GETTING THERE: To get to Bluefield, W.Va., and Pipestem Resort State Park, take Interstate 66 west from the Beltway. Go south on I-81 toward Roanoke. Bear right, going west, on I-64. At the Sandstone exit (No. 139), take Highway 20 south for 30 miles to the state park. Pipe- stem is just over 300 miles from Washington, so it can take five or six hours to drive there. The beauty can slow you down a little, too. Info: 800-CALL-WVA,

STAYING THERE: The coolest place to stay, Mountain Creek Lodge, is also the most basic. The lower of Pipestem's two lodges, it's open May 1 through Oct. 30. Double rooms are $77 or less. Be sure to call ahead. Occasionally the tram is down for repairs, but there is a road to the top for use in emergencies. McKeever Lodge, on higher ground, has fancier rooms. A standard is $77; an executive suite with a wet bar and a king-size bed can set you back $160. If you want to take the whole family, you can rent a cottage by the week.

BEING THERE: Nothing may be the best thing to do at Pipestem. If you must move around, you can hike the nature trails or play golf or tennis. Appalachian BackCountry Expeditions (888-642-3474, is about a half-hour away in Sandstone, W.Va. For $125 plus tax, you and a few folks can take a four-hour float fishing trip on the New River. There are area festivals throughout the year, including the West Virginia State Water Festival in Hinton in early August.

EATING THERE: We took most of our meals in the state park. The Bluestone Dining Room, open all day, is in the McKeever Lodge. So is the Black Bear Snack Bar, which offers pizza and fried things. There's a sports bar in the clubhouse not far from McKeever Lodge. If you're staying at Mountain Creek Lodge (304-466-1800, Ext. 387) -- or even if you're not -- be sure to take the tram down one evening as the sun sets over the mountains and have dinner in the riverside restaurant. Reservations are recommended for dinner.

INFO: Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-221-3206, Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, 304-327-7184,