Arguably one of the most unique, and beautiful hiking areas on the East Coast. The high plateaus of Dolly Sods are made up of wind carved sand stone, stunted red spruce, grassy meadows, and sphagnum bogs. The characteristic meadows are the result of logging that took place from 1899 to 1924. During the Second World War the U.S. Army used the area for artillery and mortar training, and at the trailheads the Army Corp of Engineers still displays signs warning hikers that there may be unexploded ordinance in the area.
The name Dolly Sods derives from a combination of Dahles, a local 18th century family, and Sods, meaning an open mountain top or meadow. After WWII the area fell into neglect, and was threatened by multiple construction and mining project proposals. Then in the early 1970’s concerned environmentalists, along with The Nature Conservancy, began purchasing the land for preservation and recreational use. Today the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area comprises 17,371 acres.
With over 47 miles of hiking trails following old railroad grades and logging roads there are many hiking circuit options. We have 3 circuit hikes posted here: Dolly Sods North, at 11.9 miles this hike highlights the high meadows and mountain views. The Forks of Red Creek, in the central section crossing Red Creek and several streams. And Dolly Sods/Lions Head, that combines the best parts of the first 2, as well as the view from the Lions Head on Breathed Mountain.
Mile 0.0 – From the parking area on FR75 pass the trailhead sign and start down the Bear Rocks Trail TR522. Note that none of the trails in the Dolly Sods area are blazed, however they are well marked with signage. The Bear Rocks Trail is washed out for the first 0.5 miles until it crosses a small stream. Pass over a ridge, and then descend another washed out section to the intersection of the Dobbin Grade Trail TR526 on the left.
Mile 5.5 – Reach the intersection of the Dobbin Grade Trail TR526. Turn left downhill on the Dobbin Grade Trail TR526 as it descends the valley, then crosses the left fork of Red Creak in 1.0 miles. The trail will turn more to the right before arriving at the junction of the Beaver View Trail in 0.6 miles.
Mile 7.1 - Continue straight on the Dobbin Grade Trail passing a spring (hose attached) in 0.3 miles, then descend to the valley floor and pass through a boggy area before arriving at the intersection of the Upper Red Creek Trail TR509 0.6 miles from the spring.
Mile 8.0 - Pass the tereminus of the Uper Red Creek Trail TR509, then in 0.1 miles arrive at the Raven Ridge Trail TR521.
Mile 8.1 – Turn left uphill on the Raven Ridge Trail TR521. WARNING: People look at the map and notice that following the Dobbin Grade Trail back to the Bear Rocks Trail is a shorter route. Don’t do it! The Dobbin Grade Trail is a boggy mess anytime of the year, and offers little scenery. Taking the Raven Ridge Trail TR521 has much nicer views and is completely dry. So, after turning left uphill onto he Raven Ridge Trail TR521 pass through several nice meadows and wooded areas for 1.5 miles back to the intersection with the Bear Rocks Trail TR522 terminus you passed earlier in the hike.
Mile 9.6 – Turn right on the Bear Rocks Trail TR522 retracing your earlier steps through the meadows, crossing Red Creek, passing the Dobbin Grade Trail terminus, and climbing back to the parking area.
Mile 11.9 – Arrive back at the Bear Rocks Trailhead and parking area.
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Reviews For The Dolly Sods North Hike (5 Most Recent)
Spent the weekend backpacking at Dolly Sods. This place is always at the top of our list of places to visit during the summer, and we typically get here at least 3 times a year. We arrived at the trail head around 10:30 on Saturday morning. We were a bit surprised by the number of cars already parked along the side of the road. We hit the trail and made a dash to our favorite campsite hidden in a grove of trees. After setting up our tents, we embarked on a 6 mile hike through some of our favorite parts of Dolly Sods North. We love the entire section of the Rocky Ridge Trail. The views are amazing and hopping over rocks is so much fun. There are plenty of places to stop along the way to take a break, and we enjoyed quite a few of them before heading down the Dobbin Grade Trail. There are a few more nice campsites along Red Creek. These typically fill up pretty quickly so if you enjoy a bit more privacy than opt for a place a bit further away from water. Headed back up to camp and spent the night hanging out by the campfire. Woke up super early and was able to get to the car by 9:30am.
BTW - heed Hiking Upward's warning about the Dobbin Grade Trail. Raven Ridge is a much better route back to the parking area. Dobbin Grade is very marshy and you will be walking at least a mile in 3+ inches of water. We made that mistake once and never did it again.
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 22, 2015
This was an incredible hike, everything I hoped for and more. I posted some photos to my blog here:
I did this as a two day backpack, because I only arrived at the trailhead around 2pm. It was COLD, and super foggy. 24 degrees at the trailhead, and on the bluff halfway down TR522, the temp read 9 degrees with a serious breeze. I found a beautiful snowy campsite hidden amongst some pines, and enjoyed my night thoroughly out of the breeze.
I awoke to a huge melt around 3am, and by noon it was 50 degrees. The sign at the trailhead says there can be big weather changes -- it ain't wrong! I ended up in my base layers for the entire afternoon, down from my nearly full winter kit.
*Note* the spring with the hose attached was bone dry. I planned to use that as a refill, but there was a dry hose and lots of beer cans and garbage around the spring. I filled up in the creek instead, but just important to note.
The bogs were most frozen, which was nice until the melt had me break through a bunch. Some of the iced over river beds are all kinds of treacherous.
I did not see a single soul in the 28 or so hours I was there. Beautiful trail.
Hans und Heidi
Date of Hike: Thursday, October 02, 2014
See our review for the Forks of the Red Creek, on the next day.
We finally timed it right here for the fall colours. This is our sixth time here in 3 years. We are still late by a week this time, but it was spectacular, and unlike anywhere else in the world. We took 8 hours for this 12 mile hike, and would have taken forever if reality did not push us along to finish. West Virginia, Almost Heaven ??? Go see the Dolly Sods in fall colors and you're sure to see Heaven on earth.
Date of Hike: Thursday, May 15, 2014
Finally made it to Dolly Sods after many failed attempts. Parked at the Red Creek Campground area and hiked down Blackbird Knob (TR511). It had rained nearly 3 inches and was still raining like crazy, off 3 friends and myself went! WATERPROOF boots are required needless to say. ASOLO was my choice and they worked perfect with some gaiters as well. We made it to Red Creek and set up camp. Lots of camping spots along creek-get creative in finding firewood! Red Creek was raging and not passable. We set up next to a small water fall that looked like Niagara Falls. Managed to start a fire some how and dried out what clothes we could. The creek came up about an additional foot that night. This place is beautiful even in the rain. The next day we had some clearing and the views were amazing, had to fjord a few small streams-CHALLENGING! We will be returning soon for an extended hike-minus the rain I hope. The NORTH SODS is much like a Canadian environment, beautiful and a most see.