Dolly Sods Wilderness Area - Trail Running

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About

Summary

If the running along the miles and miles of trails in the Dolly Sods Wilderness doesn’t take your breath away, then the beauty of this area’s unique landscape will. Be sure to pack your camera.

Written by

Allison Pugh

Distance

47.0 miles

There are more than 47 miles of trails that range from .30 miles to 6.4 miles. There are also several popular loops that range from 5.6 miles to 15 miles.

Destination Distance From Downtown

133.8 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

The Dolly Sods Wilderness has several long trails that may take some time to complete. The difficulty depends on the particular trail, but there are several options for beginner to more advanced runners.

Time To Complete

2 hours

The trails at Dolly Sods can be explored in 2 hours or 2 days. People regularly camp here to enjoy several trails over the course of a couple days.

Seasonality

All Seasons

The Dolly Sods Wilderness is accessible year-round. During winter months, access roads and trails are not maintained, so it can be tough to get there. The area is often wet and cool, and trail surfaces can be muddy and slick when it rains. Late spring, when the flowers are blooming, and summer, when temperatures can sometimes reach in the 80s, are great times to explore Dolly Sods.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

Dolly Sods Wilderness covers 17,371 acres of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The area has more than 47 miles of trails, many of which follow along old railroad grades and logging roads. Dolly Sods is a unique high-altitude plateau, ranging from 2,500 to more than 4,700 feet, with a landscape surprisingly similar to southern Canada. The best viewpoint in the wilderness area is Lion’s Head Rock, a set of rocky crags you can get to from a 3-mile climb from the nearest road.

What Makes It Great

Dolly Sods Wilderness Area has a truly breathtaking natural beauty and several different kinds of terrain for trail runners to explore. With landscapes that mirror those of southern Canada, Dolly Sods gives you the chance to experience trails that are different than most of the United States.

This area has endless possibilities for trail runners. With almost 20 trails and tons of trail combinations, you’re sure to find something to fit your needs—whether that’s a long-distance run or just a quick workout. Several of the trails can be combined to create long loops, like the 9-mile Blackbird Knob-Rocky Ridge-Harmon loop that starts at the Blackbird Knob trailhead and crosses 6 creeks.

The area also has several camping spots along the trails, and a lot of them with fire rings, and a campground nearby called the Red Creek Campground. If you’re looking to take a weekend trip with friends in a place that truly captures the unique beauty of the Appalachians, look no further than Dolly Sods Wilderness.

Who is Going to Love It

No matter your running skill level, you will love the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. Several challenging trails will test your skills, while others meander through meadows and forests to give you an easier run and a chance to look around and enjoy the majestic beauty. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners will enjoy the trail combinations here, which range from steep railroad grades to flat boardwalk areas. Nature enthusiasts and photographers will especially love this area, so be sure to bring your camera.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You can get directions from the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area website. There are several places to park. Forest Roads are not maintained during the winter, so it can be difficult to get to some of the parking.

Wear high-visibility clothing during hunting seasons.

Groups of more than 10 people are not allowed in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area. You also have to keep camping and campfires 300 feet from Forest Road 19 and Forest Road 75, except at Red Creek Campground.

Special note: The military used Dolly Sods for maneuvers and mountain training for World War II. Some of the artillery and mortar shells they shot for practice are still there, so don’t touch them. Stay on designated trails, do not create new trails, only camp at existing campsites (which usually have a fire ring and show bare ground around them), and use a backpacker-type stove when camping at a place without a fire ring.

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Location

Dolly Sods Wilderness

39.066012, -79.301528

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