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.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left
Mouse-over the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Dolly Sods North hike:
Reviews For The Dolly Sods North Hike (5 Most Recent)
We've been here now 7 times, in all seasons. Timing was perfect for the colors of Autumn. Last time here was 2 years ago and two weeks sooner, and I thought we were two weeks late then for the Peak. But this time the weather and scenery came together like it can, only here in the Dolly Sods North.
There was more people than I have ever seen here, and license plates were from all over the place. We encountered 10 kids from Michigan backpacking. Many back packers.
We walked the 12 mile loop starting at 11 and ended at 7:30 walking out the last mile right into the most full and huge Hunters Moon, lighting the trail. This we will never forget.
As of this weekend, the color change has not really happened in the Shenandoahs, and even the east side of the Allegheny Range is still quite green. At Dolly Sods I would say it's perfect now, while yonder across the Canann Valley the east side is about to be in full bloom next weekend.
Note from the previous reviewer about the fire restrictions. There are no restrictions now.
Hans (und Heidi)
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 15, 2016
One more note about getting the timing right for Peak. For us it is a 3 hour drive to get here. Because this area is unique in terrain and elevation, you never really know what to expect. I remember driving through beautiful autumn , only to be blasted at 20 mph by the dead of winter upon cresting to the park lot at Dolly Sods.
Next time we will call the visitors center at Seneca Rocks, and if they look out the window and see 95% green leaves below the Rocks, it's probably Peak Colour at Dolly Sods.
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 02, 2016
Just returned from a overnight hike of the northern part of Dolly Sods. We wanted to circumnavigate the whole area but the entire southern part of the wilderness is closed! We had to end our hike a day sooner but the rest of it was amazing. Very high water on the 1st day and just muddy the second day. BE WARNED! ALL TRAILS IN THE SOUTH AREA CLOSED RIGHT NOW. FIRES IN THE AREA! CHECK WITH NATIONAL FOREST OFFICE BEFORE YOU GO TO THAT AREA!
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 11, 2016
This hike is absolutely amazing and I would recommend it to anyone. But be advised, a 6-hour hike isn't for everyone and if you include the time it takes to got to the Dolly Sods and back, you are looking at a full day. Perhaps I got lucky, but I navigated using the directions provided (which are very comprehensive, thank you for posting them), and had no issues at all. I was a little concerned after some of the other reviews talked about how confusing the trail can be and how people got lost, but I found the trail well maintained and well signed. The only point I missed in the entire hike was the "spring" (hose), but I could have easily simply not noticed it.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 10, 2016
Such a unique and amazing place. blueberries, spruce, bogs feels like your hiking in the midwest or alaska somewhere. Not just hiking through a tree tunnel to a lookout. Great views all the time. Really can't say enough.