Earn that spa dip: 6 adventures near the nation’s first spa town
There’s more to Berkeley Springs than the soothing, historic mineral waters. The mountain-shrouded hamlet is also a hub for outdoor adventure.
The restorative waters of Berkeley Springs and the town of Bath have been enticing visitors for centuries. George Washington was a lifelong visitor to the Berkeley Springs, and the location was one of the president’s most beloved retreats.
But before you sink in, here’s where to hike, bike, run and paddle before taking that well-deserved spa dip:
Warm up on the trails at Cacapon Resort State Park, spread over the eastern slope of Cacapon Mountain (2,300-feet), the highest peak in the area. The 6,000-acre park is about 20 minutes away from Berkeley Springs, and has more than 20 miles of hiking trails, ranging from family-friendly saunters on the 0.7-mile Piney Ridge Trail to longer rambles on the 6.6-mile Ziler Loop.
Try exploring on horseback, too, with guided rides by Triple C Outfitters at the stable area near the park entrance. Take advantage of the park’s rejuvenating waters and cap off a visit with a dip in the lake.
Hit the fairly newly-carved singletrack at Poor House Farm Park in Martinsburg, less than an hour away from Berkeley Springs. Take a couple laps around the 137-acre park. The local mountain bike club, The Hillbillies Unite to Mountain Bike (THUMB), maintains the 3-mile singletrack loop, and plans to expand the riding options in the park.
For a less rugged ride, head to the Potomac River and hop on the historic 184.5-mile Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. About half an hour from Berkeley Springs is the 3,118-foot, rock-chiseled Paw Paw Tunnel— a wonder of 19th century engineering, and one of the towpath’s most iconic landmarks. The towpath runs all the way from the nation’s capital to Cumberland, Maryland, and is not paved.
3. Trail Run
Lace up your shoes and go for a run through the vast mixed hardwood forests of the almost 23,000-acre Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area. Take a lap around 205-acre Sleepy Creek Lake, make the brief (about 2 miles) but rugged run to Devil’s Pond and Devil’s Nose or opt for a scenic ridge run along the White’s Knob and Third Hill Mountain trails.
For a longer haul, hop on the 252-mile, multi-state Tuscarora Trail. It is a spur trail of the famed Appalachian Trail, with an 11-mile section cutting through the Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Whether you are into bouldering, multi-pitch trad, sport or even top-roping, there is a crag for you in the small adventure town of Harpers Ferry, just an hour southeast of Berkeley Springs. Grades here range from 5.1-5.11, so beginners or experts can find something to work on.
Between Berkeley Springs and Harpers Ferry, stop by Martinsburg, where you can take a guided climbing or rappelling trip on West Virginia’s eastern panhandle with Climbing New Heights.
There are plenty of public access sites for boating on both the mighty Potomac and its float-trip-worthy tributary, the 112-mile Cacapon River. Put in down at Paw Paw and paddle one of the Potomac River’s most singular stretches— the aptly named “Paw Paw Bends,” a tightly coiled, serpent-like series of S turns. Or, for a more leisurely river run, put in at Great Cacapon.
If you don’t have a river ride, drive about an hour over to Shepherdstown Pedal & Paddle to rent a kayak, canoe, or float tube.
6. Bird Watching
If names like cerulean warbler, scarlet tanager and indigo bunting just flow off your tongue, the trails at Eidolon Nature Preserve will be right up your alley, with nearly 60 different species of birds to look for.
The preserve also has historical significance. As you walk along the Cacapon Road over the Potomac River, imagine it as it once was— an 18th century coach route taking travelers through the town of Bath.
This post was last updated on March 16, 2022