The 2nd edition of Five-Star Trails: West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest has been completely revised. Veteran author Johnny Molloy used his decades of exploring West Virginia's largest national forest to choose only the best hikes, covering the mosaic of experiences to be had in the "Mon"--whether to rocky overlooks, deep into untamed wildernesses, to backcountry waterfalls, even to botanically rare and rich parcels--special places one and all.
To this end, Molloy has completely rewritten the book, rehiking hikes from the previous edition and adding more than a dozen new hikes for this edition. All the maps and elevation profiles have been professionally redone, and new photographs have been taken. Together, these new elements have been fashioned into a guide worthy of West Virginia's fabulous national forest that is the Monongahela.
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Raven Ridge Loop
Scenery: 5 stars
Trail Condition: 2 stars
Children: 3 stars
Difficulty: 2 stars
Solitude: 2 stars
GPS Trailhead Coordinates: N39° 3.179' W79° 18.578'
Distance & Configuration: 6-mile balloon
Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
Outstanding Features: Views galore, wilderness
Elevation: 4,080' at trailhead, 3,700' at low point
Access: No fees or permits required
Maps: Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest; USGS Blackbird Knob
Wheelchair Access: None
Contacts: Potomac Ranger District, 304-257-4488
The circuit hike explores the north end of the Dolly Sods Wilderness, where meadows, heath glades, and grassesall mixed with tree coppicescreate an open landscape recalling the West. First, descend to Red Creek gaining views from the first step. Come along the creek and head downstream in an open valley, where panoramas extend in all four cardinal directions. Turn up Raven Ridge, rising to more views. Cut through hardwoods and spruce then reenter open vista-laden terrain. Cross Red Creek again, then descend a railroad grade in mixed woods and meadows before returning to the trailhead, amazed at the wealth of views.
It is hard to watch your feet on this circuit hike because, most of the way, while traveling open lands with only scattered tree cover, you have views near and far. However, watch your feet you must, as segments of the hike pass through grassy wetlands, across mushy spring branches, and along sometimes-inundated logging grades. Moreover, there is one potential wet crossing of Red Creek. So take your time, enjoy the views of the north end of Dolly Sods Wilderness and try not to get your feet wetor just get ’em wet then don’t worry about it.
Start your hike on the Beaver Dam Trail, immediately dropping into the valley of upper Red Creek, backed by Cabin Mountain. Sparse forest cover allows you to see the hills and valleys of this perched plateau, with rock outcrops and spruce stands. Trace the path west through scattered and stunted tree coppices, along wet cranberry bogs, and through grasses.
At 0.7 mile, reach Dobbin Grade Trail. Turn left here, coursing down the open valley of Red Creek. As its name implies, the trail traces a former logging railroad grade that has a menagerie of grasses, stunted aspen, and rock gardens, but mostly open terrain. It won’t be long before you reach your first wet section, often mushy grasses, or streamlets amid bogs, or just plain ol’ mud holes. Try not to widen these wet spots by going far around them. Around you, the open terrain lends a different perspective on distance here in the mountains of West Virginia.
At 1.8 miles, come to the Red Creek crossing. Though the stream is smallish here, expect to get your feet wet. Consider going barefoot but using trekking poles for balance, thus keeping your shoes and socks dry. Meet the Raven Ridge Trail shortly beyond the crossing. Turn right here, climbing the nose of a naked ridge cloaked in a few spruce and wind-flagged hardwoods. While climbing, look back for commanding panoramas of the lower Red Creek valley. Keep north as the balance of Dolly Sods Wilderness falls away to your south. This area deserves additional attention. Stop somewhere and just soak it all in.
At 2.6 miles, climb into woods then level off. Ahead, the trail winds through ever-changing trailside of woods and meadows. Views still open to the west. Cabin Mountain forms a rampart and boundary of the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Bisect a spruce grove at 3.0 miles, then slice through a linear meadow ringed in spruce. At 3.3 miles in open terrain, meet the Bear Rocks Trail. Turn right on this path, now heading east in mostly open terrain. Gain views across the Dolly Sods and into the eastern horizon beyond the Allegheny Front, as well as far to the south of the Roaring Plains and even to the Seneca Creek Backcountry. What views!
Descend to reenter hardwoods at 4.1 miles. Cross several wetland boardwalks at 4.3 miles. Descend through hardwoods to rock-hop across Red Creek in a spruce thicket at 4.5 miles. Span one more boardwalk then meet Dobbin Grade Trail at 4.6 miles. Turn right (south) here to experience an amalgam of meadow and forest, complete with mushy segments with Red Creek flowing roughly parallel to your right. The level grade lends itself to getting wet, since water runs slower on the flat surface that once carried timber from this howling back of beyond to market. Cross a little creek at 4.9 miles.
Meet the Beaver Dam Trail at 5.3 miles after making a sharp left and then right. You have completed the loop portion of the hike. From here, it is 0.7 mile back to the Beaver Dam Trailhead, which you reach at 6.0 miles.
Red Creek Campground, perched at nearly 4,000 feet, is one of the highest campgrounds in West Virginia. It is just a few miles south of the trailhead for this hike. The campground, open mid-April through November, offers 16 campsites in mixed woods and much open terrain. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire pit, and lantern post. It makes an ideal base camp for exploring the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Campground reservations are not available.
From Petersburg, drive west on West Virginia 28 for 8.5 miles to Jordan Run Road (CR 28/7). Turn right on CR 28/7 and follow it 1.0 mile to Forest Road 19, on your left. Turn left on FR 19 and follow it 6.0 miles to FR 75. Turn right on FR 75 and follow it 6.5 miles to the Beaver Dam Trailhead, on your left.
Table of ContentsOverview Map
Overview Map Key
Dolly Sods Wilderness–Otter Creek Wilderness Area
1. Raven Ridge Loop
2. Blackbird Knob Vista
3. Red Creek Falls via Fisher Spring Run
4. Rohrbaugh Overlook
5. Dunkenbarger Loop
6. Boars Nest Loop
7. Red Creek Plains
8. Chimney Top
9. Big Bend Loop
10. Seneca Rocks
11. Blackwater Canyon Vistas
12. Table Rock Overlook
13. Lower Otter Creek Wilderness
14. Otter Creek Wilderness Loop
Seneca Creek Backcountry–Laurel Fork Wilderness Area
15. Horton-Spring Ridge Loop
16. North Prong Loop
17. Upper Falls of Seneca Creek
18. Spruce Knob and Huckleberry Trail
19. Laurel Fork North Wilderness
20. Laurel Fork South Wilderness
21. Camp Five Run Loop
22. High Falls
23. Shavers Mountain via Johns Camp Run
24. East Fork Greenbrier Hike
Greater Cranberry Wilderness Area
25. Red Spruce Knob
26. Gauley Mountain Loop
27. Tea Creek Loop
28. Big Beechy Run Falls
29. Lick Branch Falls
30. Falls of Middle Fork
31. Black Mountain Circuit
32. High Rock
33. Blue Knob
34. Cowpasture Loop
35. Cranberry Glades Interpretive Boardwalk
36. Falls of Hills Creek
37. Summit Lake Loop
38. Laurel Creek Circuit
39. Lake Sherwood Loop
40. Blue Bend Loop
Appendix: Monongahela National Forest Contact Information
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