Coopers Rock Trail Running Odyssey

Coopers Rock State Forest has lots of cool trails, about 50 miles worth.  It’s located NE of Morgantown, off I-68. This has remained my favorite place to run trails for about four years now, mostly due to the rocky single tracks and decent elevation – I think I get up to about 2100 ft. in places around the visitor center. The visitor center has running water, a concession stand and bathrooms. About 5K away from the picnic and pavilion standard family hoedown clearings, at the entrance to the forest, there’s a little parking lot you can slide into to start hiking immediately if needed. A rather pedestrian trail connect the two points. It’s called Roadside Trail and it does the side of the road fairly trailingly. There’s some mud. That fresh air, those deep woods, you have to understand how good it is to get out of your plastic motorsquid and escape into the timber, knee-high in ferns, where the sound of the interstate recedes and is replaced with the rushing of small creeks that wash down to Cheat Lake, at around 700 ft. in elevation.

I like to go to the ends of the trails, through the heart of the state forest, where I can run for miles and not see a damn soul. I dodged my first rattler here. The woods are full of rhododendrons. It smells nice. That’s good, because I end up smelling the opposite.

My Garmin broke the other day, the band fell off. I emailed tech support. A few days later I received a reply. I was urged to register the watch – I hadn’t. So, I did. I registered a watch I bought six months ago. Now it looked like this.

Forerunner 10 - 6.5 hr GPS battery life. Lasted 6 months. Boo!
Forerunner 10 – 6.5 hr GPS battery life. Lasted 6 months. Boo!

So, I ended up super-gluing the watch back together, effectively shutting me out of any further help from Garmin. In true Garmin style, no reply, no acknowledgement whatsoever when I told them I’d glued the watch after waiting a week for their support. I asked them if my watch was in the Forbidden Zone of Customer Service, like General Zod, doomed to the abyss. No reply. Zod for life!

I used the watch on my run, brought it home, and found it no longer works with the Garmin software. I sought help again. I  was urged to re-format the watch after downloading new software. Now all my runs are erased, and it still won’t upload. Pisser. My old watch was an $8 Casio with fancy-ass Indiglo and a 24hr display option. It still runs after 5 years of rough wear and tear. Bye by Garmin, hello 20th century nerdstyle.

 So, anyways – sorry for venting, but I don’t like crappy deals – I clocked a 8.36 mile run on the Garmin over a two-hour period and nearly killed the charged battery. Grr! I wanted to link to the routes I took to exmine the altitudes of the heavily chronicled run. I ran a variety of trails from point-to-point, from summit to the lake and back, took lots of shots.

I have a massive 12-hr trail run scheduled for Saturday.  Coopers Rock is the closest thing I can find to the trail run. It has lots of rocky mayhem, muddy creek crossings, and some elevation. If I do 50 miles next SaturdayI’ll get over 8,000 ft. in elevation gains. I got about 1600ft. in 8 miles here.

Anyways, the pictures and video that follow are of my journey through Coopers Rock State Forest. I used to run it at least once a month. I did 8.36 miles in two-hours of running, taking photos and video. I am sorry I didn’t get more pictures of Rattlesnake Trail, but it was dark with shadow and I was crawling through a lot of rhododendrons and worried I might fall and inadvertently damage the camera.

Course: I started at the Roadside Parking Lot, took Roadside Trail to the Advanced Cross Country Ski Trail down to Henry Clay Furnace (it’s like the town square of the trail system), ran it to the very end of Clay Furnace (no longer maintained) to the boulder fill where an old bridge once stood, doubled back to the furnace, did a mile loop to a second parking lot straight up a trail to a second parking lot and back (a mile o&b), head back down Clay Furnace to a creek crossing onto Mont Chateau trail, take the south leg down to the lake and back,  then back up the north leg of Mont Chateau Trail, connect to  Ridge Trail, follow it up and up to and through Rock City, then navigated Rattlesnake Trail back to the place where people hunker down and eat burgers, where I would meet with family and eat tasty burgers, watermelon and pasta salad and spray myself down with enough cologne to get hugs from relatives who’d flown in from Ohio and Florida to picnic there at the summit before taking a group stroll to the Overlook. 


