Take Adventure to the Extreme in West Virginia
West Virginia is known for its outdoor spaces and Mountaineer Country — not county, but country — is no exception. Encompassing the forests, mountains, rivers and valleys near Morgantown, Grafton and Kingwood in the northeast corner of the state, the region is full of hiking and biking trails and opportunities to explore the Monongahela River.
It's no wonder that the mascot of one of the region's biggest draws — West Virginia University — is the Mountaineer. The ambitious, push-the-boundaries, can-do spirit of the university permeates throughout the area and sets the tone, as can be seen by the number of extreme adventure opportunities one can have here, whether on land, sky or water.
So go on, tap into all the exhilarating adventures awaiting you in West Virginia.
Take to the Sky
If the thought of leaping out of a plane high above the green pastures of northern West Virginia fills you with adrenaline (rather than terror), then give Skydive Mountaineer a whirl. They provide tandem freefalls from 10,500 feet at 120mph; that’s about seven Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other.
Upon arrival, after signing your waiver, you’ll be trained on emergency procedures, exiting the aircraft, freefall and landing under the parachute. Depending on the package you buy, you’ll receive unedited handcam video of your jump or professionally edited footage. Everyone gets a Skydiver certificate at the end of it.
Rock and roll
It’s a no-brainer that rock climbing is a popular pastime in “The Mountain State,” particularly in Mountaineer Country. Whether it’s your first time climbing or you’re an old pro, Gritstone Climbing & Fitness offers classes and workshops for all levels and abilities.
Open seven days a week, the facility allows you plenty of time to navigate its 13,000 square feet of wall space. This includes over 9,000 square feet of roped surface reaching up to 49 feet high. It also boasts over 100 ropes routes as well as a 3,500-square foot bouldering wall that reaches up to 15.5-feet high. If you wondered but didn’t want to ask, yes, there is padded bouldering flooring. There is also a kid-friendly Learning Zone that features roped walls up to 29 feet tall and bouldering walls up to 12 feet tall. Whether you’re the climber, the coat-holder or there to take the evening yoga classes, a waiver is required for anyone on Gritstone’s premises.
Gritstone partners with Ascension Climbing Guides to provide an opportunity to get outside and let your hands do the talking. These guided sessions are for both amateurs and experts, but you do need to make an appointment.
Learn new skills
Boasting the largest shooting range in West Virginia, Defense in Depth is open to both absolute beginners and expert marksmen. The company offers the latest in shooting technology, firearms safety programs (such as best practices for gun storage), simulations and ranges. Billing itself as a 360-degree approach to personal defense, its goal is to educate and empower individuals and families with the self-protection knowledge, skills and equipment necessary for the unexpected in a fun learning environment.
Open to the public six days a week, Defense in Depth has a number of options to explore. Check out its sixteen 25-yard shooting lanes available for rent, training courses and weekly events like shootout matches, free range time for ladies on Wednesdays and even Friday night date night discounts. The 180-degree simulators include scenarios such as home invasions, Wild West shootouts, zombie attacks and active shooter scenarios.
Stay minutes from downtown Morgantown and West Virginia University at SpringHill Suites by Marriott, located within a 10-minute drive of most of the activities listed above. This all-suite hotel has an indoor pool and a 24/7 gym, plus a complimentary breakfast to fuel up before your adventures. Use the free Wi-Fi to upload your best action shots to the ‘gram. Then, shut your eyes and take your dreams — literally — to the extreme.
If you're raring to try out all of the above activities (and spend two nights at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott), you're in luck as Mountaineer Country has an "Xtreme Adventure" package where you can save over $800 on the regular price.
When it comes to whitewater rafting, the most adventurous ride is not found in the first category, or class. In fact, the higher the number, the more thrilling the water is, with six being the most daring.
West Virginia is home to some of the best Class Four (intense, powerful but predictable) and Class Five (extremely difficult, long and very violent) rapids in the country. Class Five is for the experts and Class Four is best for intermediate rafters with lots of physical endurance.
The Cheat River, a tributary of the Monongahela River, drops 50 feet per mile as it spans through Cheat Canyon, keeping your pulse moving rapidly — no pun intended. If names like Big Nasty, High Falls, Even Nastier, Fist and Tear Drop tug at your heartstrings, these are the rapids for you.