Lakes and Lighthouses Galore in the Heart of West Virginia

They don’t call this part of West Virginia the Mountain Lakes region for nothing. Winding your way along gentle mountain roads, this trip will take you to some of the state’s most famous—and most scenic—rivers, lakes and streams. The entire way, you’ll be surrounded by the calm peacefulness that only comes from being close to water. Take a deep breath and enjoy yourself.


Audra State Park

There are nearly 50 state parks in West Virginia, and each one has their own speciality. At Audra State Park in Buckhannon, the specialty here is tubing. The crystal clear waters of the Middle Fork River cut directly through the park, offering swimmers and tubers plenty of opportunities to cool off in the summer months. The river runs even and slow, so tubers can enjoy a nice long, relaxing drift. Bring your own tube or rent one for $5 at the concession stand near the park entrance. On your way out of the park, grab a picture inside the incredible rock overhang of Alum Cave.

West Virginia State Wildlife Center

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center is one of the best places to observe native, woodland animals in their natural habitats. Featuring spacious enclosures and lots of open land, the Wildlife Center is dedicated to providing as realistic of an experience as possible. A paved, mile-long trail runs through the property, allowing visitors to see bears, elk, bison, cougars, wolves and a variety of owls and eagles. Inside the center, there is a large picnic area with grills and a stocked pond for fishing trout, bass and catfish. Perfect for families and nature-lovers alike, the center is a great way to learn more about West Virginia’s rich wildlife heritage.

Lambert’s Vintage Wine

With miles of grape vines, ornate stone structures and stacked oak barrels, Lambert’s Vintage Wine is the picture-perfect winery. Located in the heart of Weston, Lambert’s was actually built from hand-cut stones that were gathered from all across the state. On the property, you’ll find a furnished tasting room with a fireplace, multiple outdoor patios and a large, cave-like storage room. Jim and Debbie Lambert are extremely friendly and offer both individual and group tours of the winery. And, of course, a visit to Lambert’s isn’t complete without a tasting of some of their best wines, including their Blackberry Merlot—an equal blend of merlot grapes and blackberries.

Stonewall Resort State Park

One of West Virginia’s newest state parks, Stonewall Resort is a stunning spot along the shores of Stonewall Jackson Lake. A beautiful wooden boardwalk allows visitors to walk over the lake and experience incredible views of the surrounding forests and nearby West Fork River. In addition to plenty of walking and hiking trails, the park also features a lakeside lodge, three restaurants and a golf course. Book a night at the lodge and take advantage of its many pools (including a large, continuous pool that expands indoors and outdoors), picturesque patios and cozy fireplaces.

Photo by McKenzie Young

Burnsville Lake

Surrounded by sloping green hills and abundant forests, Burnsville Lake is one of the largest lakes in central West Virginia. At almost 1,000 acres, the lake offers plenty of recreational activities—boating, kayaking, fishing and camping are just a few of the most popular. The lake is stocked with trout every February through May, and the surrounding landscape supports permitted Class Q hunting. If you’re looking to extend your visit, there are over 260 campsites scattered throughout the property—many of which have unbeatable lakeside views.

Cafe Cimino

Housed inside a remarkable Victorian-style mansion, a meal at Cafe Cimino is an absolute must. Regularly featured on lists of ‘top places to eat in West Virginia,’ Cafe Cimino is known for its authentic Italian-inspired dishes. Almost all of the menu items utilize local, fresh ingredients. However, there is one exception—the restaurant does have a set of its own custom-made “Cafe Cimino Cigars” that were brought up from Honduras. For dinner, be sure to try the shellfish pescatore—an amazing mix of mussels, squid, shrimp and scallops on a bed of fresh pasta. If the weather is warm, you can enjoy your meal in a number of outdoor places, including the wrap around porch, the picnic deck, the patio along the Elk River or the romantic table by the goldfish pond.

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park

Visiting Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is like stepping back in time to a very critical part of American history. The park commemorates the 1861 Battle of Carnifex Ferry, a major victory for the Union soldiers and one that eventually led to the Confederate withdrawal from western Virginia (present day West Virginia). One of the oldest parks in the United States, Carnifex Ferry Battlefield encompasses over 150 acres and is actually a part of the Civil War Discovery Trail—a collection of over 300 historical sites across 16 states. And if you happen to be visiting the park on an even year in September, you may get lucky and witness a live reenactment of the battle.

Summersville Lake Retreat & Lighthouse

You’ll know you’ve arrived at Summersville Lake Retreat when you see the magnificent lighthouse. Standing over 100 feet tall, the lighthouse acts as a welcoming landmark to both the lake and the retreat grounds. In fact, you can climb the spiral staircase inside the lighthouse for some of the most stunning views in all of southern West Virginia. If you want to make it a long weekend, there are a variety of overnight accommodations, including cabins, cottages and campsites. And if you want to get out on the water and truly experience the lake’s beauty, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and pontoon boats are all available for rent.

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This post was last updated on September 15, 2020