Monongahela National Forest is located in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia. The forest is noted for its rugged landscape, views, blueberry thickets, highland bogs and “sods”, and open areas with exposed rocks. The best hikes in Monongahela National Forest below attract more than 3 million visitors every year. Special places in the forest include Spruce Knob (WV’s highest point), Seneca Rocks, and the 24 mile North Fork Mountain Trail. Official Website.
|Nearest Metro Area||Charlottesville, VA|
|Area Size||921,150 acres|
|Established||April 28, 1920|
|Hiking Trails||825 miles|
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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Hikes in Monongahela National Forest
(*** = Best hikes in Monongahela National Forest)
Bear Rocks Loop – 9.6 mile loop
Perhaps the most popular trail in the Dolly Sods Wilderness, this loop combines several trails (522 – 521 – 524 – 526) beginning from the Bear Rocks Trailhead. The loop contains several different types of terrain including some rocky sections, open meadows, and creek crossings. Be prepared to get muddy.
Blackbird Knob Loop – 9.2 mile loop
Follow a series of trails (511 – 524 – 525) starting from the Blackbird Knob Trailhead in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area of the forest. Elevation gain is at a minimal and typically less crowded than some of the popular hikes giving you a good chance to experience the Dods.
High Falls Trail – 8.2 miles out and back
This trail climbs up Shavers Mountain on its way to a beautiful waterfall. There are some steeper sections of the trail but the payoff of the falls makes it well worth it. High Falls is over 100′ wide falling 20′ below into a large pool.
North Fork Mountain Trail***- 24.7 miles one way
Best hiked South to North, the NFMT is a fantastic multi-day hike with countless views as you traverse along the ridge crest. There are many campsites along the way for those doing the entire distance or if you want to do an overnight before returning to your starting point. The most popular short distance hike along the trail is a 5 mile gradual climb from the north trailhead to Chimney Top. Whatever you end up doing, this spectacular trail is one of the best in the entire state of West Virginia.
Red Creek Trail to Lion’s Head – 8.2 miles out and back
Another great option in the Dolly Sods Wilderness is this hike beginning from Red Creek Trailhead. There are a lot of options including just going all the way north up Red Creek Trail for 6.4 miles before returning. However, this hike combines a few different trails (514 – 513 – 554) to take you to a fantastic overlook at Lion’s Head.
Seneca Creek + Huckleberry Trail to Spruce Knob*** – 18.0 miles out and back
The trail climbs 1,000 feet from Seneca Creek to the top of Spruce Mountain passing through hardwood forests and small clearings. At 4,863 feet above sea level, Spruce Knob is West Virginia’s highest peak. Once on the ridge, the trail heads south for three miles before reaching the Spruce Knob Tower parking lot. Hiking along the ridge offers breathtaking vistas to the east and west. Hikers have the option to park and start atop Spruce Knob but beginning at the Seneca Creek Trailhead on Forest Road 112 has a greater sense of accomplishment for this state high point.
Seneca Rocks Trail*** – 2.6 miles out and back
Seneca Rocks is one of the best-known landmarks in West Virginia. These rocks have long been noted as a scenic attraction and are popular with rock climbers. The rocks are a magnificent formation rising nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River. The Seneca Rocks Hiking Trail begins at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, crosses Seneca Creek to the picnic area, and climbs to an observation platform near the top of Seneca Rocks. This trail uses steps and switchbacks to gain over 700 feet in elevation. Although steep, the trail can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
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