Dolly Sods Wilderness - West Virginia

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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528
This high-altitude plateau is more reminiscent of Maine, not the Mid-Atlantic. Open meadows and bogs, big views, deep forests and cascading creeks make this a backpacking wonderland. I missed peak colors by less than a week thanks to the last dying gasps of Hurricane Delta but it was still magical. Wild, wonderful West Virginia.

Unique history here. The Sods have been logged, grazed and even bombed.
From the Forest Service...
"Beginning in August of 1943, the military used the area for maneuvers and mountain training for World War II. Many of the artillery and mortar shells shot into the area for practice still exist. In 1997, a highly trained crew surveyed the trail locations and known campsites for shells. They found 15, some of which were still live. All were exploded on site. Many more may exist and they are dangerous."
Good times!

I changed up my route at the last minute, and I'm glad I did. Instead of the 20 mile loop starting at Bear Rocks, I decided to basecamp up near Lions Head for two nights for expansive views and more relaxing, less humping around a big pack. What views they were! The colors were still spectacular. I had it to myself on the first day and night, then...the place exploded. Not literally due to unexploded ordnance, but with people. I lost count after 30 backpackers on a 7 mile day hike loop from camp...on a Wednesday.
Everyone was very friendly, but I decided to hastily pack up camp and hiked down to the confluence of Big Stonecoal Creek and Red Creek. Found a nice camp and enjoyed some solitude for the night after a very social day.

Confluence. Red Creek on the right, Big Stonecoal left
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Red Creek is typically a shallow crossing this late in the season, but not on this day. Almost waist deep, glad I threw in water shoes.
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Parts of Big Stonecoal Trail were like a pack of Skittles
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Lots of campsites scattered thru the pines near Lions Head
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Lions Head is an area of rocky outcrops with great views
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The next day I connected some trails for a 7 mile loop...
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Lunch break on Big Stonecoal Creek
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I returned to Lions Head and packed up, hiking 2 miles to the confluence of Red and Big Stonecoal Creeks. Campsite for the second night didn't suck either.
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Gotta catch the Milky Way early this late in the season here. This was taken at 9:30pm. Red Creek in the foreground.
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Nethos

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Feb 23, 2017
Messages
98
Wow. Shocking how high Red Creek was. I was there last month and an easy rockhop. Thanks for the photos. Nice to see it in fall colors. And yes, lots of people. I camped back in the hardwood at Lions Head to get a little solitude.

Sent from my Pixel 4a using Tapatalk
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
Messages
528
Wow. Shocking how high Red Creek was. I was there last month and an easy rockhop. Thanks for the photos. Nice to see it in fall colors. And yes, lots of people. I camped back in the hardwood at Lions Head to get a little solitude.

Sent from my Pixel 4a using Tapatalk

It dropped half a foot for the hike out but yeah I was surprised. I feel very lucky to have had the entire Lions Head area to myself for a night.
 

McKee80

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Feb 9, 2017
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Thanks for the report! That whole monongahela national forest is special.
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
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Thanks for the report! That whole monongahela national forest is special.
I'm finding that out! I've only whitewater kayaked in WV, now that self preservation mode has kicked in as I age it's time to explore on foot...
 

BJett

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hikeer

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Nov 2, 2019
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Literally in my backyard! Lucky to live only a few miles from the Sods. Been absolutely crazy up there this summer and fall - it's a great area but not all that big so it can get kind of crowded feeling. Lions Head is a cool spot, I love walking through those tall pines on the way out to the viewpoint. Really nice pics too!
 

BJett

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May 3, 2013
Messages
528
Literally in my backyard! Lucky to live only a few miles from the Sods. Been absolutely crazy up there this summer and fall - it's a great area but not all that big so it can get kind of crowded feeling. Lions Head is a cool spot, I love walking through those tall pines on the way out to the viewpoint. Really nice pics too!
Hoping to explore the Roaring Plains area just to the south, and Seneca Creek/Spruce Knob next year. During the week! I can't imagine some of these places on a weekend.
 

wsp_scott

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May 16, 2016
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Hoping to explore the Roaring Plains area just to the south, and Seneca Creek/Spruce Knob next year. During the week! I can't imagine some of these places on a weekend.

If you go to the Roaring Plains, time your visit for when the FR70 is gated at the bottom. The one time I was there (weekend) the road was open allowing people to drive to the top of the ridge => tons of dayhikers
 

NECoastalHykur

NE Coastal Hykur
Joined
Oct 24, 2020
Messages
18
Enjoyed viewing your photos and reading the posts! I need to get back to that awesome place sometime soon. We did a two overnight trip in 2019. The wind in the high elevation areas and the mud in the low elevation areas made that trip very memorable.

WV DSW 2019-101.jpeg


Note: the fellow backpacker who volunteered to take this group photo kinda' had shaky hands (discovered after uploading the photos later at home).
 
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BJett

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May 3, 2013
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If you go to the Roaring Plains, time your visit for when the FR70 is gated at the bottom. The one time I was there (weekend) the road was open allowing people to drive to the top of the ridge => tons of dayhikers

Noted! I avoid weekends, it seems to be harder to get away from the masses lately.
 

BJett

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Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
528
Enjoyed viewing your photos and reading the posts! I need to get back to that awesome place sometime soon. We did a two overnight trip in 2019. The wind in the high elevation areas and the mud in the low elevation areas made that trip very memorable.

View attachment 93381

Note: the fellow backpacker who volunteered to take this group photo kinda' had shaky hands (discovered after uploading the photos later at home).

I've got a similar pic! Yep, mud and wind...seems to be the norm up there. Worth it though!
 

NECoastalHykur

NE Coastal Hykur
Joined
Oct 24, 2020
Messages
18
Noted! I avoid weekends, it seems to be harder to get away from the masses lately.
Yep, we went from Thursday to Saturday. Friday evening is when the other groups were searching for campsites. We were already settled in on our site when the other groups were came down to visit us along the water. Heading out on Saturday morning there was an almost endless stream of hikers and numerous vehicles parked along the forest road when we reached the trail head. Definitely a weekday place to backpack if possible.
 
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