About this Itinerary
Nestled in the hills of northern West Virginia, Morgantown is the ideal base from which to explore many of the natural wonders of this extraordinary state. Home of West Virginia University, the town is located on the Monongahela River and offers an abundance of recreational activities. From the revitalized wharf district it is possible to bike for more than 50 miles in multiple directions on tranquil wooded routes without having to drive to a trailhead. For this itinerary, we will explore one of the several rail-trail options available, the Mon River Trail South.
Our route on the Mon River Trail South is nearly 18 miles; beginning just outside downtown, it follows the Monongahela River, which twists and turns as it winds its way to Prickett’s Fort State Park. Along the route, enjoy stunning river views, waterfalls, meadows, and historical locks and dams. The crushed limestone trail is popular with runners, walkers, and bikers, but once you leave the city behind you shouldn’t see a lot of other trail users. Weekend running and biking events regularly take place along the route, however, so check here before you plan your ride to ensure there are no conflicts.
The Monongahela River will never be far from sight during your ride on the Mon River Trail South, so it is only fitting that our recommended accommodations for this itinerary be riverfront. Located in the wharf district, the Waterfront Place Hotel is Morgantown’s premier waterfront property and offers well-appointed rooms or suites with free WiFi, an indoor pool, onsite dining, and spa services. From the hotel, it is easy to walk to several restaurants, and it is situated across the street from the Caperton Trail, which runs for six paved miles through the urban heart of the town and connects to other trails in the network.
Bike rentals are available at Wamsley Cycles. Located north of the hotel along the Caperton Trail, this full service bike shop rents hybrid and tandem bikes as well as trailers. Call ahead to reserve as this is the only rental shop in the area. The shop also has a service department if that is needed.
Before heading out for the day, be sure to bring full water bottles and pack a lunch, as there will be no trailside businesses from which to purchase a meal (a limited selection of snacks are available at Prickett’s Fort State Park at the end of the trail). The waterside trail does, however, provide the ideal setting for a picnic. If you are in town on a Saturday morning, before heading out, stop by the local Farmer’s Market at 415 Spruce Street to pick up the perfect fixings for a trailside lunch. The market features a diverse assortment of more than 40 vendors with fresh produce, meats, breads, and more, all grown within 50 miles of town. Near the market also find the Blue Moose Cafe, where you can also pick up a sandwich and cold drinks to go, as well as breakfast.
From the Waterfront Place Hotel, head south on the Caperton Trail for about 1.5 miles before reaching the Mon River Trail South trailhead. The trail winds its way gradually southwest with many twists and turns as it follows the Monongahela River. As you ride, keep your eyes open for wildlife hidden in the thick forest. In the spring, you may find the surrounding meadows blanketed with colorful wildflowers and, in the fall, the leaves will create a brilliantly hued path of oranges, reds, and golds.
As tranquil as a ride on the Mon River Trail is today, this was not always the case. This was once the route of the Fairmont, Morgantown, and Pittsburgh Railroad and was an extremely busy corridor carrying coal, glass, sand, limestone, and other items. This route was put in to service in 1886 and nicknamed the Sheepskin,as trains scattered sheep. Eventually this line was purchased by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and later CSX Railroad. Along the route, you will see relics from the trail’s former life as a rail line.
The trail ends at Prickett’s Fort State Park, a 22-acre park that contains a re-creation of the original 1774 fort. At the fort, visitors can experience life on the colonial frontier through a series of interpretative sites that show various facets of life in the 18th century. See a blacksmith at work, spinners, weavers, and a gun shop featuring the only public demonstrations of 18th-century firearm manufacturing in the state. Tour the site before heading back north on the Mon River Trail to Morgantown.
If you are interested in biking a little farther south, you can connect to the 2.5 mile MC Trail, which ends in the town of Fairmont. Along the way, bike through a dramatic 1,200-foot lighted tunnel. Note that there are no restaurants or shops near the end of the trail in Fairmont.
