A Brief Intro to Mountain Biking in the Forest


Part One: Overview As all experienced mountain bikers know, trail systems open to mountain biking aren't always easy to find. We're lucky to have many miles of trails in Coopers Rock State Forest that are open to mountain biking—especially so close to a significant population center: Morgantown, West Virginia. If you're a new mountain biker, the Roadside Trail is a perfect beginner trail. Starting at the front gate (Day Use) parking area on the south side of I-68, the Roadside Trail winds through the forest for about 3 miles to the Overlook parking area. Though the trail never wanders far from the main road (hence the name), there are plenty of places where you don't see the road at all—and it's a deep forest experience. The trail surface is smooth and non-technical and can be ridden comfortably on hybrid bikes as well as mountain bikes. (It's also ideal for kids.) For the most part, the trail is either flat or gently rolling, though there are a couple short, moderate climbs that (depending on your fitness) you might have to walk. For intermediate and expert MTBers, Coopers Rock is an endurance training ground. You won't find the kinds of intense, rocky, technical trails that you'll find farther east at Big Bear Lake (Hazelton, WV) or Greenbrier and Gambrill State Parks in Maryland. But you will find miles and miles of singletrack and doubletrack trails—many of which are rocky and rooty enough to keep your attention but not slow you down too much...unless you're climbing. Some MTBers grumble about riding at Coopers Rock because outside the Roadside Trail, there is very little flat terrain. At Coops, you'll either be climbing or rolling down long grades. But the scenery makes up for it—trails follow streams, parallel ravines, wander past big rock formations, and roll through open areas surrounded by forest. And if your goal is to build your endurance (for example, training for the Shenandoah 100), it's an excellent training site. The Roadside Trail makes a convenient way to connect several other trails—as well as an easy roll back to your car after humping up some serious climbs for a while. Perhaps the best thing about Coopers Rock is that there is so much space throughout the forest that it's rarely crowded. On nice weekends you'll pass plenty of hikers and bikers on the Roadside Trail...but on other trails, you're likely to not see anyone else at all...or only pass a few widely-spaced hikers and bikers. NOTE: The best mountain biking in the forest is on the south side of I-68. While trails on the north side of I-68 are also open to mountain biking, they're rough—not as in "technical," but as in "curse and spit at the trail washouts, deep stream crossings and (at times) dozens of unrideable downed trees across the trail." So you're better off sticking to the south side—where the Foundation and the forest staff focus their trail maintenance efforts. But if you enjoy wild adventure, then by all means give the trails on the north side a shot! There are plenty of nice, rideable trail sections...but you're much more likely to have to dismount to get around obstacles. In Part Two of this article, we'll post some specific loop recommendations (with trail names).