Revisiting the heyday of department stores and five-and-dimes

For summer relief, Canaan Valley rises to the occasion

Special To The Sun

Canaan Valley, W.Va., at 3,200 feet the largest high-elevation valley east of the Rocky Mountains, is known for great skiing and snowboarding.

But when the 100-plus inches of snow the valley typically receives each winter have melted, there's still a lot to do in Canaan.

The town -- named by an 18th-century fur trader for the biblical "land of milk and honey" but pronounced "Ka-NANE" today -- is a great place to escape the stress of a Maryland summer. With a climate similar to Maine, heat and humidity are rarely a problem. Many nights, a light sweater is needed.

This weekend, the valley town of Thomas hosts Mountaineer Days with a parade, crafts vendors, an old-fashioned cake walk and more. Saturday, the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra will perform free in the natural amphitheater near the ski area at Canaan Valley Resort State Park. The town's Independence Day fireworks display will be held at dark Saturday night.

Things to do

Biking: Rent bikes at Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Deerfield Village and Timberline Four Seasons resorts. Blackwater Bikes in Davis (304-259-5286) offers rentals and repairs.

Camping: Blackwater Falls State Park has 26 cabins and 65 tent/trailer campsites. Canaan Valley Resort State Park has 23 cottages to rent and 34 deluxe tent/trailer campsites with electric, water and sewer hookup. To experience back-country living, try backpacking and primitive camping in the Dolly Sods Wilderness and Scenic Area.

Caverns: Nearby Smoke Hole Caverns (Seneca Rocks, 800-828-8478) has a colorful history complete with Indians and moonshine makers. Seneca Caverns (Riverton, 800-239-7647) has a similar history dating back to the Seneca Indians around 1400.

Geo-Caching/scavenger hunt: Bring your own global positioning device and find the hidden cache using geographic coordinates supplied by staff at Timberline Four Seasons Resort (304-866-4801). Also try Timberline's Scavenger Hunt, using a map and compass.

Golf: Canaan Valley Resort offers an 18-hole course. Also try the nine-hole (18-tee) Holly Meadows Golf Course (304-478-3406) in Parsons.

Hiking: There are easy to difficult trails all over the area. Take a guided hike or set out on your own. Maps and other information are available at Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley state parks, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Dolly Sods Wilderness and Scenic Area and the Allegheny Highlands Rail Trail.

Horseback riding: For a guided trail ride, call Circle T Stables (800-766-9464) or Red Creek Quarter Horse Stables (304-866-4728).

Kid stuff: There are miniature golf courses and a petting zoo. Bikes can be rented for even the littlest riders. The resorts have playgrounds, game rooms and children's activities.

Photography: Reserve one of two handicapped-accessible blinds for wildlife observation and photography at Canaan Valley Wildlife Refuge (304-866-3858). If you're patient, great photographs can be taken on nearly every trail in the area.

Scenic lift: See what a ski lift offers in summer. The lifts at Timberline (304-866-4801) and Canaan Valley (304-866-4121) resorts offer rides most weekends and holidays.

Spa services: Massage, facials and foot reflexology are available through Black Bear Resort (304-866-4391). Highland Inn and Spa (304-866-4455) offers massage, yoga, tai chi and exercise classes.

Water sports: Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley resorts have indoor pools as well as lakes where visitors can swim or rent a paddleboat or rowboat. Canaan Valley and Deerfield Village also have outdoor pools. Fishing is allowed all over the area -- required licenses and bait can be purchased at local businesses. To go kayaking, canoeing or take a whitewater rafting trip, call Canaan Valley Outfitters (877-223-5388) or Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (304-478-3775).

Where to shop

The Art Company of Davis (downtown Davis, 304- 259-4218): A local artists' cooperative featuring fine art, furniture, pottery, toys and more. There's also a cafe.

MountainMade Country Store (Front Street, Thomas; 304-463-3376) and Artisan Gallery (Douglas Road off Route 32, 877-MTN-MADE): The works of more than 400 West Virginia artisans are sold through MountainMade. Offerings include one-of-a-kind pieces as well as functional items such as baskets, quilts, musical instruments and dishes.


Deerfield (Cortland Lane, 304-866-4559): Extensive menu includes such local favorites as baked trout and fried green tomatoes, taken upscale with gourmet ingredients.

Muttley's Downtown Pub (Davis; 304-259-4858): This popular steak spot offers tasty food in a comfortable setting.

Canaan Valley Resort (off Route 32, 304-866-4121): Watch the deer wander by from your table in the Aspen Dining Room. The weekend breakfast buffet packs diners in.

The Purple Fiddle Coffeehouse and Mountain Market (21 East Ave., Thomas; 304- 463-4040): Stop for the sandwiches and homemade desserts, stay for the live mountain music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Smoke-free and family friendly.

Sirianni's Cafe (Main Street, Davis, 304-259-5454): Don't miss the pizza and hoagies. The dining room is chock-full of antiques, oddities and knick-knacks.

Getting there

Canaan Valley is about a 200-mile, 3 1/2 -hour drive from Baltimore. Take Interstate 70 West to Hancock in Western Maryland. Pick up Interstate 68 and follow through Cumberland. Continue on I-68 to U.S. 219 South through Deep Creek and Oakland. Continue on 219 South to Thomas, W.Va. Take Route 32 South to Canaan Valley.

For more information

Visit or call 800-782-2775. To make reservations for state park activities or accommodations such as Blackwater Falls and Canaan Valley resorts, call 800-CALL-WVA. To rent a vacation home or condominium for a weekend or longer, try Timberline Realty at 800-633-6682 or Canaan Valley Realty at 800-448-0074.

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