The late singer John Denver famously crooned “Almost heaven, West Virginia” in the song “Country Roads.” While this lyric was not inspired by Coopers Rock State Forest, the description definitely fits the site, featuring sandstone cliffs for bouldering, beautiful canyon overlooks and more than 50 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Located about 13 miles outside of Morgantown in Bruceton Mills, the state forest was established in 1936. It takes its name from the sandstone cliffs above the Cheat River Gorge, and also from an infamous fugitive who reportedly hid out there. The fugitive was a cooper, or someone who makes casks and barrels. He continued to make and sell barrels here as he hid from the authorities.
One the most popular areas in the state forest is the remains of the Henry Clay Furnace — the first steam-powered blast furnace in Virginia, established in the early 1800s. And no, that’s not a misprint. The area was then part of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (President Lincoln proclaimed West Virginia a state in 1863.)
Coopers Rock’s campground features 25 sites, with electrical hookups and bathhouse facilities. The state forest also offers “glamping” rentals via Tentrr – including a pre-set canvas tent furnished with a queen-size memory foam mattress, heater, solar shower and more.
If you’re looking for less rustic accommodations, try nearby Lakeview Golf Resort and Spa in Morgantown, and play a round of golf while you’re at it.
For daytrippers, multiple picnic areas are also spread throughout the park.
During warm weather, head to the lake for fishing, hike one of 21 trails or take on the cliffs for climbing and bouldering adventures. The Cheat River is also a great spot for whitewater rafting, if you are up for it.
In the winter, three ski trails are open for various skill levels.
By Gina Gallucci-White