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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: Three more wonderful winter hiking trails around Morgantown

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With so many trails around Morgantown, it’s unfair to just do one story. Albeit the first story focused on my favorite trails, there are plenty of honorable mentions I’d like to share with you all. 

With that, here are three more awesome hiking trails in our area. 

1. The White Park Loop

White Park is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to escape to. When I lived in Cheat Lake, I loved exploring Coopers Rock State Forest on my days off, but now that we’ve moved to Morgantown-proper, White Park is an easy walk or drive from me. It’s a great place to walk my dog, or go hang out and watch the waterfowl cruise overhead en route to the Monongahela River. 

A shot of the White Park Loop trail during the summer. (The Dominion Post file photo)

The White Park Loop is a pretty lengthy hike, coming just under 3.5 miles, but the entire hike is within a beautiful mixed hardwood forest plot. It has a mix of dirt and gravel-topped paths, as well as a bunch of offshoots that people ride their mountain bikes on. The southwest side of the trail can sometimes give you a peek of the river, and there is a connector to the Caperton portion of the Mon River Rail-Trail. The southern portion of the trail also runs along a city reservoir, which in the warmer months helps break up the mundane sights. 

2. Snake Hill Overlook Loop

Ask me to give you local trails when I moved back here, and I wouldn’t have even mentioned Snake Hill’s trail system. It’s one of my favorite areas to hunt, but I also care about multi-use public lands and know that with more people utilizing them they may be managed better. 

So, here’s a glimpse into the trail I utilize the most. Sorry in advance if I’m hotspotting anyone else’s favorite hunting spot. 

The overlook loop – though it’s not technically called that – will run you roughly 3 miles if you don’t take shortcuts. It begins from the parking lot, runs parallel to the large field and then cuts into a mostly-deciduous forest with briar patches and pockets of laurel bushes. Note, there really isn’t a marked place to find the overlook – you have to break through a tight opening in some of the laurel bushes – but once you find it, it’s a beautiful sight. From the overlook, you can see Raven Rock and have a grand view of the Cheat River canyon. If you’re quiet enough, you may hear the slight crunch of leaves underneath you as a deer or turkey makes its way across the ridge. 

Note, this is an unforgiving spot. If it’s icy, take great caution moving out on the rock. Further, if a hunting season is active, always assume you may run into a hunter or be walking through their zone. Wear bright colors during hunting seasons! 

3. Toms Run Preserve

I first heard about Toms Run from my colleague and Dominion Post outdoors columnist, Dave Samuel, in May 2020. As the one who’s putting pages together on most Saturdays, I’m one of the first to read Samuel’s stories – a nice perk of this job. So when I saw a new trail system opened just outside the city, I packed in the car with my girlfriend and dog and we embarked. 

Finding Toms Run was easy, nestled along the Mon River just off the Goshen Road exit on I-79. There are two main trails – Elizabeth’s Loop and Hollenhorst Trail – and both connect to give you a moderate 1.5-mile path. Rather than rehashing Samuel’s column, I’m going to link it here

What I love most about this trail, regardless of the time of year, is how isolated it feels. Truly, it isn’t. If you listen close enough you can hear rigs going down the interstate or dogs barking on the neighboring properties, but when you allow yourself to zone out, it seems like you’re on a much larger parcel of land. Our first time there, we spotted an otter in the creek at the first turn on Elizabeth’s Loop – that was exciting. 

As Samuel said to wrap up his column, “Toms Run is another little gem in Morgantown that is worth a visit, for two, or three.” He’s certainly correct!

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