My skepticism faded the moment we rode up into the hills of western Maryland. Suddenly we were surrounded by bright bursts of Fall colors and this trip to Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia didn’t seem quite so crazy.
At the beginning of the summer my daughter had only a few things on her Summer Bucket List. She wanted to;
- swim at the beach. Check.
- go on the rides at Coney Island. Check.
- learn how to do a cartwheel. Ummm…work in progress.
- and she wanted to go camping…
Truthfully I am not a big camping person. I like hot showers and soft mattresses and falling asleep to the hush of a sound machine.
So that camping trip kept getting pushed off.
But she kept after me.
Driving into West Virginia I was glad she had been such a pest about this trip. I was also kind of glad we had waited until Fall.
This part of the country is truly magnificent in the Fall. The mountains, the colors, the blue sky and the trees…
In case you are headed to West Virginia or Cooper Rock State Forest for some camping or just for a day of hiking, some helpful things to know are below.
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A Weekend Camping in Cooper Rock State Forest
Why Cooper Rock State Forest? Why West Virginia? Good questions.
Since we were going in the Fall we wanted somewhere that would be full of foliage. We looked at upstate New York and Vermont feeling confident in their splendor this time of year, but their cut off for camping is earlier than the 3 day weekend we happened to have free.
So we looked south.
As many super random seeming travel decisions in our house, this one was made because West Virginia was a place we had yet to visit. Cooper Rock State Forest came highly recommended so we booked a campsite and started dusting off our family tent.
We camped in a tent in the Rhododendron Campground.
Things We Liked:
These campsites are spaced a little further apart and are a little more picturesque. They are also closer to the trails, playground, and shop.
Things We Didn’t Like:
The other campsites have electric outlets and a bathroom with a shower.
I was happy with our choice, but we did drive over and use the shower one morning.
The kids had a blast helping us set up our monster of a tent. We own this 3 room family tent and although it is admittedly a bit intense I love it.
When my husband and I used to camp pre-kids we had a tiny little two person thing that you basically waved in the air once and it was ready to go. This one is a bit more of an event to assemble, but it is easy to use, well made, and has SO much space.
I’m pretty sure that having their own “rooms” is the only reason my kids finally settled down and went to sleep, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
There are some crazy awesome creative people out there that cook amazing things on the campfire but we tend to go simple. Hot dogs. Baked potatoes. We did try a couple of fun treats though you have to try some time!
- Best Snack: S’mores muddy buddies – I used this recipe!
- Best Breakfast: Campfire Cinnamon Rolls – Being honest, these are HARD to get right and I think cooking them on tin foil might have been a better way to go than the skewers but the ones we got right were yummy. Go heavy on the cinnamon and don’t skip the glaze. I used this recipe.
- Eat by lantern light. Not a food, obviously, but we waited until after dark for dinner one night because my kids were so happy playing outside. I can’t explain to you how exciting this was for my kids. Headlamps like these were super helpful.
more recipes & Fun stuff on my family camping pinterest board
There are a lot things to do in the park. Read more on the Coopers Rock State Forest website.
My kids spent the better part of the first afternoon being delighted by everything outdoorsy. Poor deprived little city kids.
Once they stopped bouncing up and down about every leaf and bug, here are the other things we enjoyed in the park.
- Hike the trails. There are a bunch of options (get a free map when you check in at the front) and they range in difficulty and length.
- Enjoy the view. (Full disclosure – I was way more excited about the view than my kids but they tolerated my delight)
- Look for signs of the season
- and signs of life. (They love these bug catching kits )
- play on the playground.
read also: Essential Tips for surviving camping with a toddler
Worth the drive? Absolutely!
We would camp in Coopers Rock State Forest again in a heartbeat. We pried ourselves away earlier than we planned because of an impending storm and it was so hard to say goodbye to all this beauty.