Writing the “Trail of the Month” feature presents an eternal struggle: what to include and what to leave out? Each month, we choose an exemplary trail jam-packed with amazing sights and fun things to explore. As narrowing down the unique experiences on February’s designee—West Virginia’s Mon River Trails—was especially challenging, we’re presenting you with a bonus top 10 list of great attractions (in no particular order) that you will find along this spectacular trail system spanning nearly 50 miles around Morgantown.
1West Virginia University
Perhaps no institution is more synonymous with Morgantown than West Virginia University (WVU). The Caperton Trail goes through one of the campus’s prettiest spots and beneath one of its most unique attractions. Riding through the Earl L. Core Arboretum is an elven experience of woodlands and wildflowers maintained by the university’s biology department. Exiting the arboretum on its eastern end is where you’ll catch your first glimpse of WVU’s Personal Rapid Transit system, which opened in 1975 and is an innovation found nowhere else in the country. The elevated tracks whisk small cars—designed to hold a maximum of 20 students each—from one end of campus to the other and to downtown.
2Edith Barill Riverfront Park
The Edith Barill Riverfront Park offers a fine stop for a trailside picnic with its sweeping views of the Monongahela River against a backdrop of lush green hills. The park also houses the John F. Kennedy Memorial with a statue of a young JFK Jr. saluting a bronze relief of his father and a quote from the late president: “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” At adjacent Tugboat Depot Playground, little ones will be wowed by the climbable castle and enjoy a plethora of other fun play structures, including a tree house, tire swing and sandbox.
At its southern end, the Mon River Trail South connects to the short but no less worthwhile Marion County Trail, whose big attraction is the stunning Meredith Tunnel. Built in 1914, the structure stretches 1,200 feet and is well lighted for exploring.
If biking the Mon River Trails works up a thirst—and an appetite—you’re in luck. Two popular brewing companies are located just off the Caperton Trail: Mountain State Brewing and Morgantown Brewing. Both offer local favorites, with names like Almost Heaven Amber Ale and Coal City Stout, as well as hearty fare. And, if craft beer isn’t your thing, the beauty of this trail is that it goes right through downtown Morgantown with a wealth of dining options.
5Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park
The star of Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park is its stylish amphitheater, especially popular during the summer months for outdoor concerts and performances. Directly across from it sits a single-story, red brick depot dating back to 1886 that now serves buses rather than trains. Inside is also a visitor center, where explores can pick up trail maps. In another nod to the city’s history, a mural near the intersection of the Caperton and Deckers Creek trails pays homage to the railroads on which the trails were built.
6Monongahela River Dams
The Monongahela River, which stretches 128 miles from Pittsburgh to Fairmont, W.Va., is a pleasant companion for much of Morgantown’s rail-trail system. Along the way, a series of massive locks and dams that support navigation on the waterway are definitely photo worthy. Just south of the downtown core, you can view the Morgantown Lock and Dam from the Caperton Trail. From the Mon River Trail South, two more locks and dams—dubbed Hildebrand and Opekiska—are also visible.
7Bretz Coke Ovens
An unusual attraction can be seen from the Deckers Creek Trail near the community of Bretz. Across the creek, you’ll see a row of abandoned, beehive-shaped brick ovens, which were once used to roast locally mined coal into coke, a product used in the steel industry. Today, the Bretz Coke Ovens are listed as a National Historic Landmark.
8Greer Limestone Quarry
The Deckers Creek Trail offers something you’d be hard-pressed to find on another trail: an active quarry. The trail bisects Greer Limestone, providing an extensive view of the facility.
9Prickett’s Fort State Park
The Mon River Trail South ends with a bang at Prickett’s Fort State Park, a reconstructed frontier outpost originally located here in 1774. Pass through its gates and enter a world of 18th-century life; see blacksmiths, weavers, other craftsmen and pioneers plying their trades, cooking, sewing, harvesting their gardens and moving about the busy historical village.
With its idyllic access to both the Monongahela River and the railroad, the Seneca Glass Factory thrived in Morgantown when it was founded here in the 1890s. Nearly a century later, the once viable business was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its buildings, now known as Seneca Center, became a collection of specialty shops. With its brick walls and wooden floors, its original character is retained, and throughout the retail complex you’ll find displays on how glass and glassware were made in its factories. Above it all, a historical red water tower and 100-foot-high glass furnace chimney still stand as distinctive city landmarks.