I ran to this abandoned coke furnace, went right down to Clay Furnace trail, came back, took Henry Clay Trail up to a different parking lot, came back to the furnace, then made my way to Mont Chateau and, eventually, the lake for a dip.

Henry Clay furnace



I exited advanced ski trail, went right on Clay Furnace – very technical – down to the boulder field



Every time I came back to this massive structure, I had to take a picture. It reminded me of an Aztec temple.



I ran up to the Henry Clay parking lot and back, and took another shot.



And another. Thing rose like fifty feet, huge.



I took Clay Run to Mont Chateau.







Click the blurry sign for a complete map of the park and trail system.



Post hole drilled in rock at end of Clay Furnace, where an old bridge used to traverse a narrow, rocky gulch.



I’m standing on a pile of rocks reaching down about thirty feet to a small, swift stream. The water is flowing through the rocks underneath me far below. Cold air rushes up through these gaps.


Steep trail to the lake.
Steep trail to the lake.


South Mont chateau single-track



The swimming hole. Click the picture! Bien venidos a la playa del Rio No Dinero.



The water rose to my shoulders. I went for a refreshing dip, retrieved my gear and hiked back up the trail to Ridge Trail, which features a hill called Puke that’s used in the annual Stump Jump 10K. I’ve run it twice, medaled once, in my old man division. Boom! I missed Puke Hill because I was on my way to Rock City.

The quiet, rolling ascent to Rock City up Ridge Trail.




Ridge Trail



Ridge Trail






Still climbing Ridge Trail



When you get to Rock City, don’t be surprised if it’s full of hikers and bikers. It’s only a mile from the Soylent Green Convention, so I said hallo to many nice folks here.


rock city
rock city




Is this some kind of moss potato? I saw another one that was bright red. This one looked like a little Yukon potato. Is there such a thing as a moss potato?



Hot town, summer in the city.
















Rock City, 1950s postcard style




















070 (1280x960)









Entering Rattlesnake Trail














Afterwards, I went for burgers and a view from the Overlook.


The Overlook over Cheat River. Snake Hill Wildlife Area rises from the right bank, and that’s another great place to run.



When I lived close by, I’d run this route in reverse again to get back home, A solid marathon run with incredible scenery. This is what you can find if you go trail-running in West Virgina. My next run will include Raven’s Rock, which I’ve yet to run! Below is a description of the trails:

Clay Furnace Trail 
Length: .8 miles. Walking time: 40 minutes
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail is a fairly level grade, however, it does have a few steep sections. Beginning at the furnace parking area, the trail ends at the Henry Clay iron furnace.

Clay Run Trail 
Length: 1.8 miles. Walking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Blaze: Blue
Difficulty: moderate
View the historic Henry Clay Iron Furnace at the end of this moderate hiking trail. The trail begins across the road from the McCollum camping area entrance.

Darnell Hollow Trail
Length: 4 miles. Walking time: 2 hours
Blaze: none
Difficulty: moderate/steep
This moderate to steep road/trail begins near the Calvary Church on Fairchance Road and ends at Chestnut Ridge Campground.

Eagle Trail
Length: .3 miles Walking time: 15 minutes
Blaze: White
Difficulty: Easy
This very easy trail starts to the right side of the gift shop and takes you to shelter #3 and the trailhead of Rock City Trail.

Glade Run Trail
Length: 1.5 miles. Walking time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: moderate/steep
Beginning on the left of Sand Springs Road and ending at Messinger Lake.

Goodspeed Highway Trail 
Length: 3 mile. Walking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: easy .
This road/trail begins at the Quarry Run Road and leads to Chestnut Ridge Camp.

Johnson Hollow Trail 
Length: 3 mile. Walking time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
A moderate to steep hiking trail that connects the Goodspeed Highway Trail with Quarry Run Road.

