With a weekend free, we went for an impromptu adventure weekend to the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. For those of us in Baltimore and Washington DC, West Virginia is a great destination, filled with mountains, white water, and trails.
We snagged a good deal at the Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center. The Mountain Weekend package offered us a room, miniature golf, pool and spa access, lift tickets to the top of Canaan’s ski peak, and breakfast. If you want kids to get all the perks, you need to book them as adults.
The drive from Baltimore takes about three and a half hours. We’ve done it several different ways. The most scenic route, and the one we took this time, is to head west on I70 and I68. The highway transitions from rolling hills to the Appalachian mountains as you drive through the Cumberland pass. Then we headed south through back roads of West Virginia until we reached Davis and then the resort.
Canaan Valley (note that it’s pronounced Kin-Ane, rhyming with insane) in West Virginia. We were given a room in the south wing. The rooms are updated and comfy. I was happy with the many outlets but did note the lack of an in-room coffee maker. The ski lodge and peak are a short drive away. You can take the lift both up and down the mountain, for a scenic view and great vistas. Make sure you check out the hang gliding runway on the back side of the mountain. Our son decided the only way down was to (literally) run all the way down the mountain. Luckily, in about 0.90 miles we were back at the bottom, breathless but intact.
The mountain also has a summer slide. Kids take an inner tube with a bottom to a rope tow, which takes them up a bunny slope, and then slide down on a plastic runway. While it sounds fun, the execution is lacking. The kids have to drag the tube up part of the hill to the tow; it’s heavy and wears them out. The slide itself is fairly short and not very fast. While two hour slots are booked, none of the kids I saw, mine included, went longer than an hour.
Miniature golf is fairly perfunctory but fun for any young kids. Our son then also went for a short climb up a climbing wall set up next to the golf course. He also jumped on the bungee trampoline as well. It was a nominal fee to add both activities.
This part of West Virginia is magnificent. The Mongahela Wilderness is one of the country’s largest. It features beautiful, verdant montains, and incredibly varied terrain. Over the years, we’ve hiked rhododenrum tunnels near Canaan, and wind-beaten high plains in Dolly Sods. I can’t stress enough how many great day and overnight hikes are within a short drive.
We also took a short drive to Blackwater Falls. This beautiful waterfall gets its name from the tannins that tint its waters. A wooden path leads down (lots of) steps from the lodge to the waterfall. Several vantage points give a great view and feel for the power of the water.
White Water: Yea!
Sunday morning, we booked with Blackwater Outdoor Adventures for the Cheat Narrows Express rafting trip. The meet point at BOA’s headquarters is a 50 minute drive, in St. George. Use their directions, not GPS. GPS will take you astray on closed roads. The Cheat is a classic East Coast rafting trip: fast rapids alternating with calm pools. It’s a good balance for kids: enough adventure with Class II and some Class III rapids, but with easy stretches and places to swim. The Express trip hits all the good rapids on that section of the Cheat (called the Narrows, because the valley turns to gorge). All the guides were terrific, and logistics were straightforward. We met at 9 am, and were back by 1pm (note that there’s a 30-minute drive to and from the river).
Canaan Valley has two restaurants, but with Davis a 15 minute drive away, you may want to head into town. We had an adequate breakfast at Canaan. Super friendly people but food not particularly memorable
Davis is becoming a great little mountain town. We always head into Hellbender’s Burritos for burritos as big as my head. It’s served up quick and kindly, and with a rotating selection of craft beers to wash it down. You can build your own, or choose from some interesting combos. It’s also very veggie and vegan friendly, including offering seitan as a protein. Because every mountain town needs a burrito shop.
Wicked Wilderness opened last year. It’s a basic pub with decent grub. The menu does have some surprises: Reuben egg rolls, served with Russian dressing (yes, filled with corn beef, sauerkraut, and swiss); and chicken pot pie served in a Mason jar, with a big, flaky biscuit on top. A good beer selection (but, guys, could you please make more of it local, and don’t serve good beer in plastic cups). Did I mention they have funnel cakes for dessert?
The Trailhead Coffee Shop is key for my coffee needs. They can both pull a decent espresso and brew good American-style coffee. Extra kudos for brewing West Virginia’s Stone Tower Joe, keeping it local and real.
Stumptown is brewing some solid craft beer. Several of the restaurants in Davis feature their beers, and you can also drink in their brewpub, Stumptown Ales. No food, but a full selection of their beers on tap. And you can pick up one of their trucker caps to look stylish on the trail.