First Timer's Guide to Cooper's Rock
Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Cooper's Rock State Forest is only about 3 hours from Sportrock locations and is a hidden gem for bouldering. We've compiled this quick and dirty First Timer's Guide to have everything you need in one place for your first trip out to Coopers.
What to Expect
First, while there is some top rope accessible climbing and trad at Cooper's Rock (as well as a bolting ban), the bouldering is where it's at. And the bouldering is tough. With several hundred document boulder problems, there is something for everyone at Cooper's but expect some old-school "sandbagging" (problems that feel harder than the grade of the climb indicates).
Cooper's is a great place to learn how to boulder outside and a fantastic location for slightly larger groups. There is plenty of space to hang out, and a killer overlook at the end of the parking lot. Expect a fair bit of foot traffic, especially on weekends, but the traffic for climbing is generally not too bad.
What to Bring
Most landings are relatively clear and most boulders are under 15 feet tall, so you shouldn't need more than a couple of pads to protect each climb. We suggest 2-3 pads for every boulder you intend to climb on at one time.
Bug Spray and Sunscreen
Most boulders are pretty well shaded, but West Virginia summers can get pretty hairy, so bring the sunscreen. More importantly, make sure you stop and pick up some bug spray. The forest is pretty dense, and Cooper's is notorious for bugs!
Chalk is perfectly acceptable at Cooper's. Just be sure to avoid spillage and brush off as much chalk as you can when you leave a boulder as a courtesy.
Cooper's Rock Bouldering Guide Book is a fairly comprehensive guide to the climbs in the area. Pick it up from Sportrock or another local climbing gym if you have the chance. If you don't have the guide, there are many classic climbs logged on Mountain Project, and they are easy enough to find!
Food and Water
There are tons of places to hang out and have a picnic, so don't be afraid to make a day of it! It can get pretty muggy during the summer, so pack extra water if you are taking on the heat.
What to Climb
The gritstone at Cooper's makes for some exciting features. While there is an abundance of slopers, neat quartz features can make for techy climbing. Expect a good variety of styles! Here are some climb recommendations in various grade ranges:
Suitable for warming up or sessioning!
Black Scar (V0): Super tall (with a good landing) and totally a classic.
Big Pocket Problem (V1): Really cool features!
The Practitioner (V1): Super deep pocket and an arete climb. Very cool!
Thwang (V1): V1 dyno, and it's excellent!
Kaleidoscope (V2): Trickier than it looks. It may take some time to figure out but well worth it.
Mad Butcher Traverse (V2): The whole block is named after this climb, so...
This is the sweet spot for Cooper's climbing. There are a ton of classic V5s to choose from!
The Fiddle (V3): The best V3 in the forest. Hands down.
Moby's Fin (V3): No wait, this is the best V3 in the forest. Final answer!
Anti-Elvis (V4): Powerful and heartbreaking. Just awesome!
Roundhouse (V5): The only "soft" V5 in Cooper's, but still excellent.
Humility (V5): Finger lock, pockets, edges, and a jug finish. What could be better?
Helicopter (V5): Deserves the hype. One-of-a-kind climb!
Ship's Prow (V5): Also deserves the hype. Warning: overhang!
If you climb V6-V7 in the gym, don't expect these grades to match.
B*tch Slap Arete (V5+): Like climbing a refrigerator but more fun.
Pocket Prow (V6): Nasty pockets but lots of fun!
Coral (V7): This thing is no joke. But as it says in the guidebook, "So good!"
If you like the sound of climbing at Cooper's Rock, check out more Rock Climbing in D.C: Where To Go.
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment if you have any good Cooper's Rock beta or questions about climbing at Cooper's Rock!