Ken’s Run Trail
Length: 4.5 miles. Walking time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: moderate
A moderate hiking trail running from the old Sand Springs homestead and ending at the archery range parking lot.

Lick Run Trail 
Length: 1.8 miles. Walking time: 45 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: moderate to difficult
A moderately steep trail beginning at Sand Springs Road and ending at WV Rt. 73.

McCollum Trail
Length: 1 mile. Walking time: 40 minutes
Blaze: Orange
Difficulty: Easy
This trail starts at McCollum Campground, crosses Ravens Rock Trail and connects with the main forest road. It is a great connector trail from the campground to Ravens Rock Trail or Coopers Rock Overlook via Roadside Trail

Mont Chateau Trail
Length: 2.6 miles. Walking time: 2 hours
Blaze: Yellow
Difficulty: Moderate/Steep
This trail that begins at the Henry Clay iron furnace and ends at Cheat Lake near the old Mont Chateau Lodge.

Rattlesnake Trail 
Length: .7 mile. Walking time: 40 minutes
Blaze: Blue
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail winds along the rocky cliffs that parallel the rim of the Cheat River canyon, and connects the concession stand and Rock City.

Ravens Rock Trail
Length: 1.5 miles. Walking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Moderate
This dual duty access road/trail begins at the gated road on the left, approximately .7 miles past the campground entrance. It leads to Ravens Rock overlook, which gives a spectacular view of the Cheat River canyon.

Reservoir Loop Trail
Length: .7 miles Walking time: 30 minutes
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Easy
Nice trail for those looking for an easy loop hike. It starts from the Clay Run Trail, near the reservoir, and loops back to Clay Run Trail.

Rhododendron Trail 
Length: 1 mile. Walking time: 1 hour
Blaze: Orange
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail which starts at the lower picnic area near shelter 3 and ends at the Henry Clay iron furnace, is a perfect place to see our state flower, the rhododendron.

Ridge Trail 
Length: 1.5 miles. Walking time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Blaze: White
Difficulty: Moderate
The ridge trail starts at the Rock City shelter, follows a moderate grade and connects with the Mont Chateau Trail.

Rock City Trail
Length: 1 mile. Walking time: 45 minutes
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Easy
An easy to moderate trail that runs from picnic shelter #3 through the area known as  Rock City

Roadside Trail
Length: 3 mile. Walking time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Blaze: none
Difficulty: Easy
An easy trail that leads from the parking lot located near the forest entrance to the overlook. This trail is a great trail to hike to the overlook while staying off the road.

Scott Run Trail 
Length: 2.5 miles. Walking time: 2 hours
Blaze: Yellow
Difficulty: Moderate/Steep
The trail begins near the forest entrance parking area and ending at the McCollum camping area.

Underlook Trail
Length: .2 miles Walking time: 20 minutes
Blaze: Red
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail gives a unique view from the underside of the geological formation that is Coopers Rock overlook.

Virgin Hemlock Trail 

Length: 1.2 miles. Walking time: 1 hour
Blaze: none
Difficulty: Easy
1.2 miles Visit a large hemlock grove which is over 300 years old at the end of this trail which starts at WV Rt. 73.


Intermediate Ski Trail
Length: .6 miles. Walking time: 30 minutes
Blaze: Blue
Difficulty: Moderate
This trail is a connector trail between the Advanced Ski Trail and the Reservoir Ski Trail

Advanced Ski Trail
Length: 2.3 miles. Walking time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
This trail begins at the forest entrance parking area. For a short distance this trail shares Roadside Trail. When Roadside Trail forks off to the left, continue straight. The trail will lead you to the historic Henry Clay iron furnace.

Reservoir Ski Trail
Length: .8 miles. Walking time: 1 hour
Blaze: White
Difficulty: Moderate
Branching off of the Advanced Ski Trail, this trail connects to the Reservoir Loop Trail.





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