Best Camping Trip Ever: North Bend State Park

North Bend State Park
Lodge at North Bend State Park

Contained within our West Virginia Very Important Park Person (WVVIPP) Package, there was a brochure for Family Trails Day Weekend at North Bend State Park (NBSP).  This weekend also encompassed the National Trails Day on Saturday.  So, we packed up our vehicle and headed for a weekend of camping, biking, and hiking.

Passing through the rock and log entryway of the park, we stopped at the lodge to obtain our WVVIPP stamp and to check out the list of events happening over the weekend.  They had a lot of fun, educational, and exciting activities planned.  It wasn’t possible for us to do them all.  But, the information provided was enough for us to make a personal itinerary and get the most out of our weekend.

North Fork Hughes River.
North Fork Hughes River.

We decided to set up camp at the River Run Campground.  The campground sits directly across from the North Fork Hughes River and adjacent from a fishing pond and campground check-in station; which sells ice and firewood. River Run Campground is the hub of biking and hiking trail activity at the park.  From this location, you have direct access to the river, pond, check-in station, and trail access to the lodge, pool, shelters, bathhouse, playground, North Bend Rail Trail (NBRT), and many other trail heads.

Once our site was set up, we headed up to the lodge’s dining room where we witnessed a beautiful sunset through their window surrounded dining hall and had two fulfilling 3-course meals for under $40. Even though we showed up a few minutes before closing, our waiter treated us with the utmost respect and kindness.  He made us feel that we were at home and had all the time in the world, which made our experience truly unique.  The only issue we had was seating for a toddler.  There was no highchair, and the only booster seat available had no straps for the chair or the toddler.

Thursday night was perfect.  We had a beautiful clear sky, the moon brightly shining, lighting up the entire campground with a light blue glow.  The sound of the river trickling over the rocks, the reflection of the moon on the pond, and the sound of bullfrogs and whippoorwills in the distance made for a serene experience.

Camping at River Run Campground.
Camping at River Run Campground.

We tested our new Ozark Trail 10 Person Instant Cabin Tent, which is an A3 (3 Season), and it was incredible.  14×10 feet (4.2×3 meters) floor size at 6 foot (1.8 meters) tall, this tent can comfortably fit two queen mattresses, a small table, and the rest of our gear.  The only drawback we had was the screen ventilation system on the roof. The majority of the ceiling is made from vented mesh and contains a canopy that drapes over the top to keep the inside protected from rain.  Even with the canopy on, the vented mesh allows for heat to escape the tent.  The vented mesh would have been great on a hot Summer evening, but it dropped down in the 40s which made the inside quite chilly.  We utilized our good ole’ Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Heater to keep us warm on those cold nights.  But, we were easily going through an extra 1.5 pounds of propane per night on this trip.

Leo Having a Little Snack.
Leo Having a Little Snack.

We awoke this morning, had some breakfast, and hit the trails.  Our first hike was on the Hibb Cemetery Trail which is a constant grade and leads you by the old Hibb Family Cemetery and ending at the lodge.  After strolling around the lodge, we walked down the park’s main road to the Gibbon Nature Trail which is an easy connector trail back to our campsite.  With our bodies warmed up and blood pumping, it was time to hit the North Bend Rail Trail (NBRT).

Our last time on NBRT, we headed East toward the town of Ellenboro.  This time, we headed West to the city of Cairo.  The trail leading into Cairo doesn’t have the tunnel luster like the trail to Ellenboro. Still yet, the trail is a beautiful, a comfortable ride along the Noth Fork Hughes River to this old country town, named after Cairo in Egypt by its early settlers due to its water source and fertile land.

The town of Cairo is home to the National Register of Historic Places, Bank of Cairo.  The Bank of Cairo, built in 1897, now houses the North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation.  The town has a small bike shop, ice-cream shop, and restaurant for a nice quick visit and rests along the trail.  We adventured a few miles past the town attempting to make it to the famous Silver Run Tunnel, Tunnel 19.  But, we had to return to our scheduled Luminary Hike.  Maybe it was best for us not to explore this haunted tunnel?

