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)
I've done a lot of hiking in and around Shenandoah, so this was an awesome change of scenery. The fern fields, expansive meadows, and interesting rock formations make this hike a never-ending series of wonderful moments. It's not a strenuous hike, and my girlfriend and I were able to complete the entire thing, including lunch, in just under 6 hours. The whole time we were hiking, we were talking about how excited we are to come back in the fall when all the leaves are changing colors. There are also a ton of camp sites along the trail, so the next time I go I plan to backpack in a few miles, camp out, and then finish the hike the following day. It does get pretty boggy even before you have the option to return on trail 521 vs 526, so do expect to have some wet feet if you complete the whole loop (522->521->524->526->521->522). Enjoy!
Date of Hike: Thursday, July 23, 2015
Can anybody tell me if any of the trails are suitable for horseback riding and can you download the topo onto a garmin etrex 20 ?
Date of Hike: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Really nice hike with a wide variety of terrain and scenery. Enjoyed the open meadows and big sky vistas. Did this as a two day hike and camped near the left fork of Red Creek on the Dobbins Grade trail. First day was quite muddy but the hike down Dobbins Grade on the second day was a whole other ball game. At one point there were actually fish swimming down the trail. But in spite of the muddiness and puddle hopping it was a beautiful hike and well worth the wet feet. Ran into a couple of groups along the way but pretty much had the hike to myself.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 11, 2015
Hiked this route today. First trip to Dolly Sods for me…...Very good hike. Very wet. Due to the massive amount of rain last night many trails are so full of water they were streams. Used the Beaver Dam Trail entrance and looped about to Bear Rock trailhead before returning to my parked car via the Fire Road. I would do this hike again….would like to see it in dryer conditions.
Date of Hike: Friday, July 10, 2015
I really enjoyed this hike. It did not feel like it was 12 miles, seemed more like a leisurely walk in the woods. Lots of blueberries to eat along the trails. It was also the wettest hike I've ever done. No rain, weather was beautiful, but all the trails were either mud, running water, or a combination of the two. Dobbins Grade Trail should be named Dobbins Creek. The three stream crossings were pretty fun. Only difficult part was finding the trail near the boulders at the top. It took me about 6 hours counting a twenty minute lunch and 45 minutes looking for the trail. I will definitely do this hike again