Camping at Holly River

No matter how much the hot sun reflects down upon Holly River State Park, beneath the lush forest canopy of the narrow valley, the traveler can enjoy the coolness of shade. Park visitors who choose to enjoy the sun have access to athletic fields to play tennis, volleyball, basketball or softball. Following, they can find relief in the pool or a wade in the Holly River, then enjoy a cool snack in the restaurant, or relax inside a rebuilt one-room school house.

Hikers and bikers can choose from eleven trails, ranging from one-half mile long to ten miles long. Those who are willing to hike can visit one of several large waterfalls in the park. Two falls, “Tecumseh” and “Tenskwatawa” are in the 10-foot high class.

The second largest park in the state’s park system, Holly River offers three camping options within its 8,101 acre forest: the main campground along the river, a group campground, and a primitive campground very few know about.

The Main Campground
The Main Campground at Holly River State Park includes 88 sites with electric hookup available. Most sites within the main campground are RV friendly, depending on the RV size. The main grounds are divided into three camping areas — Dogwood, Hemlock and Spruce — with four bath houses. Each site includes a picnic table, fire ring, trash can, and nearly 30% of the sites in the main campground can be reserved.

The Dogwood Area is subdivided, with camp sites one through 19 based around the first bath house, and sites 20 through 28 set around the second bath house. Since the Dogwood region is across the road from the Holly River, none of these camp sites are along the water. Nearly all the sites in this section have shade.

The Hemlock Area appears to be the most popular, with only ten sites, 29 through 38, sharing one bath house. Hemlock area juts out from the lower side of the road to be surrounded on three sides by the river’s main flow. Six of the sites in this area are right on the water’s edge. Only half of the sites in this area have shade.

The Spruce Area is the largest, including 37 sites that share the same bath house. Spruce also is subdivided, with sites 77 through 88 separated from the rest by the playground and bath house. Eleven sites in Spruce area are set along the river, and nearly all the sites in this area are shaded.

All areas of the campground are great for campers who want to walk in the evenings or ride bicycles, since all roads through the grounds are paved. There is a large ball field at the end of Spruce Area, and a playground in every section.

Those who are light sleepers will want to choose a site in Dogwood or Hemlock, as Spruce lies in the valley right below Route 20, where the road climbs uphill through timber and coal country. Those not accustomed to the sounds of the road may have trouble sleeping amongst the sounds of straining coal and log trucks.

With little undergrowth in the forest, few sites in the Main Campground are very private, and campers can easily watch and see their neighbors. So some tent campers may want to consider the other camping options.

Firewood is only available at the control station at the entrance of the campground near the Dogwood area. Ice is only available at the restaurant, which is located in a separate section of the park. For the 2007 season, campsites are available for $20 per night.

The Group Campground
Holly River’s Group Campground is located at the far end of the picnic area, upstream from the Main Campground, and downstream from the restaurant and activity area. Paths through the valley lead to each.

Set in a small clearing along the river, the group campground is reached only by crossing a short bridge from the parking lot to the clearing. Obviously, this area is suited for tent campers only, and supplies will have to be toted from the parking lot to the camping area.

The campground includes a private pavilion with picnic tables, and a cooking grill. Across the bridge and parking lot lie the playground, an open field for volleyball or badmitton, and the restrooms, which do not include showers.

The clearing for this area is nestled at the foot of the mountain, separated by most park activity by the bridge and parking lot, so groups will have good levels of privacy on three sides, and if parked property across the bridge, privacy on four sides. The site is near the main road through the park, but traffic is limited, so night sound is not a main issue.

The Group Campground can be reserved at the cost of $40 per night for up to 15 people. There is a $2 fee for each person over 15.

The Primitive Campground
Although there is no charge to stay in the Primitive Campground, it is very rarely used. Only hikers who accept the challenge of the Reverie Trail have seen the primitive campground, which consists of a fire pit, a stone chimney, picnic tables and a rough, completely open toilet facility in a flat clearing coming down the mountain’s back side. It is possible, without notice of the smoke from the fire, campers could spend days there and never see another person.

Likely, very few embrace the idea of packing all their gear on their backs, uphill, for more than an hour, to spend the weekend. Few will hike over three miles to find the perfect camping spot. However, those who follow the request to notify the park when they use the site can get directions to an access road that will provide a fairly flat, ¾-mile path to the primitive campground on the back side of the park.

Those who are want secluded, completely private camping will have exactly that. However, for their reward, they will need to haul water and gear, be separated from their vehicle, and keep the wildlife at bay at night.

Guns and 4-wheelers are not permitted in the park, so the common approaches to the main challenges of the primitive campground cannot be used. Still, for the cost, and the true knowledge that you have survived in the wild, Holly River’s primitive campground is a viable camping option for those who are hard-core campers.

Planning Your Camping Trip
Holly River campgrounds are open April through November. At least 70% of the sites are reservable, but the reservation season is only open the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day, and only mail-in reservations are accepted between February 15 and March 14. Phone reservations are accepted beginning March 14.

Reservations should be made up to two days in advance, and are secured by a deposit for the entire rental fee plus $5. A minimum of two nights is required for reservations, and no campsite can be used for more then 14 nights.

Campsites accessible to persons with disabilities are open for reservation February 15 to March 14, specifically for disabled persons. After that date, sites become available for all reservations and rentals.

Holly River State Park is located on WV Route 20, 32 miles south of Buckhannon and 20 miles north of Webster Springs. For more information on Holly River State Park camping, trails, and activities, visit, or call 1-800-CALL WVA or 1-304-493-6563.