Your guide to bouldering and climbing West Virginia’s state parks

Conquer these challenging crags on your way to becoming a rock climbing pro.

Craving adventure, but the hiking trails have you searching for something a little more challenging? Go vertical and discover the exciting world of rock climbing and bouldering. Give this popular sport a try and see why there’s nothing more exhilarating and freeing than conquering a crag for the first time!

West Virginia has some of the best climbing destinations on the East Coast. But if the idea of hanging from a cliff at Seneca Rocks or dangling from an overhang in the New River Gorge makes you feel nervous, relax. You can start small and learn the ropes at several state parks and forests. Here’s three that have plenty of accessible and beginner crags you can test your climbing skills on.

Coopers Rock State Forest

Known for stiff grades and “gritstone,” Coopers Rock State Forest has some of the best bouldering you’ll find in all of West Virginia. It also has rock climbing areas worth checking out.

Located along the rim of the Cheat River Gorge off Interstate 68 about 13 miles east of Morgantown, Coopers Rock has hundreds of boulders climbers of all skill sets can enjoy. Jump on some of the best problems, from basic scrambling all the way to challenging V12s.

Click here to learn more about rock climbing at Coopers Rock.

There’s so much to climb at Coopers Rock, you’ll need an entire week or more to do it all. Get a campsite for the week, and make sure you also take some time for the scenic views at Ravens Rock overlook.

rock climbing west virginia state parks

North Bend State Park

New to rock climbing and bouldering? You’ll want to head to North Bend State Park and sign up for the Quest program’s guided rappelling and rock climbing class. Designed to introduce you to the sport, this class will help you learn the basic techniques of climbing and rappelling on the Big Easy Rock Cliffs, a sandstone formation located above the North Fork of the Hughes River. No worries if you don’t have your own climbing equipment. The park has everything you need, so all you have to do is plan your trip.

Prefer to climb without a guide? North Bend has several developed crags and sport routes for trad and top rope climbing and bouldering. Make a weeknd climbing trip out of it and stay in a cozy cabin or lodge room, or pitch a tent at one of the parks campsites.

Click here to learn more about rock climbing in North Bend State Park.

Kanawha State Forest 

While not known for big crags, Kanawha State Forest near Charleston has several rocks near Ballard Trail where you can top rope climb and boulder. The sandstone here isn’t crowded, so there’s plenty of space to practice and establish your own bouldering problems. And don’t forget to get a campsite and explore the rest of the forest while you’re there.

Click here to learn more about rock climbing in Kanawha State Forest.

rock climbing west virginia state parks
Photo courtesy of instagram.com/climbfishsleep

Read this before you go rock climbing

Now’s a good time go over a few safety tips and rules. Make sure you don’t climb alone and that someone knows where you are at all times. Give rocks plenty of time to dry after a rain. Whether bouldering or climbing, make sure you wear shoes made specifically for climbing, use chalk to improve your grip and place bouldering mats at the base of any rockface to cushion any falls. Proper harnesses and lines should be used when climbing. Climb only in permitted areas and do not place bolts anywhere. Respect nature when you go off-trail and always, always leave no trace. When in doubt, check in at the park office.

Can you conquer these challenging crags and become a rock climbing pro? Plan your trip today.

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