Refreshed: Guests Enjoy R&R in Newly Renovated Stonewall Resort
Ever since spending summer weekends at Piedmont Lake as a child, I have loved going to the lake.
Cruising on a pontoon boat with my cousins, taking turns on our grandfather’s lap in the captain’s seat — when I close my eyes, I can see the serene waterscape hemmed in by forest-covered hills, feel the warm breeze in my hair, smell the earthy, slightly fishy air. It’s high on my happy-place list.
Adulting, sadly, has limited my lake visits. So when I was given the opportunity to visit the lakeside Stonewall Resort to report on their recent renovations and improvements, I knew I had to make it happen.
Even a slap-dash overnight getaway right before school started in August proved a refreshing break. For less than 24 hours, it was my new happy place.
A two-hour jaunt from Wheeling, the resort is located on Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County, central West Virginia.
The resort is run by Texas-based Benchmark Hospitality, a private company, and receives no government support despite being situated in the heart of Stonewall Jackson State Park. The park encompasses 1,900 acres, 1,200 of which is the man-made lake, created in 1990 by damming the West Fork River and submerging the town of Roanoke under 60 feet of water.
Renovations and improvements unveiled this summer at the 16-year-old old resort include new furniture and bedding in all 195 lodge guest rooms; construction of two new modern lakeside rental cottages, tennis courts, a resort-side boat dock and a lakeview deck; the addition of craft beer on tap and large flat-screen TVs to T.J. Muskies Grill, and a new gas firepit for nightly fellowship and s’mores roasting.
My priority was to get out on the lake, and the resort offered many ways for me to do that.
Options include stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing and even foot-propelled paddle boating. At the marina, you can rent a pontoon boat, a house boat or one of the three new CraigCats, sleek little two-seater pontoons with 25-horsepower motors. Guests also can take a daily four-mile cruise on the Little Sorrel, a 100-passenger boat named after Gen. “Stonewall” Jackson’s favorite horse.
Although I really wanted to try paddle boarding, my 12-year-old daughter Emma, 20-year-old Russian college-exchange student Kirill and I opted for the simple pleasure of paddle boats instead. On our early-morning excursion, we were accompanied by a flock of geese and a couple fishermen whom we watched wrangle a nice-sized catch into their boat.
Later that morning, Kirill and I boarded the Little Sorrel captained by Chuck Wingfield, an amiable retired oil and gas worker from nearby Weston. In addition to daily cruises on the lake, the Little Sorrel is available for rent for parties and events. The resort also added a Taco Tuesdays event this summer for resort guests and locals, featuring unlimited tacos and margaritas on board.
Outdoor pursuits are practically endless at Stonewall. Our abbreviated itinerary only allowed for a few more activities. Sunning and swimming at the lakeside indoor/outdoor pool made the cut. It was 9:30 on a weekday morning, and I had the pool and hot tub to myself for a glorious, relaxing 20 minutes!
The resort boasts an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, and even if you don’t golf, you’re invited to tool around the course in a cart or on foot to soak in the scenery. Dozens of bird species live in the woods, not to mention deer and other wildlife.
Numerous hiking trails with names like Chipmunk Point and Cairns Trail also surround the resort. Cairns Trail is so named because it meanders past some of the 150 hand-built rock cairns found throughout the park. Who built them and why is a mystery, although some historians believe they were erected by Native Americans.
In addition to the sprawling lodge with 20,000 square feet of conference space, the resort has 10 lakeside “saltbox” cottages that sleep four to eight, and the two lakeside “rustic modern” cottages that sleep up to 12. The smaller accommodations feature vaulted ceilings, hard woods, Mission-style furnishings and stacked stone fireplaces. A new dock area allows them easy access to their own boats or rentals from the marina.
The modern cottages, the second of which was opened this summer, have four bedrooms, each with its own full bath; granite and quartz countertops; remote-controlled fireplaces; fully equipped “cook’s kitchens” and more.
Across the small bay from the resort, accessible on foot by a meandering boardwalk, is the campground area with 65 hookups, a bathhouse and new general store. The resort also installed tennis courts this summer, and there is a disc golf course, a grass volleyball court and mini-golf. The West Virginia Department of National Resources has a station here, where fishing and hunting licenses can be purchased and guests can tour a local wildlife exhibit.
For the final activity on our whirlwind trip, Kirill and I hopped on a couple of Segways with resort recreation manager Keith Hummel as our instructor and guide. It only took a few minutes of training to get the hang of the two-wheeled, stand-up contraptions made famous by Kevin James’ security officer character in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Cruising on the paved roads throughout the resort grounds, we ran across four white-tail bucks — I think I counted eight points — foraging in the park superintendent’s yard. One of my wheels nearly dropped off the pavement while I watched them, reminding me to keep my eyes on the road.
Hummel said he is gunning to add some all-terrain Segways to the fleet so guests can take them on the wood-chipped trails. Other improvements still to come: a campground swimming pool, additional RV hookups and an escape room experience during the winter months.
If time had allowed, I certainly would have popped into the Mountain Laurel Spa. The extensive service menu spans the spa continuum, from waxing and manicures, to hot stone and deep tissue massages, to a Moroccan oil exfoliation body treatment.
A getaway would not be complete without an out-of-this-world meal, and Stonewall did not disappoint. We dined at the upscale Stillwaters Restaurant, where Kirill enjoyed the popular buffet and I ordered a mushroom ravioli with spinach and tomatoes in a cream sauce that rivaled any I’ve had. The fried green tomatoes we shared to start boasted a crispy corn-meal and panko breading surrounding the tart tomatoes, with a pimiento cheese dip adding a touch of southern goodness.
Two other dining options are T.J. Muskies Grill, a cozy gastropub serving sandwiches, flatbreads and craft beer; and Lightburn’s smokehouse perched on a hill overlooking the Palmer course with a full view of the resort and lake. A farm-to-fork theme at Lightburn’s is in the works for next season.
I easily could have spent several more days unwinding here, but school bells beckoned us home. On our way north, we stopped for a lesson in history and a brush with the paranormal at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston. But that’s a story for another day.