Berkeley Springs has been a choice summer destination since George Washington started visiting in the 18th century. But this summer in particular, the area is gearing up for the season with new outdoor adventures, from paddleboarding to mountain biking, as well as new lodging. Several new restaurants and a new brewery join longtime favorites.
For travelers in the metro area, Berkeley Springs’ proximity to the city lets families avoid air travel, and enjoy outdoor activities that allow for social distancing amid lush mountain scenery. Centuries of visitors coming to take the famed healing warm spring waters provide a well-earned aura of health and wellness; all local attractions and businesses are committed to uphold that tradition with appropriate safety precautions.
Set in the ridge and valley section of the Appalachians, Berkeley Springs offers easy access to two rivers and two state parks with ample hiking trails, peaceful lakes and historic springs. Come summer, urban families in need of some fresh air will find more activities available than ever before.
Cacapon State Park is a 6,000-acre haven located about 20 minutes from town, with a variety of options for outdoor adventure. Visitors can walk or hike along 23 miles of mountain trails, ranging from easygoing Piney Ridge to the more strenuous Ziler Loop.
Cacapon has also been ramping up its mountain biking terrain, recently becoming the first destination east of the Mississippi River to receive a Trail Accelerator grant from the International Mountain Biking Association. The park now offers about 20 miles of single-track mountain biking trails, as well as a three-mile course aimed at beginners, but with some technical features for moderate-level riders.
Other outdoor activities at Cacapon include a sand beach lake, wobble clay shooting, horseback riding, fishing and an excellent 18-hole golf course.
Coolfont Resort, located about 10 minutes from Cacapon State Park, reopened in fall 2019 with renovated buildings and new amenities. New suites look out over Coolfont Lake, where Craft’s Adventures offer a slew of new water sports this summer, including kayaking, canoeing, fishing and stand-up paddleboarding. Wooded hiking trails and picnic areas create an altogether serene resort experience. This resort experience at Coolfont also includes a rustic themed restaurant overlooking the lake and a legendary bar keep. Cross the road and discover Berkeley Springs Brewery and Cold Run Valley Winery.
Craft’s Adventures also offers two-to-four-hour tubing trips down the nearby Cacapon and Potomac Rivers, where guests can spot deer, abundant waterfowl and the occasional shoreline bear.
A different view of outdoor fun is pursued in the historic town. Berkeley Springs State Park has the largest public array of thermal spring waters in the Blue Ridge and the springpools and channel are open 24/7 for toe dabbling and child-scale paddling. There is also a more traditional public swimming pool. Most unique are the spa attractions. Tubs in the 200-year-old Roman Bath House have been newly updated to meet accessibility standards, and historically-accurate white octagonal tile has been installed. The water in all tubs is heated to between 102 and 104 degrees. It’s easy to feel the water exert its healing powers in these tubs.
Other spas and healing centers are located on streets surrounding the park lending credence to claims that there are three times as many massage therapists as lawyers in town. All use the famed spring water as they offer menus of facials, massage, steams, scrubs and other bodywork treatment. George Washington who wrote that “the waters will make a cure of me” would be amazed at what experiences are available three centuries later.
Historic streets are also lined with distinctive shops and eateries for every taste from gourmet to country. Tasty shops offer everything from cheese and vintage candies to gourmet oils not to mention a dazzling array of art, antiques, a century-old hardware store and even a year ‘round Christmas boutique. This summer the Ice House Gallery is filled with the annual Quilt Show and Sale and a Yard Square Quilt display that spills out into store windows throughout the town. An auction of the yard squares will be held during Labor Day weekend.
One of the best ways to see all that the area has to offer in natural and historic wonders is to drive the 85-mile Washington Heritage Trail through the county. One of the most splendid sights along the trail is Panorama Overlook just three miles west of town.
All of this eating, bathing and playing outside requires more than a quick drive through. Berkeley Springs encourages visitors to stay for the night or two or longer. There are numerous cabins, cottages and fully equipped vacation homes from which to choose, many handled by Berkeley Springs Cottage Rentals. The historic Country Inn adjacent to the springs has spa and lodging packages, a chef-operated restaurant and live entertainment on weekends. Visitors to Cacapon State Park can enjoy a stay in the recently-renovated historic park cabins outfitted with local Gat Creek furniture and impressive new kitchens. By summer’s-end, Cacapon opens a new 78-room lodge with swimming pool and indoor/outdoor dining area with a fire pit.
Upstairs in the Roman Bath House is the Museum of the Berkeley Springs open daily in summer and highlighting the geology and extraordinary social history generated by the springs. Local historian and Museum President, Jeanne Mozier says that “throughout its long history, Berkeley Springs has experienced periods of boom and decline. With new places opening and reopening, we’re booming and looking forward to a most memorable summer.”
Discover everything you need to know at berkeleysprings.com or call 800-447-8797.
Cover photo courtesy Travel Berkeley Springs