Cooper’s Rock State Forest Hike
20 April 2012 – 9 Miles
My wife had a conference at nearby Cheat Lake today, so I dropped her off and headed up the mountain to Coppers Rock State Forest for a day-hike. It was a beautiful day – sunny and 50s warming up to the 70s.
Notes from the official website: http://www.coopersrockstateforest.com/
Coopers Rock State Forest gets its name from a legend about a fugitive who hid from the law near what is now the overlook. A cooper by trade, he resumed making barrels at his new mountain hideout, selling them to people in nearby communities. He lived and worked in the forest for many years. During the Depression, between 1936 and 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built numerous structures in the forest, often using durable American chestnut wood from trees that succumbed to a blight that nearly wiped out the species. Eleven of these structures, including the rustic picnic shelters near the overlook, have been included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coopers Rock State Forest is 13 miles east of Morgantown and 8 miles west of Bruceton Mills. Its 12,713 acres are bisected by Interstate 68. Although the forest serves as a recreation and preservation area, it has a wider range of uses. West Virginia's state forests also serve as areas of publicly owned land for forestry research, timber management, and watershed and wildlife protection. The side north of Interstate 68, known as the WVU Forest, makes up the forest management area leased by the West Virginia University Division of Forestry for forestry research, teaching, and demonstration. To the south of I-68 is the main recreation area.
Bands of rock cliffs line the Cheat River Gorge and provide numerous overlooks. The centerpiece among these is the main overlook, which furnishes a panorama of the gorge and distant horizons. A maze of enormous boulders and cliffs fascinates hikers, and the trails are especially lovely in June when the rhododendron and mountain laurel are in bloom. Several trails wind through forest valleys and over ridges, and a number of creeks beckon the explorer. Glade Run is dammed to form a 6-acre pond that is regularly stocked with trout. The observant hiker can hear and sometimes see squirrels, chipmunks, hawks, owls, turkeys, turkey vulture, songbirds, fox and deer throughout the forest.
Entrance to Cooper’s Rock State Forest off I-68 / Exit 15 – just east of Morgantown
During the winter, there is a gate just ahead that is closed and locked. There is a parking lot just to the right if you are here for winter sports, like cross country skiing.
WV Historical Marker tells about the geology of the area.
Three miles in from the front gate is the parking lot and concession stand (still closed for winter when I was there). The rocks and overlook are just to the left about 200 yards.
From the main parking lot, the short trail to the overlook is well marked.
Coming up on the overlook area.
There is a nice footbridge over to the overlook rock area.
Looking down from the footbridge, you can see some of the vertical rock formations so popular with climbers here.
The overlook – Morgantown is visible about 10 miles to the west.
A view to the left from the overlook.
(Time- 9:30AM) After enjoying the view from the overlook, it was time to get started on the hike. From the parking lot, it was a short walk up the entrance road to a side road leading to the trail.
With the guide notes listed in the “50 Hikes in West Virginia” book, the well-marked trails were pretty easy to follow.
The first section of trail follows the entrance road for awhile. Nice and smooth, it’s a good warm-up.
Walking through a clearing with tall spruce trees along the path.
Although we had a mild winter and early spring, the higher elevation of the area puts it several weeks behind nearby Morgantown in regards to plant growth.
Soon, I switched to a different trail that is part of the 9-mile loop.
Two interesting signs at the entrance to Raven Rock Trail.
The trail leading to the camping area was a little rough in spots – just getting warmed up for rougher roads later.
Rough in places, smooth in places.
Lots of large rocks/boulders along the ridge and trail.
What a beautiful day for a hike! Although cooler than in town, it was starting to warm up as the sun rose higher in the sky.
(Time – 10:10AM) At about the 2-mile point, the trail comes out at the campground. There is a road leading into the campground, so you can easily drive here.
There were several campers set up here already. Nice campsites!
The next section of the hike is on the Scott Run Hiking Trail.
This section was more difficult walking as the trail descended and was covered in loose, grapefruit-size rocks.
Large rocks continue to decorate the trailside.
In addition to the loose, uneven rocks, there were sections of the trail swampy with water runoff.
My good pace up to now suddenly slowed a little.
A small footbridge at the 2.6-mile point.
The trail then ascends through thick laurel blossoms, which will probably be beautiful in a few weeks.
Posing by one of the many trailside rocks for a sense of scale. This was actually one of the smaller ones.
The trail takes a turn and continues along Scott Run for awhile.
How peaceful – walking alongside Scott Run. If it was a hot summer day, I’d have my boots off and be wading to cool off.
Continuing along Scott Run Trail. Quite a variety of vegetation even this early in the spring.
Many rock formations had covered areas that looked interesting. I wonder how many pioneers camped in there?
A spring burst through the ground cover and trickled downhill to the stream. (Diameter about 12 inches)
A little further on, the trail comes down next to Scott Run. Very peaceful.
This moss-covered rock was also home to new vegetation sprouting from every opportunity to get a root-hold.
Continuing along Scott Run. (About the 4-mile point)
I tried unsuccessfully to take a few photos of some small Purple Violets, but lucked out with this one.
