The Top 10 Hiking Adventures in Mountaineer Country
Enjoy the sunshine and take a hike down a less-traveled path!
With summer in full swing, it’s a great time to plan your next hiking adventure in Mountaineer Country. With a warm breeze and colorful flowers, you can take a hike down your favorite trail and experience the scenic views. Looking to escape to a new footpath? Try out one of these top 10 locations that are only a short drive from downtown Morgantown—read to the end for a bonus!
Coopers Rock State Forest
Coopers Rock State Forest is one of Mountaineer Country’s most popular destinations. With 21 different trails weaving nearly 50 miles through the beautiful woodlands of West Virginia, Coopers Rock State Forest offers easy to moderate hiking trails to fit you and your family’s hiking style.
- Be on the lookout for the eco-sculptures located near the main overlook of Coopers Rock State Forest!
- Roadside Trail – An easy trail that leads from the parking lot located near the forest entrance to the main scenic overlook, a 1,200-foot drop to the Cheat River Canyon.
- Rattlesnake Trail – Winds along the rocky cliffs parallel to the rim of the Cheat River Canyon.
- Raven Rock – Leads to the Raven’s Rock overlook, offering a different, yet spectacular view of the Cheat River Canyon.
- Rhododendron Trail – The perfect place to see the state flower, the rhododendron. Along the trail, the Henry Clay Iron Furnace that was used to produce iron in the 1800s can be found.
- Virgin Hemlock Trail – An easy one-hour hike through a hemlock tree grove dating around 300 years old. Listen for the stream trickling along the trail.
Tygart Lake State Park
Tygart Lake State Park is located in Taylor County, just east of Grafton, WV. The lake itself is man-made, built by the US Army Corps of Engineers along with the Tygart Dam that is used to maintain overflow from the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. While there is plenty to do on the water, the land that surrounds the lake welcomes hikers of all skill and endurance levels.
- Tygart Lake State Park has 5 Trails, ranging from 0.5 miles to 2 miles in length.
- Picnic areas can be found along the trails and on the shoreline of the lake.
- Cabins and campgrounds surrounding the Lake provide hikers options for overnight trips to the area.
- Tygart Lake’s crystal clear waters are perfect for swimmers and fishers alike, with lake access available and various points along the shoreline.
Cheat Lake Park and Trail
- Cheat Lake Backwaters
The Cheat Lake Trail is a 4.5-mile long trail that follows the Lake Lynn shoreline. Original components of a railroad bridge lead you over Cheat Lake’s calm and shady backwaters in an otherwise densely wooded area.
- View of the beach at Cheat Lake Park from the trail.
- Cheat Lake Park and Trail is one of the four public access points to Cheat Lake.
- Swimming and fishing access are available.
- The park features a man-made beach and playground.
- A nature viewing area is located at the southern tip of the trail, perfect for viewing migratory water birds.
- Huge millstones can be found along the trail from area grist mills that were in operation before the turn of the century.
WVU Core Arboretum
The WVU Core Arboretum is an escape from the hustle and bustle within Morgantown city limits. Tucked between Monongahela Boulevard and the Monongahela River, The WVU Core Arboretum has a variety of natural habitats in its 3.5 miles of trails. Several hundred species of native West Virginia trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are scattered throughout the Arboretum.
- The Amphitheater – The WVU Core Arboretum supports teaching and offers an eighty-seat facility used as an open-air meeting place.
- Interpretive signs are throughout the Arboretum to help hikers identify various flora. Some of the large trees are over 200 years old.
- Spring ephemeral wildflowers can be seen from late March to early May. The Sheldon Trail and Rumsey Trail will offer you the most wildflower sightings.
- Caperton Rail-Trail passes through the Arboretum, linking visitors to a large, far-reaching, and growing rail-trail system.
- A small coal mine sits recessed in Morgantown Sandstone on the Cliff Trail.
- A floodplain trail leads past a lagoon full of cattails and aquatic plants growing in the wet area that was formerly a river channel.
Cranesville Swamp is one of the few remaining arboreal bogs in the southern United States and is an astonishing 1,650-acre preserve. Positioned in a natural bowl or “frost pocket,” the climate is more consistent with northerly regions allowing for the swamp to harbor many plants, birds and mammals that are normally only seen further north.
- cranberry, sedge, and sundew
- Lucky visitors may spot the rare northern water shrew or catch a glimpse of a black bear rummaging through the shrub thickets surrounding Muddy Creek.
- Look for the 19 different plant communities that flourish in the unusual environment.
- Bring binoculars to catch a glimpse of more than 100 bird species, such as alder flycatcher or blackburnian warbler.
