Dolly Sods

10/10/2008

TRAIL DISTANCE - 25 miles

TYPE - Backpack (3 nights)

This was a four day three night backpacking trip in the Dolly Sods Wilderness located in the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. There were signs at the trailhead that this used to be an artillery/mortar range and there was a possibility of live ordinance in some areas!

We got a late start and ran in to heavy traffic on the 4+ hour drive to the trailhead, so it was after 6:00 PM when we finally arrived. After looking at the trail map we discussed shortening the hike because of our late arrival, but instead decided to stick with the original 25 mile distance, and make the first "day" a night hike. We hadn't done much night hiking before, but we had our LED headlamps and there was a nearly full moon with clear skies, and we had an absolute blast hiking most of the Rocky Ridge Trail in the dark! We did have to slow down at times to find the rock cairns that mark the trail. The only minor problem was that we missed our first possible campsite in the dark, and ended up taking the second about a mile further on. We had allowed for sites being occupied and had planned alternates, so this wasn't a big deal, even though it was after 10 PM when we got to the first night's camp site.


dolly sods night hike dolly sods lion head vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we got back on the well-defined trail, hiking along rocky ridgelines and through grassy meadows. There were several nice scenic vistas, overlooking "civilization" in the valley below. For lunch, we took a side trail to the "Lion's Head" rock formation, and it was definitely worth the trip, even though it was a little crowded for our tastes. With the fall colors nearing their peak the views were amazing throughout the hike. Night 2 we camped in another established site near a small run. In the morning, after breakfast, we hit the trail again, hiking through terrain that was more wooded than the high ridges and meadows of the previous days. Again the colors were awesome, and we made good time, arriving at the third night's site in the mid-afternoon. It was a good thing too, as the campsites in this area were filling up rapidly! This may have been the nicest site of the trip, wide, level and with comfy rock seats around a huge fire pit. Water was close, and we had a curious deer who seemed to want to join us for dinner posing for pictures. We took the site furthest from the trail along the creek, so we had woods around us, but this area had at least 10 sites, and all of them eventually filled up.

On our final day of this trip, the terrain changed drastically, with the trail meandering through low meadows and bogs, where it was impossible to keep our feet dry. Even in October, this part of the hike was really hot, it seemed like the breezes we had been feeling on the high plateau the past few days were long gone. The bogs eventually ended and the final stretch back to the trailhead was backtracking part of the Bear Rocks Trail, which looked quite different in the daylight.

All in all this was one of our all-time favorite hikes, we will be back, as there is a lot more to see here. There are multiple trails in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, so you can customize a hike to just about an distance you desire. We highly recommend hiking in this area!

 

 

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