Spectacularly perched on the east rim of the Bluestone River Gorge in southern West Virginia, Pipestem Resort State Park checks a lot of boxes when it comes to lakeside vacation destinations. With Long Branch Lake, Bluestone River, and New River all located within the 4,050-acre park, there’s water fun at every turn, including guided fishing tours, paddleboard and kayak rentals, tubing, whitewater rafting, an indoor heated pool, an outdoor splash park, and an amazing adventure lake with giant inflatables.
Taking aim with spraying water cannons will keep younger visitors happy, and time spent lounging on the beach is pretty sweet when the rest of the family is occupied with spinning spheres into the adventure lake. An all-day splash park/adventure lake pass is $14, and the attraction is set to open in late May for the 2022 season.
Whitewater rafting adventures are available for every age level, starting at $69 per person, but for $129, adrenaline junkies can reserve a spot with ACE Adventure Resort for a day-long ride through Class I through IV rapids in a raft led by a professional guide.
It will take some convincing to get everyone out of the water, but there’s a lot more to do at Pipestem. Pack your golf bag because the park has an 18-hole champion course, a 9-hole par-3 short course, and a driving range. Pipestem Stables offers affordable horse trail rides, starting at just $20 per guest, and pony rides are only $3.
Pipestem gets its name from a common plant called bittersweet (Spiraea alba) that grows all around the region. Early inhabitants used the hollowed-out stems of this plant to form tobacco pipes. That early connection to nature persists at Pipestem, with 20 different hiking and biking trails, climbing and rappelling trips, and a nature center.
Exhilarating zipline tours offer a bird’s-eye view of the park, where brave souls fly across the gorge, above the trees and river, on a course of nine zips, a cable bridge, and a belay, sometimes at more than 300 feet and reaching speeds up to 50 mph. Near the park’s entrance is Bolar Lookout Tower, sitting at an elevation of 3,000 feet and offering a breathtaking view of Sun Valley.
Pipestem Adventure Zone adds a huge layer of excitement. Guests can pay à la carte for each activity, but a full-day pass is $89 per guest, and for that you get a range of activities not commonly found elsewhere. Skeet shooting, laser tag, ax throwing, 3D archery, drone flying, remote-control car and truck courses, motor-assisted mountain bikes, mini golf, and disc golf are all on the menu.
You’re not seeing double—Pipestem has two lodges and two restaurants, and they are connected by a hugely popular mountain tramway, which runs from the rim all the way to the bottom of the Bluestone River Gorge. Rides are priced at $8 and under, and the views are spectacular.
Pipestem has two dining rooms. The Bluestone Dining Room at McKeever Lodge is a full-service restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows looking over the Bluestone Gorge, offering buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Mountain Creek Dining Room at Mountain Creek Lodge offers an upscale menu and elegant presentation. Open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., the restaurant closes when the tramway does.
Pipestem offers two lodges. The 111-room McKeever Lodge sits at the top of the rim and offers views of the gorge, an indoor heated pool, a full-service spa, saunas, a game room, and an exercise room. The more remote 30-room Mountain Creek Lodge sits at the bottom of the gorge, gives a view of the Bluestone River, and is accessible only by the aerial tramway. The park also has 26 fully equipped cabins featuring fireplaces, grills, and outdoor firepits. There are 82 tent and RV campsites open year-round.