Climbing Cheat Canyon

Photo: Steve Heap/Shutterstock

Go bouldering in beauty alongside a whitewater river.

Get stoked for this perfect summer day: Hike a section of a long-distance trail to excellent boulder problems on bullet-hard sandstone and then jump into an adjacent swimming hole to cool off. Yep, all of this is in one compact destination just two hours’ drive south of Pittsburgh. Welcome to Cheat Canyon Wildlife Management Area.

This West Virginia area is lightly developed, so enjoy the solitude your group will likely experience and be prepared to use your route-finding skills. There is a parking area at the CCWMA, but no other facilities. From the parking lot, walk downstream (river-right) less than 10 minutes on the yellow-blazed Allegheny Trail and then take a climbers’ trail on the left down to the Sector 1 boulders. This so-called gritstone (Connoquenessing sandstone) is similar to the rock at nearby Coopers Rock State Forest, but a bit softer after being polished by the water.

Recommended Routes 

Just downstream from Sector 1 is The Prize Sector, which is home to instant classics like Surprise Puppy (V3), Rain Line (V7) and Quoth the Raven (V8). Most problems top out at 15 feet max, and the bouldering is best here if you love slopers. The problems in these first two sectors have already been established, but just another half-hour down the trail, problems are still open to first ascents, particularly if you’re a strong climber
When you’re finished with your session, continue downstream from The Prize Sector about 50 yards to a beachy area for your swim. The river is calmer by the beach, but exercise caution, as this is a steep, Class III-IV river with a strong current that can sweep you away. Check the USGS gauge height—this riverside bouldering is good to go when the gauge height is at 13 feet or below, though access to boulders closest to the river requires a gauge height below 11 feet. 
To complete a weekend trip, stay at one of the practically on-site campgrounds: Teter’s has full facilities and is within walking distance (it also hosts the annual Cheat River Festival in May). Hike a few more miles of trail downriver along the statewide, 288-mile Allegheny Trail, which hugs the Cheat, or paddle the river with your own kayak or on a guided rafting trip. More Info:

Getting There 

Shoot south into West Virginia and pick up Interstate 68 east. Then take state Route 26 south to Beech Run Road. Take a right and look for the Cheat Canyon Wildlife Management Area sign. 

Refresh & Refuel 

Screech Owl Brewing is just 15 minutes away in Bruceton Mills, W.V. It has both a restaurant and a taproom. Try the Fat Man Elk Burger on a spent-grain bun and pair it with a Muddy Creek Ale or Class III Whitewater IPA.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.