CLARKSBURG — As warmer weather gradually becomes more common as summer approaches, West Virginia’s outdoor recreation industry is gearing up for summer.
Among the long list of outdoor activities available in the state, one of the most sought after is rafting.
Cheat River Outfitters in Albright is a white water rafting company that also offers several other outdoor opportunities.
“We run a section of the Cheat River called the Cheat Narrows. It is a class 2 and 3 section of the river. … There is definitely some real white water there, but nothing too huge, so it’s suitable for families, beginners. We take kids ages 7 and up on a fully guided journey,” said Wendy Hart, owner and operator of Cheat River Outfitters.
“We also manage the Cheat Canyon. It’s a bigger whitewater trip. It mainly works in the spring, but it will work in the summer whenever we have water. The Cheat River is a naturally flowing river, so we rely on Mother Nature. But on a wet summer, we’ll hike the canyon, which is a class 4 and 5 whitewater day trip that’s also fully guided,” Hart said.
Heading south, Adventures on the Gorge offers trips on the ever-popular New River.
“We offer a variety of different rafting trips, and different groups come and do different things where we stay pretty constantly busy during the summer, especially with the new National Park designation of the New River Gorge,” Chelsea Bricker said. , head of marketing for Adventures. on the Gorges.
“People come from all over to go rafting. We have some of the best rafting on the East Coast, which is pretty amazing, but we have a lot of locals and people from West Virginia who come to raft here,” Bricker said.
Although some trips are already being organized, the two companies experience the biggest spike in activity around Memorial Day.
“It really starts during Memorial Day and after Memorial Day. We’re doing trips now, but things are really starting to look up,” Bricker said. “We see a lot more children and families during the summer.”
“Usually after Memorial Day, certainly within a few weeks of Memorial Day when the kids get out of school and the summer vacation season starts. So June, July and August are all great seasons to go out and do these things,” Hart said.
Adventures on the Gorge also offers other outdoor options.
“We’re actually an all-out adventure resort. We have white water rafting, two different zipline courses, we have an aerial adventure park, we offer rock climbing tours, ATV tours, we have onsite cabins, camping, campsites -car,” Bricker said.
“We do rock climbing; we do a half day rock climbing session at Cooper’s Rock so it’s available for both new and more experienced climbers. Then we also do paintball, and it’s more about bringing a group and playing paintball,” Hart said.
Anticipating the Memorial Day wave, preparations are underway.
“We trained new river guides, so that’s something we did,” Bricker said.
“We are already open, so we are just preparing. At this time of year we mostly do weekends and mostly on this section of canyon. …we sort of slowly go from a lot of weekends to a few weekday trips that start happening and then usually somewhere in the first or second week of June…we suddenly find ourselves doing trips every day,” Hart said. .
Renovations and staff training were also a focus during the latter part of the offseason.
“We have completed renovation projects for some of our cabins and bathhouses and made improvements to our campground. We also have a swimming pool located right on the edge of the New River Gorge, so we have been working to open that as well,” Bricker said.
“Our restaurants have reopened, so our restaurants are open seven days a week right now and training and preparing people for the season to really kick off,” she said.
West Virginia also has many resorts, such as the Stonewall Resort in Lewis County.
“We have kind of a good mix of land activities and lake activities. When you talk about the lake, we have a range of 30 rentals. So fishing boats, pontoon boats, these unique boats called CraigCats,” said Chris Audia, regional marketing manager for Benchmark Hospitality, which manages and markets Stonewall Resort. “We also have kayak rentals, stand up paddle boards, pedal boats.”
“In the field, we have our tennis courts, our pickle ball courts. Of course, we have our golf course, which is an Arnold Palmer signature course. We have over 20 miles of hiking trails,” he said.
Stonewall Resort will also be bolstering its pre-Memorial Day bike rentals with a local business partnership.
