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Coopers Rock State Forest
Coopers Rock State Forest is a hidden gem for climbers in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is known for its stiff grades and “gritstone” like rock. Conveniently located just off of I-68 in northern West Virginia, it hosts hundreds of established boulder problems, several top-rope climbs, and enough short trad leads for some to warrant bringing a rack. With its close proximity to Morgantown and the West Virginia University campus, it tends to stay fairly busy with climbers, hikers, mountain bikers, and your everyday tourists.
Guidebooks There have been a number of climbing topos created for Coopers Rock, but there are two published guidebooks from Falcon Guides that are the most up to date and helpful. “Coopers Rock Bouldering Guide” is the most current guide for bouldering and “Rock Climbing in VA, WV, and MD” is the most current rope climbing guide. Both of these books can be purchased at Pathfinder in Morgantown.
Geology The “gritstone” featured at Coopers Rock is known as the Upper Connoquenessing Sandstone of the Pottsville Formation. This resistant quartz rich layer of Pennsylvanian age sandstone is roughly 300 million years old. This rock unit outcrops throughout the Cheat Canyon and in many other places in the state including Blackwater Falls, Dolly Sods, and Spruce Knob. For climbers, this rock is characterized by an abundance of slopers, rounded jugs, sloping pockets, and the occasional edge. Many routes here have very shallow features that can only be used effectively due to the very coarse texture of the rock.
Winter Gate Closure Climbing here in the winter tends to be inconvenient due to the forest’s front gate being closed from around December 31st through March 31st, weather dependent. The only way to access the majority of the climbing when the gate is closed is to hike the nearly three miles out the road.
Rainy Days The rock at Coopers tends to take a long time to dry. After a hard rain, plan on giving the area a whole day to dry out. Generally, if the road is dry when you get into the forest, the rock will be dry as well. The first area to dry is usually the Tilted Tree area. Roadside and Upper Rock City take a bit longer. A few bouldering routes that tend to stay dry in the rain are Always Dry Roof, The Cave Route, and most of the routes on the Mad Butcher Block . If you do get totally rained out, Coopers has a good network of trails for hiking and mountain biking. Also, you can visit the climbing wall at the WVU Student Rec Center for $10 per day.
Climbing Rules There are a few important rules here pertaining to climbing, please follow them in order to keep climbing access secure and help us climbers maintain a positive relationship with the park rangers. 1. The forest closes at dark. If your car is still in the parking lot after dark, a ranger will find it and you may be ticketed. 2. Placing bolts is not allowed in Coopers Rock State Forest. If you are caught placing bolts by a ranger, you will likely be prosecuted. While climbing here, you will most likely come across a few bolts. Use them if you will, but just know that these were not placed in accordance with the forest rules. 3. Please adhere to the no climbing zones, this is crucial. These zones include the main overlook and the area surrounding it indicated by “no climbing” signs. They also include the Haystack Block below the main overlook.
Local Gear Shop and Restaurants The local gear shop in Morgantown is Pathfinder, it is located on High Street. They have a large selection of outdoor gear in stock and should have just about any climbing gear you might need. You will also find many good restaurants in this area, most notably Black Bear. This fantastic burrito restaurant has a great variety of food and craft beers and is a favorite among the local outdoor community.
Camping Camping can be had within Coopers Rock State Forest at the McCollum Campground or just outside of the forest and across the interstate at the Chestnut Ridge Campground. Both places have camping for tents, hookups for campers, and shower houses.
Hunting Hunting is quite popular at Coopers Rock. Although much of the climbing is within the no hunting “safe zones”, some is not. If you are outside of these zones during any hunting season, consider wearing bright orange and be respectful of hunters, they have just as much of a right to be there as you do. That being said, if you are within the normal climbing areas listed in the guidebooks and don’t venture too far off of the trails, you should be fine.
Located in West Virginia, just off of Exit 15 on I-68. 20 minutes East of Morgantown. 1.5 hours South of Pittsburgh. 3 hours West of DC.