It was a “seize the moment” trip, planned on the fly, with but one major goal: find fall leaves during the third week of October 2015. We had few days and even fewer dollars, but we were on a mission: How could we sightsee close to home in Tennessee and, hopefully, find the gold in “them thar leaves” that autumn leaf peepers rave about?
Well, it was easy. Our route began in our hometown of Knoxville moving along I-40 to I-81 toward I-77 into West Virginia. And even though our preferred places to stay when traveling in the States — B&Bs — were fully booked, we were able to spend our first night on this journey at a state park with more amenities than we normally find.
Pipestem Resort State Park, 14 miles north of Princeton and 12 miles south of Hinton on state Route 20, filled the bill and then some. We passed on what looked quite wonderful — golf, fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding or camping — and focused on one thing: scenery.
Positioned on a plateau overlooking a river gorge, Pipestem offers vistas from every room of the 113-room McKeever Lodge. Fall color was just a seasonal bonus.
Pipestem also has an asset we’ve never seen at a state park: an aerial tramway. In fact, a ride in the tram is required (hang on to your suitcase!) if you stay in a room at Mountain Creek Lodge at the base. Or dine on gourmet fare in Mountain Creek’s elegant restaurant.
And while waiting for dinner (quite posh, we might add), we walked along the creek at the base of Bluestone Canyon, rewarded with lush fall color and the sounds of a mountain stream.
The next morning, our final search for gold (and greens, yellow, reds) ended at Pipestem’s Arboretum. Backlighting by the morning sun turned visions of fall splendor into reality.
The slightly less than 24 hours we spent at Pipestem reaffirmed what we’ve known all along — state parks make for an affordable yet beautiful place to stay. And, cheesy though it may sound, this was one golden place to visit.
Let us know if you have a favorite state park. And join us for a few more stops along our Fall Color Tour 2015, four days filled with colorful leaves and so much more.
Rusha and Bert