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WVU expert offers advice for beginners wanting to spend more time outdoors

A worn blue hat with a Flying WV sits on a mossy rock near a creek bed.

Summer is here as well as many opportunities to get outside. Morgan Haas, associate director of the WVU Adventure WV program, offers tips to find outdoor fun for solo adventurists and families alike. (WVU Photo/Derek Artimez)

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The outdoors are calling as summer rolls in and the knowledgeable staff at the West Virginia University Adventure WV program know just where to find the best recreational opportunities.

Associate Director Morgan Haas provides insight on how beginners can enjoy the outdoors and what families can do in the Mountain State, including the many state parks and activities offered in a natural setting.


“The beauty of the outdoors is that you can enjoy it simply by showing up. With phone apps like AllTrails and OnX, exploring and navigating nature has become incredibly accessible. Walking and hiking are excellent entry-level activities for outdoor enjoyment. Additionally, most communities have local groups dedicated to specific activities like climbing, hiking, birding and biking, making it easy to find others that shares your interests at varying levels. Finally, when trying out new outdoor activities that require equipment, consider renting gear from a local outfitter. This makes the activity more accessible as you begin your exploration into the sport. 

“Most outdoor activities are family-friendly, but some are easier than others. Activities like walking, hiking, canoeing and biking can be great entry-level options for the family, but it’s important to assess all factors when considering trying something new. As a mom of a toddler, I’ve found some activities are perfect for her age, while others require a high level of patience and commitment and really aren’t fun for any of us. As children get older, activities become more accessible and easier to participate in together while having fun. 

“Some tips with younger children, such as toddlers, it’s important to focus on enjoying the activity rather than striving for a specific destination or physical goal. For example, going to a local trail system just to explore the landscape, visit the playground and maybe wander for a couple of hours is always a good, relaxing time. With older children, you can start planning activities that require covering a certain distance or effort to reach a goal, such as backpacking.

“Needless to say, when you have younger children, you don’t have to sacrifice participating in activities like biking and backpacking. It just requires specific equipment, such as bike trailers or specialized backpacks, and maybe some sleepless nights, but the memories are worth it.

“I always recommend synthetic clothing, with polyester being the most common and affordable option. The reason for this is that it wicks moisture away and keeps you dry during hot, humid, or rainy days. While cotton is comfortable, it’s slow to dry, doesn’t insulate when wet, and lacks the moisture-wicking properties of synthetic fabrics. When building an inventory of outdoor clothing, always opt for synthetic materials.

“A quality waterproof rain jacket is essential as well. The weather can be unpredictable in the summer and having a rain jacket with you can go a long way in protecting yourself from the elements. Other recommended gear includes a day pack, one or two 32-ounce water bottles, shelf-stable snacks, sun protection, a fleece jacket, a headlamp and a first-aid kit. These items will help you feel prepared for a full day of adventuring.

“West Virginia is a wonderland for outdoor adventures. The state offers world-renowned activities like white-water boating and rock climbing, both of which can be enjoyed in our national park, the New River Gorge, along with pristine hiking and biking trails. Beyond our National Park, West Virginia boasts amazing recreational opportunities in numerous communities throughout the state. Whether you’re seeking thrilling adventures or peaceful retreats, West Virginia has something for everyone.

“Our state’s tourism office has made it easy to discover some of the best places in West Virginia. Personally, some of my favorite things to do in the state are backpacking in Dolly Sods, fly fishing in Seneca Creek, swimming in the Cheat River and snowboarding at Snowshoe Mountain and Timberline Ski Resort.

“Embrace the excitement of being a beginner. There’s something deeply satisfying about learning new skills as an adult, even though it can sometimes feel intimidating. I encourage you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, that’s how we grow as outdoor adventurers.

“Seek out courses that cater to the skills you want to learn. These can range from classes offered at your local outdoor gear shop to certification programs or community workshops. Finding a supportive community is also a powerful catalyst. You’re not the only one looking to tackle more challenging activities, many others are on the same journey. Your local area likely has organized groups with missions focused on getting outside and connecting with like-minded people.”  Morgan Haas, associate director, First-Year Trips, climbing program and guided trips at Adventure WV

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



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