounge, tram, restaurants, amphitheater, disc golf, nature center, etc), is the campground. It is a nice campground with nice tall trees surrounding the campsites.
Our site (site 20) was a pull-through, but most of them are not. There is decent separation between sites so if you like to keep your distance from others (or not hear their music or conversations), then this is a good place.
We love to feel surrounded by nature, and this is one of those types of campgrounds. There is good shade for nearly every site. However, there are not a ton of sites, so unfortunately, we could only stay 3 nights because they were booked for the upcoming weekend.
Where you could stay?
You don’t have to camp to visit this beautiful place (though I recommend it if you enjoy camping). There are two lodges you can stay at. One a little north of the campground, and one you have to take the tram down the gorge to get to. We visited both lodges and they looked nice. The one at the top of the gorge was particularly nice and large enough to host events. There are also cabins you can rent too.
Surrounded by the forest is the tall Pipestem State Park Lookout Tower providing great sweeping views over the tree covered landscape. Towers like these are usually for wild fires observation … not sure if that’s the point of this one, but I’d assume so.
It’s a small hike up a paved trail to get to the large grassy field the tower is in. Mounted part way up the tower is a sign saying 3,000 feet elevation (though I don’t know if that means it’s 3,000 at the bottom or the top of the tower).
Climb a lot of stairs and be treated to a stunning view. When looking out at the distant hills from this tower, it’s no wonder John Denver wrote songs about the beauty of West Virginia. It’s beautiful.
Long Branch Lake
Near the lodge are many trail heads and we took one that lead us down to Long Branch Lake. This is a reservoir as it is a dammed river. My kids always call lakes with a dam, “fake lake” because they know that the only reason it’s a lake is because people dammed it up.
It’s a nice lake and we walked the perimeter for a while, past some muddy spots to get to the dam which we could walk out on. There is a sandy beach and good places to go fishing. If you are into paddling, this would be a great place as it has a serene feeling which is very peaceful. That’s the word I would describe this like with, peaceful.
To us, the highlight of the whole place is the tram ride and the river at the bottom of the Bluestone River Gorge that you can only access by the tram. Down the steep embankment from the Canyon Rim Center, a tram ride will take you down the hill and across the Bluestone National Scenic River.
The tram was a real hit with the kids. Our family was too large for just one car, so we had to split up … which the kids kind of liked too as they tried to wave to the other family members in the other tram car (who couldn’t see them).
The tram ride is free to ride down, but not free to return. I don’t recall how much it cost because there is a deal that if you eat at the restaurant at the bottom and save your receipt, that your receipts is your tram ticket. We were hungry anyway and VERY rarely eat out (a family our size – that can get expensive) so we decided to chalk it up to a great experience to tram and restaurant.
When riding the tram, part way down, there is a cave with an old “moonshine” display. Apparently during prohibition (or something like that) they used caves to store contraband. It was fun to see (from high up) the wooden barrels in the cave.
There is also plenty of wildlife around, so we kept an eye out for that too from the tram. But – our kids are usually too noisy so most wildlife scatters. Maybe you will have better luck.
Mountain Creek Fine Dining
We never eat out. But we did. And it was great, though not cheap. I am writing this well over a year later and the kids still talk about that food. I said we “never eat out” – that’s not true. We do. But this food has withstood the test of time as one that is memorable.
We were there on a Wednesday and were the only ones there for lunch. It was nice because we felt ok (while waiting for our food) to allow them to leave their seats at the table and stand at the HUGE glass window and watch the river flowing by.
There are a few places you go for the food, a few you go for the atmosphere, this is one of those that you go for both. And – the fact that you have to take the tram there makes it all the more romantic if you are there for a date.
The River and Trail
The Bluestone National Scenic River is beautiful. Though we don’t do restaurants much, we do go to rivers a LOT, and this one deserves it’s “National Scenic River” designation.
Of all the beautiful places we have been, and we have been to a lot, walking the Bluestone Turnpike Trail by this river was one of the most beautiful trails we have ever done. Maybe we hit it at the right time of year. May is beautiful in lots of places, but this trail has so many trees with leaves that catch the sunlight just right that it looks like they are glowing.
The river is right by the trail most of the time and when we got the kids to stop blabbering, we could hear it trickle along as it played the beautiful music of nature. As with all trails, we had to watch out for mud and wore bug repellent (don’t want any ticks).
I mentioned paddling above (saying you should paddle the lake). This river is another great paddling location. You could/should paddle down this incredible river. It’s just stunning.
We had the whole river and trail to ourselves. For that reason, I’d say the best time to visit this place is during the week. The playground next to the river was open and our kids played while Ms. Best and I sat on a rocking swing looking out at the river.
I can’t say enough about this place to how beautiful it is. Sight, Sound, Smell – this place is where you want to go for peace.- Matt
Some Additional Good Stuff