Monongahela National Forest
Bucketlist Attractions Around the Largest National Forest in West Virginia
With 23 campgrounds, 17 picnic areas, and over 500 miles of hiking trails, the Monongahela National Forest is perfect for families, casual hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Take family pictures at some of the most recognizable spots around eastern West Virginia, make memories and s’mores over the fire at a campsite, or get your steps in while you enjoy the fresh air and scenic views around the Monongahela National Forest.
These must-see woodlands consist of nearly one million acres that span across multiple counties in eastern West Virginia. According to the U.S. Forest Service, approximately three million tourists visit the national forest every year making the forest’s hidden gems some of the most photographed spots in West Virginia. The Monongahela National Forest was established in 1911 and has proven to be a must-visit location for everyone.
Take in the Views…
Highland Scenic Highway
Take the scenic route to enjoy four breathtaking overlooks along the way, including Red Lick, Big Spruce, Williams River, and Little Laurel. The Highland Scenic Highway extends 43 miles from Richwood, West Virginia, to US Route 219. The elevation rises from 2,325 feet to over 4,500 feet providing views of wonderful West Virginia the entire way through.
Cass Scenic Railroad
Located in the heart of the forest, Cass Scenic Railroad is a slice of history. Take a ride on the historic steam engine to experience views only existing here. West Virginia’s third highest peak is just one of many breathtaking views you will get to experience along your trip. You can also learn about and see how loggers who clear-cut the mountain lived in the 1800s. Check out their calendar here to plan your trip!
Enjoy the Wildlife
Whether you are into birding or just taking in the views, you are guaranteed to see some beautiful wildlife during your time around the Monongahela National Forest.Larger animals and game species live here as well as over 200 species of birds and species federally listed as endangered or threatened. Thankfully, the Monongahela National Forest serves as a safe, protected environment for these species to flourish.
Camping, Backpacking and Hiking
Located within the Monongahela National Forest are 23 campground sites, 17 picnic areas, and over 500 miles of hiking trails. There are also trails suited for mountain biking and horseback riding. Camp out at Spruce Knob Lake Campground to enjoy hiking, fishing, and climbing on Spruce Knob. Backpack the North Fork Mountain Trail, a 17-mile, dog-friendly trail that provides camping.
An amazing location within the Monongahela National Forest for skiing and winter activities is the Canaan Mountain Area which can be accessed from Canaan Valley or Blackwater Falls State Park. There is skiing information as well as rentals available here. It is important to note that road conditions change depending on weather, so be sure to inquire further with the Monongahela National Forest Offices for the most up-to-date information about specific locations and conditions.
Equine use is also permitted in the Monongahela National Forest, but is prohibited at campgrounds and picnic areas as well as in the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. It is important to note that, though horseback riding is allowed, trails and areas are not designed or maintained for horse travel nor are there facilities such as stalls or corralls around the forest. Read more about horseback riding in Equitrekking’s blog, “Horseback Riding Around the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.”
Find the perfect spot to cast a line within the Monongahela National Forest. There are six major river systems all located here, including the Monongahela River, Potomac River, Greenbrier River, Elk River, Tygart Valley River, and Gauley River. Find the most diverse aquatic life in the Monongahela River, ranging from catfish and bass, to walleye, bluegill and sauger. Check out our Monongahela River guide to learn more.
- The Potomac River supports smallmouth bass fishing.
- For fly fishing and light tackle fishing, visit the Greenbrier River where you can also fish from a pontoon, kayak, or canoe.
- The Elk River is best known for its muskellunge, walleye and smallmouth bass fishing.
- If you’re looking to catch big muskies, the Tygart Valley River is where you need to be.
- The Gauley River also offers fishing with fish including trout, smallmouth bass, walleye and muskellunge.
Coopers Rock State Forest
A must-see location for locals and tourists alike, Coopers Rock State Forest is a 12,000-acre state forest that spreads across Monongalia and Preston Counties. Known for its scenic overlook of the Cheat River Canyon, this local and tourist hotspot keeps everyone returning year round for astounding views. With hiking, camping, rock climbing, zip lining, water activities, and so much more, there’s something for everyone to do here! View the 360-degree view of the overlook and learn more about Coopers Rock and check out our Coopers Rock State Forest guide. Plus, don’t forget to snap your photo on the Almost Heaven swing located along the pathway to the overlook!
Seneca Rocks is one of the most popular rock-climbing destinations on the east coast, providing unbeatable views and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Spend the day, or camp for a weekend, and enjoy beautiful views and activities for adventurers of all ages. Hike 1.5 miles to the top of the rocks to see the stunning view of the valley, but continue with caution because the elevation climb can be difficult for some hikers.
