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Are you a Keen Backpacker? Try the Dolly Sods Trail

If you love being a backpacker and exploring various trails throughout the United States of America, then you should head to West Virginia to the Dolly Sods.

You may not have heard of this place before, depending on where you are in the States, but it’s a great trail to complete for a solo backpacker or a group of you.

The Dolly Sods is based in the Allegheny Mountains. It’s classed as a wilderness that sits within the Monongahela National Forest.

The sandstone rock formations along Rocky Ridge Trail in Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

If you enjoy climbing to high altitudes, Dolly Sods, won’t disappoint you. Three main summits will take you up to nearly 4,000 feet or 1,148-miles. The highest is Blackbird Knob, which sits at 3,960 feet or 1,210-miles, followed by Breathed Mountain at 3,848 feet or 1,173-miles, and then Coal Knob at 3,766 feet or 1,148-miles.

Does that altitude sound too high for you? Don’t worry; there is a lower peak called the Red Creek at 2,644 feet or 806-miles. This may suit someone new to climbing mountains and completing trails. Or, if you want to take it easy, this is the perfect peak to climb.

Fifteen different trails can be completed within the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and they accumulatively cover around 47 miles! This includes six trails based in the north area of the Dolly Sods and nine based in the other areas of the Dolly Sods.

The good news about there being so many different trails to take is if you complete one and you enjoy it, you can plan to tackle the other trails in the future. It gives you something to look forward too! This is dependant on where you live to the Dolly Sods. Or you may be staying locally for a holiday and can complete a few trails during your stay in West Virginia.

The following trails can be completed in the north area: Beaver View Trail, Dobbin Grade Trail, Blackbird Knob Trail, Upper Red Creek Trail, Bear Rocks Trail, and Raven Ridge Trail.

The other trails that can be tackled are, Red Creek Trail, Wildlife Trail, Big Stonecoal Trail, Breathed Mountain Trail, Dunkebarger Trail, Fisher Spring Run Trail, Rocky Ridge Trail, Little Stonecoal Trail, and Rohrbaugh Plains Trail.

If you enjoy camping out, Dolly Sods is the place for you as you are permitted to camp. But, make sure you follow the rules – don’t set up camp near any roads. Also, be cautious, as the National Forest habitats black bears.

Closeup of red creek in Dolly Sods, West Virginia during autumn, fall with green pine tree forest and water river surface in stormy weather

The Red Creek campground is situated on the east of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, near the Blackbird Knob trailhead, on the perimeter of the Dolly Sods. You can easily access the trails from this camp, especially Blackbird Knob. The camp is only small, so if it’s peak season, keep that in mind.

There are some other rules to follow when inside Dolly Sods. Don’t cut live vegetation – although people are allowed to forage and take home blueberries in the summer. You can’t drive over the Wilderness.

You’ll notice that there are good, clearly marked paths for you to follow, and there are various signposts throughout to help you continue. Don’t venture too far off the paths, but if you do, just remember where you went and get back to the planned path. We don’t want you to get lost in the Wilderness! Also, there’s another reason for this. There could potentially be unexploded bombs from WWII, so please be careful on your adventure.

The area was known for logging years ago due to the great variety of tall trees, and you will notice there are many old logging roads and also railroad grades. This adds a special touch to the Dolly Sods area, as it’s something you don’t get in other trails.

The trails vary from easy to hard, so make sure you choose the right trail for you that won’t cause you any issues. Below are some details on the trails that you can tackle:

The Shortest Trails – Northland Loop and Beaver Dam Trail

Travel hike forest nature hiker woman walking in canadian woods in fall autumn season, by beaver dam in Quebec National Park Parc de la Jacques Cartier, Canada destination.

These two are the shorts trails with Northland loop being 0.3 miles, which is a one-way loop trail, the Beaver Dam Trail being 0.7 miles long. Both are easy to walk for all abilities, and you can take in the beautiful nature such as wildflowers that grow there.

The Easy Trail – Rohrbaugh Trail – 3.6 miles

Rohrbaugh plains

This is classed as an easy 3.6-mile trail that allows you to see some beautiful views. The views are perfect for taking memorable photos. You can capture pictures of meadows and dams – you may even see a beaver! At the end of the trail, you can choose from two others. If you want to loop back to your starting point, it’s best to take the Wildlife Trail or go back the way you came and return to the picnic area for a nice way to finish your day.

The Easy To Medium Trails – Bear Rocks Trail, Harman Trail, and Rocky Ridge Trail

The unusual sandstone rock formations, carved by wind, ice and snow, along Rocky Ridge Trail in Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

Harman Trail is the shortest distance out of these trails, at 1.4 miles. If you want to hike to the Blackbird Knob, which has an elevation of 3,960 feet or 1,210 miles, this trail easily leads you onto the Blackbird Knob Trail.

Bear Rocks Trail is 2.4 miles long and is a good starting trail as it’s located at an access point. This is great if you want a quick hike, but if you’d like to continue, you can take the Dobbin Grade Trail for a nice long 4.3-mile trek. This will take you towards the western side of the Dolly Sods or the Raven Ridge Trail, which is 2.8 miles. That will then take you onto the Dobbin Grade Trail halfway through.

Rocky Ridge Trail is 3.0 miles long and is based on the western side of the Dolly Sods. It links in with four other trails and will take you to the east side of the Dolly Sods if you keep change onto the Blackbird Knob Trail.

The Medium Trails – Upper Red Creek Trail, Breathed Mountain Trail, and Blackbird Knob Trail

Closeup of red creek in Dolly Sods, West Virginia during autumn, fall with green pine tree forest and water river surface

Upper Red Creek Trail will give you some amazing views as you hike along the 1.3 -mile trail. It’s based in the middle of the Dolly Sods, and you will need to access it by trekking on either the Blackbird Knob Trail or the Dobbin Grade Trail.

The Breathed Mountain trail is 2.5 miles long and will take you into the middle of the Dolly Sods further south than the Upper Red Creek Trail.

The Blackbird Knob Trail is the 2nd longest trail and takes you to both the eastern and western sides of the Dolly Sods, also near to the Red Creek Campground. There are many opportunities for great scenery photos along this route.

The Hard Trails – Red Creek Trail and Big Stonecoal Trail

Rocky landscape meadow hill in Dolly Sods, West Virginia in autumn with trail path

If you want to go through dense forest, then Big Stonecoal Trail is perfect for you. It’s 4.3 miles long and is based in the southern part of the Dolly Sods.

Red Creek Trail is the longest trail in the Dolly Sods at a 6.4-mile hike. It can be accessed on the southwestern side and will take you north into the middle of the Dolly Sods. It links to many different trails, ending with the Blackbird Knob Trail.

Get your hiking boots ready! It’s time to go and explore the Dolly Sods and all it has to offer.

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