West Virginia’s Tygart Lake State Park, four hours west of D.C., has been called West Virginia’s best-kept secret for years. Now, with splashy new waterpark features, float excursions and active water adventures, word is getting out about the 10-mile long mountain lake.
Thrill seekers can race up the peak of a 14-foot plastic iceberg, cannonball from a floating trampoline or zip into the cool lake from a giant waterslide. With more than 20 commercial-grade inflatable lake toys, swimmers are constantly on the move. When they need a rest, they sprawl out on the long sandy beach. Tygart Lake is making a place for itself in the hearts of active aquatics enthusiasts. Daily fees include a lounge chair for each participant; admission is free for kids under four.
The park partnered with ACE Adventure to bring the excitement of a water park to the 1,750-acre lake. But the adventures don’t stop here. The outfitter Lakeside by Hardcore Hunters joins the fun, offering kayak, stand-up paddleboard and tube rentals, as well as all the camping essentials and Hershey’s ice cream, from a shop near the entrance to Tygart Lake.
Many consider Tygart Lake some of the best bass waters in the region. Walleye, muskie, perch and panfish also take the bait here. The state park’s marina offers pontoon and fishing boat rentals, and landlubbers will find superb lake views from the park’s six hiking trails. Tygart Lake operates as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control reservoir and is partially drained in the off-season, so the marina is open only from May 15 to Sept. 15 each year.
The Taylor County Adventure Club, a catalyst for the new action at Tygart Lake, will offer lazy river tubing tours on Tygart Lake and Tygart River, with kayaks and stand-up paddleboards also available. Recreators can choose between half-day or full-day rentals.
“We operate Wednesday through Sunday, but we can do Monday or Tuesday for special occasions if booked in advance,” said Taylor County Adventure Club Executive Director Bryan Smith. “Tours vary among several different locations, and we offer shuttle service. For kids age 2 and under, the float tubes have bottoms, and families can hook tubes together.”
The Adventure Club is at the foot of the Tygart dam in Grafton’s city park. In addition to lake activities, the group sponsors triathlons, ziplining,and organized cycling events.
“We started the Adventure Club because no one was doing a lot to take advantage of Tygart River and the lake. There are no parks and recreation commission in this county,” Smith said. “We realized the area has a great opportunity for recreation tourism.”
If the activities at Tygart Lake aren’t enough, or you want to mix it up, other options abound in West Virginia’s Mountaineer Country: rock climb at Cooper Rock State Park and Sky Rock at Dorsey’s Knob, where you can get a 360-degree panoramic view of the area. Enjoy bird watching at Cranesville Swamp, disc golfing 18 holes at Dorsey’s Knob and biking the miles of rail-trails that cut through Morgantown. Visitors also enjoy exploring the arboretum at West Virginia University and shopping the locally-owned boutiques.
Families who come to the area to play can make a weekend out of it by camping, staying at the state park’s 20-room Tygart Lake Lodge, or lodging at one of the park’s 11 fully equipped modern cabins. There are plenty of options off-site as well, including Gump’s Black Bear Cabin Rental in nearby Thornton and hotels in Morgantown.