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Dolly Sods North - Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
11.9 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:

6.0 hours plus a half hour for lunch
1,050 ft
Dolly Sods - Monongahela National Forest
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Seneca Rocks Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)

There is a large parking area on FR75 just before the descent,
  park 200 yards to the south on FR75 opposite the trail head. 39.06352, -79.30326

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 1.0 – The Bear Rocks Trail becomes narrow passing through a boggy section and over a wooden walkway before arriving at the crossing for Red Creek. Cross Red Creek, then on the left is a nice campsite with slate chairs and fire ring. The trail continues on the left once crossing the creek and climbs steeply for 0.2 miles then makes a sharp turn right into a fern field. Walk over another wooden footpath entering a wooded area where the trail climbs towards the first meadow.  Exit the woods and pass over the first open meadow. The Bear Rocks Trail will then descend through a hollow and climb over another rise then end at the intersection of the Raven Ridge Trail TR521.
  • Mile 2.3 – Continue straight uphill on the Raven Ridge Trail TR521, then in 0.2 miles reach the intersection of the Beaver View Trail TR523.
  • Mile 2.5Continue straight on the Raven Ridge Trail TR521 as the trail leaves the meadows, then makes a sharp left hand turn into a wooded area. Exit the wooded area and shortly arrive at the intersection of the Rocky Ridge Trail TR524.
  • Mile 3.8Turn left on the Rocky Ridge Trail TR524 then in 0.3 miles reach one of the best overlooks of the hike into Canaan Valley. The next 1.4 miles on the Rocky Ridge Trail TR524 passes the area where most of the windswept boulders are located. This section of the trail can be a little tricky to navigate. Just look for small rock cairns.
  • 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 8.1Turn 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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Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Dolly Sods North hike:

Hiker Reviews For The Dolly Sods North Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Dolly Sods North hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 28, 2017
Incredible and very wet Memorial Day weekend hike. Our group of three hiked Dolly Sods, starting at Bear Rocks entrance on Saturday and Sunday, May 27 & 28. It was spectacular, but at the end of the hike (euphoria + exhaustion!) I took off my boots at the trailhead around 7pm on Sunday, May 28th and accidentally left hiking boots, poles, gaiters, and socks. It's nothing fancy, but the hiking shoes fit! I left the items by a rock near the Bear Rocks Dolly Sods hiking entrance sign. First, sorry for leaving things behind and second if anyone comes across them, please contact me: avivakutnick@gmail.com

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Amazing location. Even at its busiest it feels deserted. The camping spots are amazing and rival some of my favorites worldwide. The only potential issue is water access. The stream crossings mentioned are the only reliably flowing access points. Plan to bring a filter, or to pack in enough for a dry camp.

Not really noted in other reviews: this area is also great for dark sky star gazing.

By: MarylandDad Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 13, 2017
We did a part of this hike with my wife, teen daughter and her friend. It was a little early in the season so the colors trended towards browns and light greens but it was still beautiful. 75 was gated so we had to do the 1.2 mile hike up to the trailhead (it was open by the time we got back...not sure when and why they open it). We ended up only doing an out-and-back after losing the Rocky Ridge trail after some of the gorgeous first views. We teamed up with a backpacking pair to try to find it but struck out. They opted to keep bushwacking on the basic bearing but, since we were just dayhiking, we opted to retrace our steps out. Can't wait to go back with my other daughter for a 2 or 3 night trip.

By: Faheem Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 09, 2017
Excellent views, unique landscape (looks like Alaska or Canada) and unique plants. We were walking across a spongy bog and looked down and saw cranberries underfoot. Millions of blueberry bushes. Tons of different types of mosses. Wear waterproof hiking boots and long pants to avoid the bushes scratching your legs. We were up here and saw *no one* in the 2 hours we spent here. Possibly because the gate for the road to access the park was closed a mile down the mountain. Weather was sunny and maybe around 70.

Warning: If you come in winter/early spring months, the access road (Fire Road 75) might be closed at the gate about a mile below the parking area, here: https://www.google.com/maps/@39.0499068,-79.2961623,55m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en It was closed for us on April 9th. So we parked in the very limited parking areas (maybe dozen cars can fit) at the gate and hiked the remaining mile up the gravel road. Call the US Forest Service ahead of time to see if the road is closed: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mnf/conditions/?cid=FSM9_011223

By: Alex P. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 06, 2016
Amazing hike! I did this as a solo overnight, and camped at the crossing of Left Fork of Red Creek at 6.5 miles. It was a great campsite, but cold down in the valley. It was 26 degrees when I got up this morning! I won't go into much more detail because everyone before has been very thorough in their descriptions. Just a couple of points. I echo what Ryan said: your feet will get wet and muddy. There's no way around it. In fact, when I tried to find a way around it I sank knee-deep in muck! I'm going to start calling it Dolly Bogs. Light merino socks and quick drying trail runners are the ticket here. There are tons of amazing campsites through every section. If it's crowded, just keep going a little ways and you'll find something. I think the pvc pipe at the spring has been pulled out. I didn't see the flowing pipe, but at about where it should have been there was a 25-foot section lying below the trail. I had the PDF printout map and directions and I was fine, didn't get lost or confused once. If you have never been to Dolly Sods, go! I've lived and hiked all over the country and this is one of the most beautiful and unique spots on the east coast. I would give it a 6 for views...views everywhere! And lots of nice easy watering spots. I carried two liters, but probably could have gotten away with one.

    View all 65 reviews for the Dolly Sods North hike
Mid October (photos courtesy Hans und Heidi)
Early September (photos courtesy Jake M.)
Early July
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