North Fork Mountain Trail - Trail Running

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Summary

Rocks, roots, rhododendron tunnels, and endless views of the surrounding countryside will have you grinning from ear-to-ear on this epicly challenging adventure run.

Written by

Joe DeGaetano

Distance

24.0 miles

This trail is about 24 miles. Some guides say a little less than 24, while some say a little more.

Destination Distance From Downtown

85.4 miles

Difficulty

5 of 5 diamonds

The North Fork Mountain Trail is a rugged 24-mile, point-to-point trail run. It’s remote, so you might want a support crew to help with resupply. Carrying water and food for the entire run is always an option, too.

Time To Complete

2 days

This could make a 2-day adventure run, so bring a headlamp just in case it takes longer than you expect—24 miles on a remote ridge is no easy undertaking. Give yourself up to 8 hours each day.

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

Running the North Fork Mountain Trail (NFMT) is not for the faint of heart. But if you are a dedicated trail runner or someone who just likes a serious challenge, then you should put this 24-mile ridgeline trail on your list.

The NFMT is between Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks in West Virginia, and encompasses all that is wild and wonderful about the Mountain State. Rocks, roots, rhododendron tunnels, and endless views of the surrounding countryside on this adventure run will have you grinning from ear to ear.

What Makes It Great

The distance, rugged terrain, and remoteness of the NFMT all require you to bring your “A” game. But it will definitely be worth it, and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the Potomac River valley, Spruce Knob, the Dolly Sods Wilderness, and the stunning Seneca Rocks escarpment. Along the route, you will find several overlooks to stop for a snack and soak up the views. If 24 miles isn’t enough for you, there are also several side trails that are worthy of exploration. Some lead to hidden overlooks and unique quartzite rock formations that are reminiscent of western canyon country.

Hiking Upward has created a great mile-by-mile guide that you might want to check out before you go, or print out to take with you just in case. It’s best run from south to north, unless starting a 24-mile adventure with a difficult, 2,650-foot climb sounds like your idea of a good time.

Who is Going to Love It

Ultrarunners and seasoned trail runners looking for that soul-cleansing adventure run will fall in love with the NFMT. Because the trail is very close to a marathon distance, the NFMT a great training ground if you’re preparing for road or trail marathons.

Because there is very limited water on the NFMT, bringing your own is critical, although a support crew is even better! Also, because it is point-to-point and takes 2 cars, it’s perfect for a group outing with family members, friends, or running buddies.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You can run the NFMT in either direction. If you want to run the recommended south to north route, start at the southern end near Judy Gap on WV-33. If you want to go north to south, start near Smoke Hole Road. Depending on the end you start on, drop a vehicle at either Smoke Hole Rd. (WV-28/11) or at the hairpin pull-off on WV-33.

If you want to stash water and food (instead of carrying it), take Fire Road 79, which intersects the NFMT at roughly the halfway point on the ridge. You can drive a 4x4 vehicle up the road, and there is a nice campsite at the intersection (this might make a fun outing for your support crew).

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Location

North Fork Mountain Trail

37.452935, -80.527773

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