Almost heaven, West Virginia … it’s almost impossible to not sing the old lyrics while meandering along the country roads leading to Tygart Lake State Park. You are in the heart of Mountaineer Country, after all, with all the rugged beauty and natural landscapes that make it famous.
As the name implies, the park’s crown jewel is the lake—10 miles and 1,750 acres of clean, fresh mountain water offering breathtaking views and a host of recreation opportunities. Resting in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in the North-Central part of the state, Tygart Lake seems a world away from civilization, but Morgantown, home to the hustle and bustle of West Virginia University, is actually just half an hour up the road.
Tygart Lake has been a longtime favorite destination for fishing, boating, Jet Skiing, water skiing, and even scuba diving since 1938, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created a dam there to control river overflow. The resulting reservoir and the land around it was donated to the state in 1945, and in 1953, the park became one of the first state parks in West Virginia to offer camping.
For those bringing a boat, Tygart Lake Marina has a few overnight docks available on a first-come, first-served basis. The marina also rents fishing boats, pontoons, and kayaks by the day. Tygart Lake is considered one of the best bass-fishing sites in the area, so remember to pack your gear and state fishing license.
A good way to relax after a day of water play is by hopping on board at least one of the 11-mile themed cruises on the much-loved double-decker Princess cruise boat. Options include two-hour scenic history tours, a pirate-themed treasure hunt (beware of the water soakers), and a whodunit murder-mystery cruise. Or pick a buffet dinner cruise, choosing from casual barbecue, wing, or taco nights, or dress up for the elegant, plated captain’s dinner cruise.
With floor-to-ceiling windows offering a breathtaking view of the lake, plus a full-service menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Lodge restaurant at Tygart Lake State Park can cover your entire stay. If you want to travel a few miles up the road to Grafton, Leonard’s Grill can hook you up with boneless wings, an amazing turkey bacon club, broccoli cheddar soup, or a strawberry cheesecake bomb that will fuel you plenty for your next day on the water.
The park offers a true vintage lake-resort vibe with a 20-room waterfront lodge and 11 comfortable cabins (six facing the lake). Knotted-pine floors, walls, and ceilings along with rustic stone fireplaces create a cozy space to relax after a day of fun. Plenty of RV and tent camping sites are also available.
NEW THIS YEAR
Last May, West Virginia entered a partnership with ACE Adventure Resort to cut the ribbon on a brand-new attraction, Tygart Adventures, featuring 25 giant lake inflatables and a sandy beach area with lounge chairs. Memories of the heat and humidity of Northern Virginia vanish when leaping from the top of a towering 14-foot floating iceberg, and everyone stays cool doing cannonballs from the floating trampoline or while splashing into the lake from long, slippery slides. At $17 or less for day passes, Tygart Adventures is an affordable bargain for families who crave healthy, screen-free fun outside. It opens for the 2022 season on May 20.