West Virginia Was Full of Surprises

With a quiet campsite in a state park in the mountains of West Virginia as our base camp, we were able to zipline through hemlocks over a gorge, take the dogs on a transportation adventure, discover a hotel in an unexpected location, and tour a former coal mine.

Where We Stayed

Mash Fork Campground
Camp Creek, WV
October 12 – 15, 2023
Site 24

Mash Fork Campground has 26 sites within Camp Creek State Park. This is our second time staying here, and I’m happy to report it’s just as beautiful in the fall as it was in the summer of 2021.

Since our previous stay predates this blog, I’ll take a moment to mention my favorite part about our summer visit. Once it’s dark out, take a walk around the campground (and possibly the state park). I have never seen so many lightning bugs before! I noticed them in a small, open area between sites 25 and 26, but I imagine you could see them anywhere it’s reasonably dark. It was quite a sight!

water pressure25-35 psi
cell service2/5 bars AT&T; 2/4 bars Verizon; 2/4 bars T-Mobile
campground WiFiyes


  • access to so many hiking trails without having to drive
  • creek right by the campground; easy access for water-loving dogs
  • spacious sites


  • only 6 sites with full hookups and 50-amp electric

Camp Creek State Park has multiple playgrounds and miles of trails! It has several picnic shelters, a basketball court, and some open, grassy fields–all within walking distance of the campground. There was even a section of trail that was wheelchair accessible. It started out as a paved walkway, went over a bridge, and turned into a boardwalk through the trees. It wasn’t a loop, so you’d have to go out and back, but it was still nice.

Mash Fork Falls is just a short hike away from the campground. There is a small parking lot at the end of the gravel road, so you could drive there if you needed to, but it’s less than a half-mile from the entrance to the campground.

What We Did

Friday morning we set off on a 30-minute drive to Pine Stem Resort State Park. The drive from the campground was an adventure. GoogleMaps gave us two options. We took the faster route, but it probably wasn’t the easier drive. It was very scenic, with the leaves starting to change and a river below us. We went under a very impressive bridge. The trip was also a little intense. The road was incredibly narrow, with some hairpin turns and quite a drop on one side for some portions. There is no way you could take this route with an RV. Even without an RV, if you’re a nervous driver, I’d recommend taking the longer route on bigger roads.

Southern West Virginia Travel Tip

If you’re passing through southern WV, Tamarack Marketplace is an RV-friendly place to take a break. There is RV/bus parking, a food court, and retail space. There’s plenty of space outside for a walk to stretch your legs. Stretch your legs inside or out. There’s plenty to see. Outside, there are some art pieces. Inside, there are about a dozen vendors (for lack of a better word) who sell mostly local goods.

Pipe Stem Resort State Park

This is unlike any state park we’ve ever seen! They weren’t kidding when they used the word resort. It has a typical state park campground: campsites, bathhouse, playground, etc. It has hiking trails. But it also has a lodge, cabins, multiple restaurants, mini golf, regular golf, an indoor pool, horseback riding, a zipline course, and a tram!

We started by driving through the campground. Keep in mind that we didn’t stay here, we just drove through, but the campground didn’t seem particularly special. The sites were smaller than those at Mash Fork where we stayed. Also, there were a surprising number of pull-through sites, which are not our favorite. The campground seemed perfectly adequate, but I suspect the other amenities/activities are the draw for the park.

I know nothing about what they offer, but I was thrilled to see a sign that said “Riding Stables.” There’s also a small fenced riding ring. This would be a beautiful area for a trail ride!

Fenced riding ring next to Pipe Stem stables

There are hiking trails all over the place. We started on one near the main lodge, but it was basically all downhill, and we began to worry about how Max would handle a mostly uphill trip back, so we kept it to about 2 miles. But it was wide and very scenic.

The main lodge felt a little dated, but everything looked clean. It even has an indoor pool and ballroom.

