The mild winter weather has resulted in increased interest in early-season camping in West Virginia’s state parks, according to State Parks Chief Ken Caplinger. “Camping isn’t just for summer vacations, and camping in winter or spring weather isn’t overwhelming, especially in state parks and forests,” Caplinger said. “This time of year, with the temperature as mild as I can remember, more campers than usual are checking the state parks website for campsite reservation forms.”

West Virginia’s state parks and forests have more than 25 campgrounds that range from full hook-up to primitive sites. There are 1,881 total sites in the state park system. Most parks and forests have sites that are reservable and also have sites that are available first-come, first-served. Exceptions are Canaan Valley and Stonewall resorts where all sites require reservations.

“Many of today’s campers desire the assurance that a campsite is available,” said Sissie Summers with West Virginia State Parks Programming Services. “Reservable sites meet that expectation. Old-school campers prefer the gamble of a first-come, first-served site. By offering both, we provide options that meet customer demands.”

West Virginia State Parks and Forests accept applications from February 15 through March 14 for reservable sites. Based on winter camping interest, the parks chief believes the 2012 camping year will be positive.  “This year, Little Beaver State Park in Raleigh County comes onboard with a 46-site campground with 12 sites that are reservable. All sites at Little Beaver have water hookups and 30 of those sites include electric hookups as well,” Caplinger said.

The West Virginia State Parks and Forests website (www.wvstateparks.com) lists 19 areas that offer reservable campsites.  Sites are reservable from the Friday prior to Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day.  “Although no reservation system is perfect, we do our level best to accommodate everyone fairly while also recognizing the need for first-come/first-serve camping opportunities,” Caplinger said.

The campsite reservation process is on this schedule: first by mail (Feb. 15 – March 14); then by mail or phone (March 15-31); and finally, by mail, phone, or in person (beginning April 1). Reservation forms may be downloaded from the State Parks website or can be obtained by calling the Charleston office at 304-558-2764 or by calling the specific park and requesting that a form be mailed. Each area has a specific form that reflects rates and reservation information.

For more information about West Virginia State Parks and Forests, camping, cabins, lodge, golf, restaurants or events, call 800 CALL-WVA or visit online at www.wvstateparks.com.

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