The Allegheny Trail, near Bruceton Mills, is the longest footpath located primarily in West Virginia. The trail passes through the Allegheny Mountains and into Preston County for a total of 330 miles before connecting with the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.
- This section of the Allegheny Trail is located on rural country roads that are seldom traveled.
- These roads are situated on high plateaus and offer astounding views of the Preston County farmland and hay meadows where bobolinks perform courtship flights in May.
- Intriguing historical sites such as a restored one-room schoolhouse, two old graveyards, and the Lantz Ridge Church can be seen along the trail.
- The trail is parallel to the Cheat River and traverses Big Sandy Creek making for great fishing opportunities.
- The Monongahela National Forest can be entered via the Allegheny Trail and is considered one of the most ecologically diverse national forests in the country.
Deckers Creek Trail
Deckers Creek Trail gets its name from the stream it follows. Starting at Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park in Morgantown to slightly west of Reedsville, W.Va in Preston County, the rail trail follows scenic Deckers Creek upstream with an elevation change of 1,000 feet for more than 19 miles. The scenic landscapes are secluded with hardwoods, hemlock, rhododendron, and rock outcroppings.
- There are many different atmospheres to view along the trail. Beginning in city limits, hikers have access to Marilla Park, neighboring restaurants, and food stores. The trail quickly moves into habitats of fields and farms, dense woods, hemlock groves, and wetlands.
- There are many opportunities to view a variety of birds.
- The trail opens up to Deckers Creek Gorge just outside of city limits where hikers can view spectacular waterfalls and sought-after Class VI rapids.
- You may spot some highly experienced kayakers and rock climbers while on the trail.
- Be on the lookout for close-up views of two active limestone quarries.
- Less than one mile from the trail on Route 92 is Arthurdale, the nation’s first New Deal Homestead.
- Visit the Heritage District and Museum that is near the Trail.
The West Virginia Botanic Garden
The West Virginia Botanic Garden was formerly known as Tibbs Run Reservoir, which supplied water to the Morgantown area from 1912 to 1969. Some remnants of the old structures are still visible on the property and can be seen from the Reservoir Loop Trail. All trails are relatively flat and include the Forest Trail, Tibbs Crossing Trail and the Farside Trail.
- The Garden is open to the public from dawn until dusk as a community resource with educational walks, workshops, and activities available throughout the year.
- Try Yoga in the Park or the Nature Photography Workshop
- Hammocks are placed throughout the Garden for hikers to relax can relax and enjoy the natural bounty. The hammocks are part of the Botanical Garden’s newest art installation project, “Hammock Haven.”
Big Bear Lake and Camplands
Big Bear Lake and Camplands is a leading hiking destination only 45 minutes outside of Morgantown. Its four looping trails offer varying degrees of difficulty, ranging from eight to 20 miles long for a total of 50 diverse miles. Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, hikers enjoy the challenge of mountain trails with some of the best foliage and terrain on the east coast.
- Set in a lush wooded environment, Big Bear Lake is surrounded by over 5000 acres of property to explore and enjoy. It has become a haven for many outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
- Pine Forest Trail and Beaver Creek Trail are our top picks. Be prepared for rocky, single-track technical trails appropriate for intermediate to advanced hikers.
- Events like the Insane Inflatable 5K and the Ragnar Trail Relay keep hikers coming back.
Cathedral State Park
- source: fineartamerica.com
Cathedral State Park is a 133-acre ancient hemlock forest of majestic proportions. Trees stand up to 90 feet high and 21 feet in circumference. Plus, more than 170 species of vascular flora and over 50 species of wildflowers have been cataloged.
- The forest is virtually untouched and reflects what the landscape would look like if other wooded areas had never been timbered.
- The park houses one of the last living commemorations of the vast virgin hemlock forest that once flourished in the Appalachian highlands.
- Cathedral Trail and Giant Hemlock Trail offer the best viewing opportunities.
BONUS: Monongahela River Trail
The Monongahela River Trail meanders through a wooded river valley. As its name suggests, there are many scenic views of the Monongahela River and an occasional waterfall may be found while hiking along the trail.
- Source: https://www.railstotrails.org/
- The trail is known for its variety of wildflowers in the spring.
- Visitors to the trail can travel the entire route, starting in Fairmont, WV and ending in Point Marion, PA. A quick detour in Morgantown will take you eastward along the Deckers-Creek Trail all the way to Reedsville, WV.
- The trail is open to hikers, walkers, and cyclists. Kayaking is also allowed on the Monongahela River, as the waters are calm and flow north-easterly towards Pennsylvania.
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