“We have a brand new partnership to announce with a local company called Fat Tire Cycles, and they are going to be able to bring a really high range of bikes to ownership. … It will be live before Memorial Day,” Audia said.
The Stonewall Resort also offers a weekly Taco Tuesday cruise on a double-decker cruise ship that seats 10 passengers.
As with many destinations, Memorial Day is the big day that kicks off high season.
“As summer approaches, this all went live on April 1, but Memorial Day is kind of our unofficial kickoff to summer,” Audia said.
Another Tucker County attraction, Canaan Valley Resort isn’t just waiting for the ski season to return, and instead offers a plethora of warm-weather attractions.
Miles of trails cover all of Tucker County, with a network at Canaan Valley Resort.
“We have a number of activities, so you will never be bored here. For starters, one of our biggest activities would be hiking,” said Mark Moody, Marketing Director of Canaan Valley Resort.
“We have a multitude of trails that cover a variety of different terrains throughout the park, and they will touch almost every corner of the park.”
In addition to the trails, there are also a variety of other attractions, including scenic lifts, mountain biking, swimming, and an 18-hole golf course.
Canaan offers planned events throughout the summer as well as a musical series.
“We have the summer musical series coming up. This is going to be the second year we’ve done our Mountainside Music Series, which is a free-to-the-audience music series where we’ll be playing bluegrass, country, folk, classic rock,” Moody said.
“It’s a great family event and it happens every Friday between Memorial and Labor Day weekend at Quencher’s Plaza Ski Resort,” he said.
Guided hikes are an option for those looking to get out into nature for a bit.
“We have our series of guided hikes, so these are hikes organized by our recreation department and they will take you through Dolly Sods, they will take you through Blackwater Falls, through Canaan Loop Road on the Allegheny Trail and back into Canaan “said Moody.
“We call it the walk between the parks, and it’s one of our most popular hikes that we do,” he said.
Canaan also holds festivals called Windfest and West Virginia Days.
“We have a few different activities right next to the recreation center. We have Windfest, which takes place around the 4th of July weekend. We have a big kite festival,” Moody said.
“West Virginia Days is another activity we have where people will set up Civil War reenactments and a Civil War encampment at the recreation center. People are learning a bit about the history of the state and some Civil War re-enactors are having a skirmish,” he said.
At Windfest time, a stargazing event will also take place.
“We have a gentleman who comes here and he brings in these professional-grade telescopes and people are able to look at some of the planets here right over the valley, and it’s one of the best places in West Virginia to do it,” Moody said.
Other accommodation options in West Virginia include the various state parks with lodges, cabins, and campgrounds, and Memorial Day is also an important date for them.
“Once the holiday season rolls around around Memorial Day, our parks get busy. It’s fine to make reservations in advance, but definitely call,” said Matt Yeager, district administrator for W.Va. State Parks.
“We have done a lot of renovations to our lodges, cabins and even campgrounds. We are installing Wi-Fi and broadband there,” he said.
West Virginia’s state parks often draw foot traffic to nearby towns, bolstering their economy.
“They are definitely an economic force for the local community. Property values are going up, local businesses — restaurants, stores, that kind of stuff out of the park as well,” Yeager said.
A town that is a prime example is Davis in Tucker County, just up the road from Canaan and the closest town to Blackwater Falls State Park. Thomas is also nearby.
“Blackwater Falls is the most visited place in our county and has a beautiful park in addition to the falls with viewpoints, hiking and biking trails, and amenities. They renovated the lodge, so it just had a makeover and new rooms have all been renovated,” said Jessica Waldo, executive director of the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Davis is the hub of Blackwater Falls,” she said.
Small towns, like those in Tucker County, are home to unique cultures and usually depend on small, local businesses.
“The small towns of Davis, Thomas and Parsons have eclectic shops, art galleries and restaurants. We are notorious for not having the big chain restaurants. It’s all the moms and pops or small businesses you would support when you come to dine or shop here,” Waldo said.