Hiking the Luminary Trail.
Hiking the Luminary Trail.

The Luminary Hike was the event of the evening. Hundreds of people showed up for this event.  Every year the NBRT Foundation hosts the Luminary Hike.  They light the connector trail from NBSP to and through tunnel 13 on the NBRT.  Smoothed over with fresh gravel made this section of the trail not only safe to hike, but very stroller friendly.  We didn’t bring our Jeep All-Terrian Jogging Stroller, but our emergency Cosco Stroller worked flawlessly on the graveled trail. After walking through the tunnel, all gather to hear ghost stories of the area, park, and rail trail; including the Silver Run Tunnel tale.  Everyone gets a free raffle ticket used to win prizes at the end of the stories.  This event was a blast for young and old alike.

Early Morning Snoozing.
Early Morning Snoozing.

After a much-needed rest, we needed more sleep; we awoke to the sound of a much different campground.  The sounds of the river, bullfrogs, and whippoorwills now replaced with the sounds of children playing in the river, pool, and playground.  The sounds of bikes, people fishing, and families enjoying their weekend now filled the air.  The camping weekend was now in full swing.

Heather fired up our Coleman Stove and made some much-needed camping breakfast burritos, which is always one of our favorites.  It was going to be a busy trail day, so we loaded up our gear and headed to the opposite side of the park.

We drove to the lodge and started on the Giant Pine Loop Trail. With a difficulty of easy to moderate, the trail leads into and out of the valley below through an old pine thicket.  You can see many large pines still growing, but sadly, some of the biggest ones lay on the forest floor.  We then adventured down the park’s main road to the Giant Tree Trail.  The Giant Tree Trail is an easy trail and sadly had the same resolve.  There were a few large trees.  But, the Giant Tree fell back to its birth place years ago.

Bridge along the Giant Tree Trail.
Bridge along the Giant Tree Trail.

While exploring these two trails, we also came across some old trails no longer used by the park.  Old trail signage that has almost all but rotten away, old fitness trails no longer used, overlooks with railing, but the views obstructed by decades of forest growth.  This side of the park was sorrowful to us.  We could have only imagined what this site was like in the late 80s to early 90s.  It would have been so nice to see this side as maintained as the sections we were camping at.  But, it was still nice to explore this secluded part of the park and to imagine what it would have been like in its heyday.

After our morning hike, we headed out on our bikes to the Southern Railroad Trail.  This trail is a low-grade rail trail leading out to the North Bend Dam.  We then connected to the Lake Trail which would have taken us back in a big circle.  But, I accidentally took us on the Castle Rock Spur Trail which led us to the spillway of the dam.  At this time, we realized at some point Leo had taken his shoes off and tossed them into the woods.  So, the game of, “Find Those Shoes!” began.

Heading back to the campsite, we were only able to find one shoe.  Leo discarded one of them when entering the Lake Trail.  Having no clue where he discarded the other, we decided to ride out and go through a few tunnels toward Ellenboro and call it a day.

We awoke this morning to the sound of the inevitable, the sounds of families loading up and heading home.  After finishing breakfast, it was now time for us to go.  But wait, there was one more visit we could make.  If we get all of our stuff loaded up, we could swing by Cedar Creek State Park for our WVVIPP stamp.  It is a park we had hiked all over before we knew of the VIPP program.  So, this would be a way to help motivate us to pack and leave our little home for the weekend.

What an enjoyable and memorable weekend.  There were many miles of hiking and biking under our shoes.  Hearing the sounds of nature and families making memories.  Listening to ghost stories and seeing towns of old.  Having the glow of the moon, light our path.  Staying warm by a campfire and enjoying campfire foods.  Obtaining two of our VIPP stamps and mailing in our first National Trails Day Log Card.  Receiving knowledge, experiences, and memories for our family. North Bend State Park, Thank You!

Document Attachments:
National Trails Day: Log Card
North Bend State Park: Cokeley Campground Map
North Bend State Park: Lake Map
North Bend State Park: Park Trail Map
North Bend Rail Trail: Rail Trail Map
North Bend State Park: River Run Campground Map
West Virginia VIPP: Registration Form

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