The flower is about the size of your pinkie fingernail.
Starting to hear a little bit of the I-68 Interstate traffic about a half-mile ahead.
One of three footbridges on the Scott Run Trail section.
I’d love to take off my boots and soak my tired feet, but I’m starting to get hungry and I want to make it to the Henry Clay Furnace.
Footbridge number 2, and another nice view of Scott Run.
By the third bridge (about 4.5-mile point), Scott Run was little more than a trickle.
The last section of the Scott Run Trail as it approaches the main entrance to the park. Interstate traffic was becoming more noticeable, but not bad.
The last small trail leading up to the parking lot by the park entrance.
Another one of the small flowers beginning to bloom along the trailside. These are very small – smaller even than your pinkie fingernail.
I will have to come back sometime when more of the flowers are blooming.
Uphill to the entrance of the park. It was on this section that I met the first person on the trail, a jogger, after 4.5 miles.
This tree was covered in a type of fungus that is common around here. I don’t the name, though. I’ll try to do some research or ask around.
The different trails are marked with different color “blazes”, or marks/ribbons on the trailside trees or rocks every 50 feet or so.
First half of the hike completed. Park entrance parking lot – mile 4.8.
Through the parking lot and it’s on to the Cross Country Ski Trail for awhile. No skiers today.
Nice trail, and the sounds of the interstate are quickly disappearing behind me.
There are several pits along the trail that are from the old charcoal hearths and iron ore mines of days past.
Soon the trail crosses the access road for the Henry Clay Iron Furnace.
Straight across the road, the trail continues downhill towards the Henry Clay Iron Furnace.
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra
Thankfully, the “50 Hikes in West Virginia” book tells you which trail to take at every junction.
Continuing down the long downhill section that follows. This small footbridge traverses a small stream as it trickles downhill.
The bad thing about long downhill sections is that there has to be a long uphill section to get back to where you started.
Continuing down the long downhill section towards the Henry Clay furnace. About the 6-mile point here.
On this section, I was surprised to see a young lady pedaling a mountain bike furiously up the hill. Wouldn’t it be easier and quicker just to get off and walk it up?
As I approached the Henry Clay Iron Furnace, another biker (an older gentleman) came around the bend.
Just the top of the Henry Clay Iron Furnace is visible as the trail approaches from above.
The trail wraps around the hillside and presents a spectacular view of the old furnace.
This plaque along side of the furnace gives a bit of history. Sounds like this place was once booming with industry.
Nice view farther down the trail from the furnace. Before I continue, though, it’s lunchtime!
Lunchtime – 7 miles down and 2 to go. A bagel and an apple. Time – 12:20.
Well, after all of the downhill hiking the past hour, I knew this part was coming.
The camera is pointed straight ahead – that’s a pretty steep climb, and it just keeps coming and coming.
Interesting to see these small trees growing out of moss on rocks like this one in the foreground.
What’s the old saying? “Grow where you are planted.”
After 20 minutes of uphill, the trail levels off for a short while. Getting back to the rocky area.
The trail heads towards the area known as “Rock City”. It’s an area of large rocks that are close together, like buildings in a city.
After 30 minutes of walking through the woods, lo and behold…..
Civilization – West Virginia style.
Rock City Picnic Pavillion was nearby, with signs for the short detour into Rock City.
The following photos are from Rock City
Interesting to walk around between the boulders, but it’s time to move on. Only one mile to go. Unfortunately, a very tough and slow mile for me.
Hmmm. I had already seen one snake, a harmless grass snake.
Rattlesnakes are a different matter. Want to see me run and scream like a little girl?
The following photos are from the Rattlesnake Trail. Rough going and my pace slowed.
Notice the blue blazes on some of the trees and rocks.
The Rattlesnake Trail proved to be a good workout. The final mile had me working hard climbing up and over the rocks.
Luckily, no rattlesnakes.
Getting closer to the main overlook, these students were learning the art of rock climbing.
Close to the parking lot now.
The back of the concession stand at the parking lot. My boots feel like they’re made of cement.
Total hike – 9 miles. Time 1:45PM (Total = 4hrs 15min - including 20 minute lunch break, photos, and a few short breaks)
I had a great time getting back to nature. My family used to come up here when I was a kid – before the interstates, when it was a 2 hour drive from Clarksburg. Our son Spencer likes coming up here too with his friends at WVU to go hiking, so this State Forest is seeing the third generation of my family walk these paths. I hope you enjoyed walking along with me today on this hike. See you at the next trailhead.
I purchased the book 50 Hikes in West Virginia by Leonard M. Atkins through Amazon online. It is also available at major book stores. Price is $16.95. It is VERY helpful in that he walks you through the trail turn by turn, so you know which way to go when the trail splits. It saved me several times today. Otherwise, I would have probably ventured down the wrong path many times and had to backtrack. He has selected 50 hikes from short (less than 1 mile) to several between 20-45 miles. I highly recommend this book!
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Here are two photos of the pack:
Next on the shopping list – comfortable, lightweight hiking boots. Hard to find in size 13 narrow. We’ll see.
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