Chill Out at Blue Bend Recreation Area

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It’s still August. It’s still hot. It’s still time to cool off in a mountain swimmin’ hole.

For families, I can’t think of a better place to spend the weekend than Monongahela National Forest’s Blue Bend Recreation Area a few miles north of White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia. It has a trail that is an amiable saunter into a stream valley, a climb of a bit more than a mile to provide a cardiovascular workout, an easy ridgeline walk to a trailside shelter, and a quick but rather gentle descent with a succession of good views. Set among thick growths of rhododendron bushes, the developed campground, open year-round, has modern restrooms with running water (vault toilets only in winter) and picnic facilities with a large covered pavilion. Members of the family who are anglers will want to come here to fish for the stocked trout.

The real draw is the swimmin’ hole. It’s one of the best in the Blue Ridge. Located just below the picnic pavilion (so parents can watch the kids), a constructed rock platform slopes gently into the deep waters of a wide bend of Anthony Creek. On bright, sunny days, the stream almost looks green as it reflects the leaves and needles of ash, poplar, sycamore, maple, beech, hemlock, and pine.

In the northern part of the state, where Big Sandy Creek empties into the Cheat River, is a place with a decidedly different atmosphere. It’s almost a required rite of passage for West Virginia University students to visit here, so don’t be surprised to see some heavy party drinking and maybe a bit of skinny dipping. If you don’t mind these distractions (or perhaps want to join in on them), follow WV23 from Masontown for several miles, turn left onto WV21 for close to 5 miles, turn onto dirt WV14/4, and continue on it to cross the Cheat River. Park on the far side of the bridge, and you’ll see a short pathway leading to the creek, where there’s a great swimmin’ hole with a good-sized beach.

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