The West Virginia University (WVU) Research Forest is part of Coopers Rock State Forest, which is about 10 miles outside of Morgantown, WV. The WVU Research Forest covers 7,600 acres on the north side of Interstate 68, and it is less traveled than the south side of the interstate. The university uses the forest as a lab for Forestry and Forest Management programs.
What Makes It Great
The WVU Research Forest is about 20 minutes from Morgantown, which is one of the 5 largest cities in West Virginia. It’s a great quick trip for Morgantown locals, and also attracts rock climbers from around the United States. Because of the WVU Research Forest’s location, it gets more snowfall in the winter and has cooler temperatures in the summer than nearby Morgantown. The WVU Forest isn't as well known as other nearby areas, so it will feel like you have the trail and the scenic views all to yourself.
If you are looking for a great loop hike that is good for all ages, the Virgin Hemlock Trail is one to add to your list. It’s easily the most popular trail on the WVU Forest portion of Coopers Rock State Forest. Part of the trail follows Laurel Run, where you can find the old growth hemlocks. This is a great spot to seek a cool respite from the heat of the summer.
Who is Going to Love It
Day hikers who like solitude and exploring lesser-developed trails will enjoy the WVU Forest. There are several overlooks and rock features at the forest, but you will have to look for them instead of being led by groomed, marked trails.
Summer is a great time for families to visit the forest. The adjacent Chestnut Ridge Park has bluegrass concerts on select Saturday evenings in the summer—a relaxing way to end a day of hiking.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Hiking in the WVU Forest is free. There are several trailheads along Chestnut Ridge Road, and a gravel pull-off for the Virgin Hemlock Trail off of Route 73.
Watch out for mountain bikers and hunters on the trails. Wear blaze orange or at least bright colors when you’re hiking in the fall.
The forest is open all year, but the WVU Outdoor Education Center and any areas being logged are off-limits to hikers. The Outdoor Education Center has group activities and a canopy tour that are open to the public, but they require advance reservations.