Alumni News

Upgrades bring more adventures to Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center

August 30, 2016 : By Ted Allen/Liberty University News Service

Whether Liberty University students prefer ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) or SUPs (stand-up paddleboards), the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center has something to satisfy the adventurous spirit of outdoor enthusiasts. For those simply seeking a relaxing retreat, the university-owned facility — located just five miles from campus on Liberty Mountain — is also an ideal location for a study break.

The center held its official opening day for the school year on Thursday, with new and returning students enjoying an array of recreational opportunities, including swimming, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing, and kayaking. Last year, the facility received 3,350 visits from students, a number Liberty Outdoor Recreation Assistant Director Mariah Herring would like to see increase this year.

Liberty University students try out the kayaks and stand-up paddleboards available for use in the lake at the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center. (Photo by Kaitlyn Becker Johnson)“This whole summer, we’ve been really revamping Hydaway and what it looks like and what we offer here,” Herring said. “Not many colleges feature something like this, and we would love to see more and more students come out and enjoy everything we have for the Liberty University community.”

Open from sunrise to sunset, Hydaway offers an 8-acre lake and a beach area that was expanded this summer to twice its original size. Canoes, kayaks, and SUPs are available and can be checked out from The Outfitter at no cost to full-time students, faculty, and staff. Watercraft also are allowed to be taken off-site for a small fee to explore the nearby James River, Ivy Lake, or Smith Mountain Lake. Hydaway Lake is stocked with largemouth bass, blue gill, and crappie for catch-and-release by students with valid Virginia fishing licenses. Fishing equipment is also available.

Sophomore choral music education students Sarah Day and David Müller visited the center for the first time on Thursday. They enjoyed conversation on a peaceful canoe trip, exploring the outskirts of the placid lake, which was dredged and cleaned over the summer.

“It’s amazing that our college has this — our own lake and our own waterslide,” Day said. “That’s really cool that we have this opportunity to escape a little bit.”

“There’s a lot more to do here than meets the eye,” Müller added.

Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center staff members test out the mountain bikes on the path that goes around Hydaway Lake. (Photo by Kaitlyn Becker Johnson)Mountain bikes fit to all sizes can also be checked out for free, to be ridden on the university’s 50-mile trail system that traverses hundreds of acres between Hydaway, Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre (LMSC), and the LU Monogram. ATVs (which require a safety course before using) can be ridden on a designated half-mile loop track.

University groups, from sports teams to campus bands, have participated in team-building activities through Hydaway’s high-ropes Challenge Course, complete with a zip line.

Hydaway also offers a 12-site campground, with backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, and other camping gear available for use on Friday or Saturday nights.

Many more opportunities for on- and off-campus outdoors activities are in store for students this semester.

“We are excited to be hosting several running and mountain bike clinics, bonfires, and a fishing tournament,” Herring said. “In October, students will have an amazing opportunity to take a two-day course for wilderness first-aid certification.”

Next spring, Liberty will hold its second annual Outdoor Rec Fest, featuring a bouldering competition at the LaHaye Recreation and Fitness Center’s rock wall. It will also include a photo contest, gear expo, and cooking expo.

Herring and Outdoor Recreation Director Mike Ellsworth have planned dozens of affordable weekend trips, ranging from horseback riding to whitewater rafting and ski trips.

“In September and October, we’ll have trips pretty much every weekend,” Herring said, noting that they can take as many as 30 students per outing.

The first trip of the semester was on Saturday, a one-day kayaking outing on the James River. Another is planned this weekend. Other trips include camping on the shores of Virginia Beach, an overnight intro to camping/backpacking on Liberty Mountain, whitewater rafting with up to Class V rapids on the Gauley River in West Virginia, and two fall break trips — a three-day kayaking adventure on Class III rapids on West Virginia’s New River or a four-day guided fly fishing trip on the Piney River in Nelson County, Va. (See full calendar listings online.)

Herring also serves as director for the six-race Liberty Mountain Trail Series, which drew more than 1,000 entries from students and the community last year. That series will be highlighted by the 10th annual Deep Hollow Half Marathon and 5K over Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 22; this year, the races will be affiliated with the Virginia Commonwealth Games, hosted and sponsored by Liberty.

Other races on Liberty’s trails include the Major Mike Donahue Valley View 5-Mile Trail Race to kick off Military Appreciation Week on Nov. 5 and the annual Reindeer Run, a 2-mile costume race, on Dec. 10.

On Sept. 17, Hydaway will host an adventure race with a water section, a running section, and a physical fitness section led by instructors from the LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center. The race will include activities on the challenge course, kayaking around obstacles on the lake, and a trail run.

On Oct. 15, Hydaway will also serve as the site of the Fall Festival run by Student Activities.

Hydaway is just one recreational destination located near campus, complementing the Liberty Equestrian Center, the Liberty Mountain Skate Park, and LMSC, the only year-round ski and snowboard resort of its kind in the United States.