North Fork Mountain Trail - Hiking

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About

Summary

Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, the steep and challenging North Fork Mountain Trail is one of the most scenic in West Virginia.

Written by

Ashley Halligan

Distance

24.0 miles

The trail is around 24 miles point-to-point. Some guides say 23.8, while others say 24.2 or even 24.7.

Destination Distance From Downtown

85.4 miles

Difficulty

4 of 5 diamonds

This trail isn't for the weary-hearted or the un-trained. It's around 24 miles long and features elevations ranging from 1,300 to over 2,000 feet. Hikers must carry their water.

Time To Complete

2 days

Experts suggest taking 2-3 days to complete the entire trail.

Seasonality

Summer and Fall

The best times to hike the North Fork Mountain Trail are the summer and fall. In the summer, the blooming rhododendrons are one of West Virginia’s most popular sights. In the fall, look for bald and golden eagles migrating.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

The North Fork Mountain Trail is an incredibly scenic 24-mile point-to-point trail that gains almost 3,000 feet of elevation along North Fork Mountain in the Alleghenies. It’s best hiked south to north, because the opposite route begins with a difficult 2,000-foot climb. Lots of hikers turn this into a 2-day hike to allow plenty of time to take in the spectacular scenery along the way. Some avid hikers believe this trail has the best scenery in the entire state of West Virginia.

What Makes It Great

There are many things make the ridgetop North Fork Mountain Trail spectacular. The trail, which follows the quartzite crest of North Fork Mountain most of the way, has earned many accolades as both a backpacker’s and mountain biker’s dream. It has been called one of the “Best in the East” by Backpacker Magazine, and the International Mountain Bicycling Association has designated it an “IMBA Epic.” As if that wasn’t enough motivation to add North Fork Mountain to your hiking list, the Nature Conservancy considers North Fork Mountain to be “one of the most ecologically and biologically significant” areas in the Central Appalachians forest ecosystem. It’s the driest mountain in the Appalachian Mountains, and has an ecosystem filled with vegetation and wildlife that are unique to the region.

Hiking Upward put together an excellent mile-by-mile guide, pointing out all the overlooks and campsites along the south to north route. The guide also includes abbreviated versions of the hike for those who don’t want to go the full 24 miles, including routes from 5.4 to 12 miles. At mile 8.4, you can take a brief detour to Spur Trail, which has a beautiful overlook of the well-known Seneca Rocks. There is a spring at mile 12.4 (when hiking south to north), but always come prepared with enough water just in case that spring is dry. There’s also a campsite at mile 12.4. At mile 20.1, the Table Rock Vista provides a view that local hikers say is the best on the entire hike.

Who is Going to Love It

Hikers and backpackers who love a strenuous hike with gorgeous views (almost the whole way!) will thoroughly enjoy the North Fork Mountain Trail. The trail has one overlook after another because it follows the ridge of the mountain.

Photographers love this trail because there are so many opportunities to get great pictures of West Virginia’s sweeping valleys. Wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers also love this trail because of the area’s abundance of wildlife, like bald eagles and even wild goats.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To get to the southern trailhead (for the suggested south to north hike): Take U.S. 33 to Seneca Rocks, then take WV 28/55 North 14 miles. Turn right on Smoke Hole Canyon Road for about 12 miles.Then take CR 2/4 West, which will turn into FS 79. You’ll follow this for 3.5 miles directly to the southern North Fork Mountain Trail trailhead, where you can park. Be sure to pack extra water, because there aren’t any hydration sources on the trail.

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Location

North Fork Mountain Trail

37.452935, -80.527773

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