Dolly Sods Wilderness


May 2, 2014
Dolly Sods Wilderness is a 17,000 acre wilderness area in West Virginia, about 3 hours from the DC Metro area. It's described as a high altitude plateau and includes a variety of different ecological zones (high meadows, bogs and forests are all present). While I've never been there, I imagine that hiking in Dolly Sods is reminiscent of being in Scotland.

I took a day off work on Friday and drove up to do a one-night trip, approximately 11 miles each day.

The area was used during WWII as an artillery training range for the Army. In addition to the sign above, there is also a sign that tells you what to do if you find un-exploded mortar shells (hint: don't touch). It was really foggy when I arrived, with temps in the 60s...nearly 20* lower than where I was coming from. The fog made for an eerie walk through the forests and high meadows for the first few miles.

haunted forest.jpg

As the fog burned off, I turned south and walked along a rocky, windblown ridge. There were numerous wind-shaped rocks along the way, as well as a few nice overlooks into the Canaan Valley.

canaan valley.jpg

As I made my way lower in elevation I entered the woods. My path took me along a nice stream, complete with waterfall, but also allowed me to experience the only true negative in the Wilderness...mud. The entire place drains very poorly, and there are some trails that force you to walk through knee-deep mud for miles. Fortunately, I avoided most of the really bad stuff this trip.


My campsite for the night was off-trail, at the end of a tenth-mile rock scramble. The reward for my effort was a fantastic viewpoint overlooking the Lion's Head (can you see it?) and the Red Creek Canyon.

lions head.jpg
lions head vista.jpg

For the gear heads in the crowd, my fancy feast stove in action:

Day 2 was a much nicer day, and the trails took my past the forks of the Red Creek (with a ton of amazing campsites), and more lovely meadow walking. In the third picture you can see the effect of the constant wind on the trees.

red creek.jpg

As much as I like keeping my favorite places less crowded, I have to highly recommend Dolly Sods for anyone in the East/Mid-Atlantic area.

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May 3, 2013
Nice! Been on my list for years. This and the Cranberry area. I've kayaked and XC skied in the area, but still need to get over there and backpack.
Unexploded ordnance just makes it more "exciting".


May 2, 2014
Nice! Been on my list for years. This and the Cranberry area. I've kayaked and XC skied in the area, but still need to get over there and backpack.
Unexploded ordnance just makes it more "exciting".

I've been to Cranberry too...personally I like Dolly Sods quite a bit more.


Jul 5, 2014
Nice report @mak1277. I personally love the feeling of being in deep thick woods like this. Gives a nice contrast when you hit an open viewpoints and meadows.
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