HINTON - Two West Virginia state parks known for beautiful surroundings, spectacular views and an array of activities are only 10 miles from each other.
Bluestone State Park and Pipestem State Park are in Summers County and are a short distance from the county seat of Hinton.
Bluestone State Park encompasses more than 2,100 acres of rugged, heavily forested, mountainous terrain, and provides a wide variety of water-oriented activities for guests and residents of southern West Virginia.
A foggy morning greets the users of the tram at Pipestem State Park. The resort is among the most popular in West Virginia and is called the crown jewel of parks in the Mountain State.
In the midst of this wilderness park, just five miles south of Hinton, are nestled 26-modern cabins, a campground and fine recreational facilities. The extra plus is that Bluestone is adjacent to Bluestone Lake, the state's third largest body of water.
Bluestone National Wild and Scenic River flows into Bluestone Lake within the Bluestone State Park boundaries. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound at 17,632-acre Bluestone Wildlife Management Area adjacent to the park and nearby Camp Creek State Forest.
Escape to the mountains at Pipestem Resort Park, the "Year-round Crown Jewel of West Virginia State Parks."
From beautiful scenic overlooks of the Bluestone Gorge to the two lodges, vacation rental cottages, campgrounds, golf courses, restaurants, modern conference facilities, and much more, Pipestem Resort State Park has something for everyone.
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Due to the sizable lake at Bluestone, boating and fishing are naturally an important part of the recreational opportunities at the park. The addition of hiking trails, a swimming pool, game courts, and a seasonal nature/recreation program create a well-rounded array of activities.
The proximity of Bluestone to Winter Place ski area makes the park's rental cabins affordable accommodations for ski groups and winter vacations.
Historical and recreational interest in the Bluestone area includes the outdoor musical dramas "Hatfields and McCoys" and others shows performed at Grandview Park, near Beckley. Pipestem Resort with its myriad recreational facilities is only nine miles to the south.
Just north of the park are Bluestone Dam, Hinton and the New River Gorge National River, center of some of the state's best whitewater rafting and canoeing. Of special note are Sandstone Falls and the Visitor Center, just north of Hinton.
"Bluestone is one of the largest vacation cabin parks in the state system," Superintendent Brett McMillion said.
Bluestone Lake is among the most popular boating and fishing destinations in West Virginia, he said. The park offers packages for the marina, camping and cabins, he said.
"It is very popular," McMillion said.
A major event at the park is the Travis Pond Memorial Boat Races, a recently held powerboat competition for craft capable of speeds of 85 mph, he said. In 2016, the races will be the site of the national competition, he said.
The races, generally held the first week end in June, may be moved to August to coincide with the West Virginia State Water Festival at Hinton.
The busy season for the park has arrived, McMillion said. Bluestone was filled with campers and boaters over the Memorial Day weekend, he said.
Bluestone averages from 200,000 to 250,000 visitors a year, he said.
Hunting and fishing opportunities abound at 17,632-acre Bluestone Wildlife Management Area adjacent to the park and nearby Camp Creek State Forest, he said.
Pipestem Park has two lodges, McKeever and Mountain Creek Lodge, along with 82 camp sites and 26 cottages.
One attraction at the park is the tramway that sweeps from the Upper Station at the Canyon Rim Center to the floor of the rugged Bluestone Canyon where it crosses the Bluestone River before arriving at Mountain Creek Lodge. The tram is the only public access to this secluded lodge.
Safety devices are everywhere on the aerial tramway. Examples are an overspeed control to automatically apply the brakes should the device exceed its design speed, anti-reverse sensors controls to prevent cars being launched over the splice in the rope, lightning protection, sensors on each tower to detect any variation in the cable locations, sensors to detect any movement on the bullwheel and many others.
Mountain Creek Lodge features 30 modern rooms with telephones, television, an excellent dining room, meeting facilities, and a game room. This getaway spot is complete with each room featuring a balcony overlooking the river.
The Bluestone River flows beneath the tram. Eight miles below the tram, the Bluestone River enters Bluestone Lake.
You'll begin your tramway trip at Pipestem Resort's Canyon Rim Center. This complex houses the Upper Tram Station where you board your tram car. Canyon Rim also houses the Main Gift Shop at Pipestem and the Mountain Artisans Shop that occupies the level below the Gift Shop. The artisans shop offers the best in handcrafted items from regional craftpersons and artists.
For the sportsmen Pipestem has fishing options available; for hunting the Bluestone Wildlife Management Area is close by.
Fishing is more popular at Long Branch and is stocked with trout in the spring; it also has channel catfish and large mouth crappie and blue gill. Rent boats for the lake.
"There is so much to do; it is really impressive with indoor and outdoor pools, and five restaurants," Pipestem park superintendent Dave Caplinger said. "In the summer we have disc golf, mini golf, radio control race tracks, a full activity program featuring a nature program and fun activities every day. Like other parks we have hiking trails and horseback riding.
"What makes Pipestem special is the incredible array of recreational facilities along with impressive natural beauty; not many score a 10 on both areas like Pipestem," he said.