Canaan Valley is a popular spot to visit for beautiful views, hiking, skiing, biking, and so many more outdoor activities! Plan your stay at Black Bear Resort, or camp in the Canaan Valley State Park Resort. There are many lodging opportunities all around Canaan Valley for a quick trip or extended stay no matter the season! For more information on Canaan Valley, check out The Complete Visitor’s Guide blog on our website!
Not only is Blackwater Falls among West Virginia’s most photographed locations, but it also provides scenic views in all seasons with 20 miles of trails for hiking. For those colder months, Blackwater Falls opens the longest sledding magic carpet on the east coast! Camping is also available around Blackwater Falls, offering options including fully furnished cabins as well as Tentrr campsites for anyone to enjoy.
Smoke Hole Canyon
Beautiful caverns, cabins, a lodge, extensive gift shop, and much more are available at Smoke Hole Canyon to make your visit memorable. Smoke Hole is considered to be one of the most beautiful areas in West Virginia with plenty of activities for visitors. You can hunt, fish, enjoy a day on the water canoeing, or camp surrounded by the beautiful scenery. Since Smoke Hole Canyon is located between Cave Mountain and North Fork Mountain, the walls of the canyon at some spots are nearly vertical. This popular spot is a must-see for visitors and locals alike.
Dolly Sods Wilderness
Whether you’re an avid hiker or just getting started, there are trails and activities of all terrains and skill levels around Dolly Sods Wilderness. If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, opt for Rohrbaugh Trail. Seeking a thrill? Hhead down Bear Rocks Loop. There are 47 miles of trails and backcountry camp around, so be sure to wear sturdy footwear and pack for any weather! The elevation ranges from 2,500 feet to over 4,700 feet, so the weather can change quickly.
Sitting at the highest point in Almost Heaven, West Virginia, is the iconic Spruce Knob. Views from every angle can be best observed from the man-made lookout tower which features views of the Allegheny Plateau, North Fork Mountain, and Germany Valley. After hiking, take a break and get your energy back at a picnic table before heading to more trails. Or, spend some time at the Spruce Knob Observation Tower to enjoy the view. Plan a weekend getaway and camp at Spruce Knob Lake Campground to spread out your adventure around all 60 miles of trails.
Nightlife Around Morgantown
Good times are found all around in West Virginia, especially in Morgantown, just an hour’s drive from the Monongahela National Forest. Unwind after a long day on the trails with dinner and drinks from one of Morgantown’s hidden gems. Laid back or lively – you’ll find both here.
Enjoy a drink with friends, outdoor eating on those warm summer nights, live music, or so much more with endless options around town.
- If you’re looking for a laid-back local bar that serves craft beer with one of the largest craft beer selections in West Virginia, indoor and outdoor seating, Apothecary Ale House is the place for you!
- For a unique, Hawaiian experience, check out Tropics, a local authentic Hawaiian themed restaurant. Offering an eclectic mix of tropical Pacific/Asian influence on American comfort food, this location is an experience you don’t want to miss.
- Mountain State Brewing serves hand crafted microbrews, wood-fired flatbreads, desserts and more. Mountain State Brewing has been recognized as one of West Virginia’s oldest distributing microbreweries and taprooms.
- Located in the heart of Downtown Morgantown is Starport Arcade and Pub. There’s something for everyone at Starport with pinball, vintage amusements, and latest arcade games accompanied by a full service bar and kitchen.
- Support local breweries at Chestnut Brew Works, a Morgantown-based brewery and taproom that sells local craft beers. Visit their on-site taproom for rotating brews year round and get a new taste of West Virginia every time you visit.
- Gene’s Beer Garden is the oldest running bar in Morgantown and was established in 1944. Enjoy a relaxing bar atmosphere with live entertainment.
Check out “Nightlife” on VisitMountaineerCountry.com to see all of the unique places that create the amazing diverse environment suitable for anyone! The best part? You can save money by using our Mountaineer Deals with our partners to enjoy drinks, food and much more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there bears in Monongahela National Forest?
Yes, there have been reports of black bears around the Monongahela National Forest along with white-tailed deer, turkeys, and over 200 species of birds. Keep your eyes and ears open, stay safe, and enjoy the wildlife the experience brings.
How big is Monongahela National Forest?
The Monongahela National Forest is 919,000 acres and spans across multiple counties along eastern West Virginia. The forest runs through counties including Preston County, Grant County, Tucker County, Randolph County, Pendleton County, Webster County, Pocahontas County, Nicholas County, and Greenbrier County.
Can you camp anywhere in the Monongahela National Forest?
How high is Spruce Knob in West Virginia?
Along the Allegheny Mountains lies the highest peak, Spruce Knob, at 4,863 feet. It is also among the highest mountain peaks in the state of West Virginia.
Safe travels around the Monongahela National Forest!
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