{Camping Confidential}: Canaan Valley Resort

Canaan Valley Resort is a state park and is extremely well-managed with many things to do and numerous lodging choices.

By Michelle Van Deusen
Camp Ambassador

When we went looking for a snowy destination for a winter trip in 2021, being more familiar with the offerings of the western U.S., we wanted to see what we could find in the East. After some web searches and blog reading, we decided to visit Canaan Valley Resort in West Virginia. The resort is a state park and is extremely well-managed with many things to do and numerous lodging choices. It is a year-round destination with activities for every season. West Virginia may not be the first state that comes to mind when we consider winter sports — but maybe it should be. West Virginia is actually nicknamed the Mountain State because it is the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain range and because it has the highest average elevation of any state east of the Mississippi River. The mountain views from Canaan Valley were absolutely beautiful, as was the drive to get there. Our route allowed a stop at the newest national park, New River Gorge National Park, which was well worth seeing and will be a destination for us in the future and not just a waypoint.

Photos: Michelle Van Deusen

We opted to split our time at Canaan Valley between a campsite and a cabin. The campground was well laid out and the roads were well-maintained. The bathhouses were warm and functional, though on the small side.  At the time of our visit in mid-February there was about 18 to 24 inches of snow on the ground. Our children were able to create sledding courses and build forts in the woods of our campsite and explore the snowy creek beyond the woods. Despite the heavy snow, we had no issues accessing the site or getting around the park. It was truly like camping in a winter wonderland.

We also enjoyed our time in one of the state park cabins. It was very nice to have a fireplace, and it made for a cozy retreat from the snow. The cabins are very functional and rustic and some are even pet-friendly. There was plenty of space between cabins so that each one felt like a private retreat, and there was plenty of room for children to play outside in the snow. Much like our campsite, the cabin was nestled in the woods, making for a wonderful playground in the deep snow. There were enough downed trees for the adventurous to rustle up firewood, but the lodge also had bundles for sale for those not wanting to brave the elements. We did a mix of both and enjoyed several nights around a fire. 

The resort also offers a large lodge with 160 guest rooms and multiple amenities for those staying at the resort. We saw an indoor pool, arcade and several dining options. We ate lunch one day in the main dining room at the lodge, The Hickory, and enjoyed it very much. There was a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding the valley from the tables. We ordered their deviled eggs as an appetizer, which were particularly good, and we also loved the fries that came with our burgers.

In addition to The Hickory, we ate at several restaurants in the nearby town of Davis. The Ice Cream Shop was delightful and we also enjoyed the Sawmill Restaurant and The Wicked Wilderness Pub.

The resort offers downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, snow tubing and ice skating as winter activities. We concentrated on ice skating and snow tubing, although snowshoeing is high on our list for future visits since we love to hike. The ice skating rink is outside near the lodge and has a roof with open sides. There is a skate rental area on-site and the prices are extremely reasonable. Our children enjoyed it enough that we went several times. They do have PVC-constructed ice skating trainers available there as well, so anyone can learn to skate. The snow tube park is an absolute delight! It features a magic carpet to take riders up the course and has ten lanes of tubing fun. Reservations can be made online on the Canaan Valley Resort website and sessions do sell out, especially on the weekends. The sessions are two hours long, which is the perfect amount of time. They have a safety briefing and staff monitoring the conditions at all times. Our children recall this as the hit of the trip. The sessions are reasonably priced for what you get, but they do add up quickly for a family.

Nearby Blackwater Falls State Park is a short car ride away and is known for a short hike to a beautiful waterfall, which is the park’s namesake. The trail wasn’t maintained in winter, so there were some treacherous parts, but we enjoyed the adventure. The park also features a quarter-mile sledding hill with the longest magic carpet on the east coast. Tickets for this sell out in advance, so I would recommend booking early! You can find the reservation option for sledding, along with accommodations, on the Blackwater Falls website.

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I couldn’t recommend West Virginia as a winter travel destination more enthusiastically. We will definitely be returning to Canaan Valley and look forward to the trip. The Mountain State is breathtakingly beautiful, the winter sports are delightful and the people are fantastic.

Note: We pay our own travel expenses and do not receive any free or discounted perks or benefits. Our opinions are our own.

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