Upon your return to town, head a little farther along the Caperton Trail to reach the Mountain State Brewing Company. Located trailside, this is the perfect place to cap off a full day of biking. Enjoy a pint of the Cold Trail Ale or another of the fresh, in-house brewed beers. The brewery also offers a full menu with such snack items as wood-fired bruschetta and country caviar, as well as an innovative array of sandwiches, salads, and pizzas.
If you’re up for more biking, take advantage of another trail that is accessible right from the waterfront. Head to Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park on the Caperton Trail to reach the trailhead for the Deckers Creek Trail. This route travels 19 miles through the heart of Morgantown before entering a rural landscape with a 1,000-foot elevation gain before ending in the small town of Reedsville. Part of this trail is paved, but the rural sections are crushed stone.
Farther north, the Caperton Trail passes through West Virginia University’s Core Arboretum. Situated on 91 acres along the waterfront, this old-growth forest includes a densely wooded area with more than 3.5 miles of walking trails. Free and open to the public daily, the arboretum offers nice views of the Monongahela River from its steep hillside location. Stop to wander the trails or just take in the stunning scenery. This is also an ideal place to enjoy a picnic.
If you are interested in riding the Mon River Trail North, continue along the Caperton Trail to its end in Star City to pick up the southern trailhead. The crushed-stone trail travels through dense woodland and offers a scenic route that ends at the Pennsylvania border. Future plans call for adding connecting trails so that riders will one day be able to reach trails that will take them all the way to Pittsburgh and onward.
This region of West Virginia has some of the most spectacular white water rafting in the country. Experience the magnificent Cheat Canyon as it winds its way through 13 miles of pristine wilderness. Take an organized tour with Cheat River Outfitters, who offer several options for rafting that will suit all ability and comfort levels. This outfitter is located about 45 minutes southeast of Morgantown. Be sure to book well in advance to secure your ideal whitewater rafting adventure.
To experience the local waters in a calmer manner, rent a canoe or kayak from Padlz Canoe and Kayak Rentals. Located in nearby Bruceton Mills, enjoy an afternoon taking a leisurely paddle trip on the calm waters of Brockton Mills Lake. This is the perfect active excursion for all ages and abilities and the friendly, family-owned outfitter is the perfect place to get set-up for a memorable adventure.
Located just 13 miles east of Morgantown, find Coopers Rock State Forest. With almost 16,000 acres, the park has nearly 50 miles of trails for hiking and biking. View stunning rock cliffs and climb to an overlook for a panorama view of the gorge and surrounding mountains and valleys. Scramble through a boulder field, stroll through an area dense with rhododendron bushes, and explore a number of creeks.
Visit one of the premier wineries in the area at Forks of Cheat. Located in the mountains outside of Morgantown, the winery is set on more than sixteen stunning acres of hillside overlooking the Cheat River. Their award-winning wines are crafted with French hybrid and American varietal grapes, and for more than twenty years they have been known for producing some of the best wines in the region. Stop by to sample the wines and enjoy a glass on the gorgeous sundeck. Tours of the winery and onsite distillery are also available by appointment.
After a day of adventuring, Morgantown has a diverse array of restaurant choices for dinner. Near the hotel, find Table 9. This gastropub focuses on delivering fresh seasonally-peak foods with ingredients sourced from local farms. The cuisine is New American and the chef specializes in small plates. The menu changes regularly depending on what is fresh and available. Stop by to experience the beautiful waterfront dining room and innovative cuisine. For a taste of Italy, head to Oliverios' Ristorante. Also on the waterfront, just past Mountain State Brewing, this local family-owned restaurant serves classic Italian dishes. Enjoy a glass of wine and a filling meal at this popular local spot. Located downtown, try the Iron Horse Tavern. This casual dining restaurant features craft beers and specialty drinks with unique, gourmet pub fare. Try the wild mushroom pierogies, the tuna salad, or one of the mouth-watering deluxe burgers. Top it off with a West Virginian craft beer or one of the many house drinks.