In the fall, being a Mountaineer in Morgantown usually means congregating at Milan Puskar Stadium to watch West Virginia University’s beloved football team battle it out with Big East rivals. But if your outdoor passions go beyond pigskin, this revitalized small city on the edge of the Monongahela River has plenty of options to whet your adventure whistle.
COLORFUL COOPER’S ROCK
The fiery hues of fall are especially vibrant in Cooper’s Rock State Forest. The 12,000-acre expanse just east of town is a one-stop shop for adventure. The state park has 50 miles of winding forested trails that are available for a fat-tire fix or an afternoon hike. There are also trails designated for cross-country skiing when the snow starts to fall. Climbers covet Cooper’s Rock for its hard sandstone (known as “gritstone”) cliffs that provide an array of crack and face routes above the Cheat River Gorge.
Morgantown doesn’t typically get widespread cred among paddlers, but the town has a plethora of easy access options for both high-intensity whitewater action and flatwater fun. Big-water boaters should head to the Cheat River. The 13-mile stretch of Cheat Canyon from Albright offers remote class-V action on wild rapids like Big Nasty and Tear Drop. More moderate class II-IV flow can be found winding through the massive boulders of the Cheat Narrows. Cheat River Outfitters leads whitewater rafting trips on both sections through November. Adventures on Magic River leads slow-paced kayaking tours on the Monongahela right from downtown. Mellow waters can also be found on the 1730-acre Cheat Lake, publicly accessed at Cheat Lake Park.
The 48-mile Mon River/Caperton/Deckers Creek Rail-Trail system runs right out of downtown Morgantown in three directions. The former railroad grades with mostly crushed limestone and some paved surfaces are popular trails for running, cycling, and cross country skiing. Deckers Creek is the site of the fastest (mostly downhill) half-marathon in West Virginia every summer.
For casual grub, grab a creatively rolled concoction at Black Bear Burritos, which has live music most nights of the week. For more upscale fare, try the Caribbean and Asian fusion flavors of Sargasso.