Hidden Outdoor Adventure Gems in Morgantown, West Virginia

Photo: Steheap

Along the banks of the Monongahela River, near West Virginia’s northern boundary, lies the little college town of Morgantown.

While best known for the higher education staple of West Virginia University (WVU), the city and outlying region offer a variety of activities for just about every level of adventure.

Core Arboretum

If you enjoy forest immersion or indulging in some amateur bird-watching, then Core Arboretum is for you. Clinging inconspicuously to the hillside off of Monongahela Boulevard, the Core Arboretum’s tiny parking lot is easy to miss, somewhat overshadowed by its neighbor, the WVU Coliseum. Managed by the WVU School of Biology, and set into the steep slope overlooking the Monongahela River, Core Arboretum’s 91 acres are home to 80 species of native trees and shrubs and over 250 native herbaceous plants, many with their own identification tags. 

The naturally chunky and steep hillside trails descend over 200 vertical feet to the river below and offer visitors a vigorous walking, hiking or trail-running experience. The riverside trails lie within the floodplain of the Monongahela and contain wetlands, trees and wildflowers. Visitors can spend a morning or better part of a day meandering through this little gem.

Coopers Rock

Named for the sandstone cliffs overlooking the Cheat River, Coopers Rock State Forest is just 13 miles east of downtown Morgantown. Great for day-trips or multi-day adventures, Coopers offers a full plate of outdoor activities to the would-be adventurer, whether you like to hike, climb, mountain bike, camp, or just need to scratch your legs after sitting in the car for too long. Like most landscapes in West Virginia, the beauty of Coopers draws you in and the ruggedness wears you out. 

Hiking and Biking - Coopers Rock boasts just under 30 miles of multi-use trails that crisscross the park. Well-worn and marked, none of the trails at Coopers would be considered expert level, but be prepared for some rocks, roots and a fair amount of punchy climbs. Favorites include Ridge, Scott Run and Rhododendron trails.

Climbing - Most of the climbing at Coopers is fairly easy to access within proximity of the many multi-use trails, featuring a wide range of boulder problems, top-rope climbs and even a few trad routes for those so inclined. Favorite boulder problems include: the old-school Colorful Corner (V4), a striking arete with a slightly scary top-out; The Bulge (V6), a lesson in gritstone slopers; and Ship's Prow (V5), described by some as the best roof problem in the forest.

Plan B, should rain or inclement weather turn you away from Coopers Rock: Check out the state-of-the-art facility of Gritstone Climbing + Fitness. For $20 and a signed waiver, adults can enjoy all of the auto-belay top-roping, lead climbing and bouldering that one’s forearms can manage. Passes and memberships also include access to the free weights area and yoga classes.


The pun-riddled, Mexican-inspired menu at Black Bear Burrito has enough width and breadth to please both meat eaters and veggies alike, plus a draught list to make the most discerning hipster blush. Favorites include Black Bear Chili and the fish tacos featuring an awesome cabbage slaw over tilapia. If you prefer your nosh made to order, get dialed in with the Build Your Own section of the menu.


If you’re routing through downtown, stop in to Blue Moose Cafe and grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage. This unassuming jitter juice stalwart has a mellow vibe and plenty of naturally lit tables to spread maps out on. Add a fresh bagel, wedge of baklava, or slice of coffee cake to fuel up for your adventure.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.