One of the most unique things about Pipe Stem is its aerial tramway. We stumbled upon the tram totally by accident. We stopped at a separate parking lot on our way out, looking for what we thought was some sort of overlook. While walking around, we found the Canyon Rim Center, a gift shop, an ice cream shop, and the tram. Tickets were $8 for adults, $6 for kids, and $2 for pets. That’s right…pets are allowed on the tram. We couldn’t say no to that. Corona was not a fan of the tram. She spent part of the ride shaking in my lap and the rest hiding under the seat. True to form, Max took it all in stride.

It’s about a six-minute ride that takes you down to the Bluestone River at the bottom of the Bluestone Gorge. What’s really surprising is that there’s a lodge at the bottom! This lodge is only open on the weekends, so there weren’t any guests while we were there, but what an unusual trip that would be! Imagine taking a tram ride to your hotel room at the bottom of a gorge! We might have to try that one day.

The only way to access the rooms in this lodge is via the aerial tram.

We went back to the RV to drop off the dogs and eat lunch, then drove about an hour north to Lansing, WV.

New River Gorge State Park

We visited this park a couple of years ago and did some hiking, but today we had other plans: ziplining.

However, we were a little early, so we stopped at the visitor center. We weren’t able to see that the last time because we had the dogs with us. At the back of the visitor center, you get a spectacular view of the gorge. They also have some educational displays/exhibits and a pretty nice gift shop.

Adventures on the Gorge (Ziplining!)

We came for the ziplines, but this seems like another WV resort that has some of everything. This one has restaurants and lodging. They offer ziplining and white-water rafting. They have a pool, a coffee shop, and disc golf. We didn’t try anything except their Tree Tops Zipline Course, but the whole place looked nicely maintained. I suspect any of their attractions would have been great fun.

We’ve actually done quite a few zipline courses over the years. The scenery is always beautiful, and it’s interesting to learn the ways different companies do things. (There are more ways than you probably think there are.) This one looked very professional and better organized than others we’ve been to. The building that houses their gear is either new or very well-maintained. The space in the middle has a desk for checking in and two computers for filling out waivers.

Our guides, Alex and Ryan, were great. Professional and safety-conscious, but also fun. My favorite part was the tidbits of info they gave about the different trees in the forest. The course crosses over Mill Creek a few times and through a forest of hemlocks and rhododendrons.

You end with a 35-foot rappel, which was a little scary for me (probably not for Jesse), but I made it! (If you’re reconsidering this adventure just because of the rappel, don’t! The guides are really nice and explain it all. Plus, if I can do it, so can you!)

Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine

Saturday was supposed to be rainy, so we looked online for some non-hiking activities and found the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Have you ever taken a tour of an actual coal mine? Neither had I, until today. There’s also a youth museum and a recreated mining camp. It’s about 30 minutes from the campground. Tickets are $22 per adult (less for children and seniors).

The tour takes you on a ride through an underground coal mine and lasts about 30-45 minutes. The guides are all former miners, so you get first-hand accounts of what life was like for these men. Our guide’s father was also a miner, so we heard what it was like to grow up in a mining camp.

The buildings in the coal camp were all from real coal camps in the area (no more than 5 miles away I believe). They were taken apart, transported, and then rebuilt to make this mini mining camp. You can see a school, church, miner’s houses, superintendent’s house, and more. There is someone stationed in each building to give you more information.

To have enough time to see everything you want to see and not be rushed, I’d plan to stay for at least 2.5 hours.

Annular Eclipse

Did you know there was an annular eclipse in the US on Saturday, October 14? The clouds cleared (a little) on Saturday just in time to see it. West Virginia wasn’t the best place to see it, but it was still exciting. It may look like we took this photo at night, but this was taken around ~1:30 in the afternoon.


Can you spot the little bird in this photo? I believe he is a white-breasted nuthatch.
There were so many deer at Pipe Stem! They didn’t seem at all upset by us driving past in the truck.

More Photos

Happy travels!

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