Dolly Sods is a wilderness area located in Grant, Tucker, and Randolph Counties in West Virginia. If you want a truly wilderness area to hike and explore, this is it. In some places it resembles northern Arctic plains, while in others it is a wooded mountainous area that is spectacular to view.
On Sunday, October 10 my wife and I decided to drive to Dolly Sods and pick a trail to hike. I accessed the area from the Jordan Run Road in Grant County. Warning – while the road through the wilderness area can be traversed by 2-wheel vehicles, there are rocks and ruts on the road that could cause damage to low clearance vehicles. These roads at many spots are only wide enough for one vehicle with significant drop offs on one side. While it can be done and is done by many – I would suggest patience and COURTESY for any driver going here. Also, research where you might want to go. While I would definitely suggest driving the entire road on the top, the Bear Rocks or Northern end of the road can become VERY congested on peak viewing weekends and this congestion many times is caused by persons not used to driving on roads like this or by off road type vehicles who believe they own the road. If you go to this area and plan to stop, please find an area to park that is somewhat off the road. We were delayed several minutes at the Bear Rock area, and I talked to a person who was delayed over 45 minutes the day before because of people not parking properly or not taking others into consideration. This is an area to visit because this type of terrain cannot be found in many places south of Canada! Also be aware of the weather when you visit. While it may be raining at the bottom of the mountain it may be snowing and snowing hard at the top. The elevation of this area can be more than 4000 ft. above sea level. The area is also closed to vehicle traffic at the top during the winter season.
My wife and I decided to skip the bear rock area because of the congestion, but my wife had studied the area and we went south looking for the Fisher Springs Trail, and I am glad we did! She had seen a recommendation from a friend for this trail and a route that would lead to some awesome views!
I would strongly suggest that you get a trail map before attempting these hikes or take a picture of the trails at the trail head. These areas also require you to sign in at the trailhead with the name and number in your party, when you began, and your hike itinerary. The reasons become obvious as you tour this wilderness area.
Our plans were to take the Fisher Springs Trail until it intersected with the Rohrbaugh Trail, keep going on the Rohrbaugh trail past the intersection with the wildlife trail and continue to a Vista that promised some awesome views of the Red Creek Canyon. We then would take the Wildlife Trail on our way back out so it would not be a true out and back but would have some loop to it.
The trails themselves are not blazed, but in good condition and are easy to locate and travel on. I would be careful though if there is a snowfall that could cover the trail location. The trail can be rocky, muddy, and there is elevation to deal with as well as some easy stream crossings. I would call it a moderate trail, definitely not handicapped accessible or for small kids. While my wife and I do hike regularly, this trail caused this 62-year-old body to be sore for a couple of days!
Was it worth it? Oh yes. It was beautiful and that Vista of the Valley from the rocks was awesome! If you have traveled to Lindy Point at Blackwater Falls State Park, this view rivals it and I would say beats it because with this hike (our round trip was almost 6 miles – but a true out and back would be shorter) the number of people sharing this Vista with you is much smaller. You may even get it to yourself. We met up and traveled the last few miles before the Vista with a group of families and their children, and met a few people on the way back out, but for the most part we were to ourselves in a peaceful and quiet location. My pictures do not do it justice because I did not realize the sun was causing such a glare, but again – the view at the cliffs and for the entire trail is worth it.
So, if you are thinking about doing this – plan ahead, leave enough time – you don’t want to be stuck in the dark, know your routes, prepare for a moderately difficult hike, and HAVE FUN! That’s what it is all about isn’t it???
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Steve, or Countrypap!