What can you say about the Dolly Sods area in West Virginia, except that's it's one of the most unique and beautiful forests on the east coast. Many hikers describe Dolly Sods as having very similar characteristics as the high meadows of the northwest and Canada. If you're a hiker in the mid-atlantic, the trails here will probably become a favorite.
Firstly a couple of pointers about Dolly Sods. The entire area is boggy and wet most of the year. You will need good waterproof hiking boots. Hiking shoes or non-waterproof boots won't cut it. Trust us on this :) Also make sure to bring wet weather gear if there is any chance of rain. The climate 1000ft up in Dolly Sods is completely different than in the valley. If there is a 20% chance of precip in the valley, you can almost count on it raining on and off the entire time in Dolly Sods. And lastly, bring a hiking stick or poles.
Note: The trails are not blazed in Dolly Sods, and are color coded on the ACE Map for reference only.
From the parking area just past the Red Creek Campground start the hike on the wooden walkway at the beginning of the Blackbird Knob TR511 trail, and shortly enter a wooded area thick with spruce. In 0.2 miles leave the wooded area and get your first glimpse of the majestic plains in Dolly Sods. Continue down to the first creek crossing in 0.7 miles. After crossing the creek, it will be another 0.6 miles to Red Creek. Pass a side crossing to a small island, and in 50 yards cross Red Creek. Red Creek can run high and require fording instead of rock hopping, so make sure to bring river shoes.
After crossing Red Creek there are several camping sites on the right. Climb through a small gully then enter the first of many meadows and reach the intersection of the Upper Red Creek TR509 trail. Stay straight on TR511 passing through a wooded area, then arriving at the intersection of the Red Creek TR514 trail on the left in another 0.3 miles. There is no sign at this junction, and is marked only by a small cairn of rocks. Continue straight on TR511 through another meadow, crossing a stream, then climb to the intersection of the Harman TR525 trail. Again there is no signage at this junction. Stay left continuing on TR511 for another 1.1 miles and make a left at an unofficial side trail. Then 0.1 miles further reach the intersection of the Rocky Ridge TR524 trail. Turn left on TR524 and in 0.2 miles arrive at a small clearing and kiosk that marks the intersection with the Breathed Mountain TR553 trail.
Turn left on TR553 and pass through a wooded area before the trail becomes boggy, passes through a meadow, then descends steeply to the Red Creek TR514 trail in 2.6 miles.
Turn left on TR514 and reach the Forks of Red Creek in 0.1 miles. There are many great camping spots at the Forks, and this area can be very popular on nicer weekends. Cross the left fork of Red Creek and the climb on TR514, then leveling off at a large meadow in 0.5 miles. From the meadow it is another 0.5 miles back to the intersection of the Blackbird Knob TR511 trail.
Turn right on TR511 retracing your route, crossing Red Creek, then hiking the remaining 1.5 miles back to FR75 and the parking area.
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Reviews For The Forks of Red Creek Hike (5 Most Recent)
We hiked in from the Fisher Spring Run trailhead on Sunday, Dec.23 and hiked out to the Red Creek/FR19 trailhead on Friday, Dec. 28. The hike in was an extremely tough and grueling one due to the trails being completely snow covered and very hard to follow in addition to a large number of downed trees. A winter storm hit us, on the 26th and 27th, dumping an additional 14" of snow with 60+ mph winds causing upwards of five foot snow drifts. We had snow shoes but our 50+lb. packs made the going very slow and tiresome. Once to the 514/FR19 trailhead, we attempted to snowshoe the 6.3 miles back to our vehicle. We made it to the Wildlife trailhead and had to turn back due to the depth of the snow and no chance of retrieving our vehicle. Luckily we ran into some people coming out for a day hike and they gave us a ride off the mountain. We were very fortunate. The gates are closed as of Jan. 2 and there is NO ACCESS to the mountain! We cannot wait until Spring to complete our mission of seeing all of the waterfalls and cascades along this beautiful trail! Happy New Year!
Date of Hike: Friday, October 19, 2012
This was a GREAT Hike- probably my favorite scenic hike since I was in Alaska- high meadows/plains, pine forests, creek crossings, boggy areas to transverse.
Two notes on the hike:
#1- it appears that there are now signs where there were previously not signs, marking trail intersections so you know where you are. This was a relief to know you were still on the right trail.
#2- If you go a day after a large rain- you might not be able to complete the hike as described. It rained heavy on Thursday night, and as I got to the end of TR511 and began looking for the side trail- the main trail turned into a small trickle of water- and eventually into a creek/stream with about 2-3 inches of water.
I can't wait to go back and do this again- it'd be great to do with snow on the ground BUT- the signs indicate that FR75 (on top of the mountain)is closed Jan-April.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 18, 2012
We love Dolly Sods. The wilderness area is full of every eco-system imaginable. One minute you're hiking through a tall-pine forest, the next through golden spruce, and then suddenly in a giant mountain meadow with views for miles.
We took a slightly different route than the one described here, but the beauty of Dolly Sods is you can mix and match the trails. There are plenty of camping sites in each of the river gorges (Red Creek and Big Stonecoal), as well as on top of Breathed Mountain, so creating your own route is fairly easy.
That said, there are a limited number of sites available at the official Red Creek campground, so if you plan on arriving late, you should anticipate some night hiking.
Our route was Blackbird Knob Harman Big Stonecoal Rocky Ridge Red Creek back to Blackbird Knob. We camped on top of Breathed Mntn, which was absolutely beautiful. If you plan to do this, though, be sure to fill up on water before climbing up there because there isn't any to be found on top.
Can't wait to go back and check out Dolly Sods North!
Hans ( und Heidi )
Date of Hike: Monday, April 02, 2012
We give the Dolly Sods Wilderness 5 stars. This trail we could not get to on this date as the FR75 was gated 7 miles from the trail head. We hiked the Red Creek trail up from Laneville for an out and back of 4 hours. The day before we hiked Dolly Sods North area and I wrote a review of it. The South area is not the same as the North " High Plain Bog", but we give it 5 stars for the scenery (before leaf flush), and plan to come back when the forests of Rhododendrum bloom, which should be same time as the millions of Mountain Laurel in the North Area.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 11, 2010
Everything that you read about Dolly Sods Wilderness describes a beautiful, remote, and challenging terrain. The articles refer to the year-round bogginess, the unblazed trails...and unexploded WW2 ordnance. Still, my hiking group was itching to take on something more aggressive than our typical SNP and GWNF hikes have been, possibly including a hike-in overnighter, and we began to think about the logistics involved, including the 3 to 4 hour drive out to West Virginia from our Northern Virginia base, the gear we’d need, and other issues.
We agreed to try the Forks of Red Creek while we were still talking about the potential of camping in the Wilderness. Even though we changed our plans about camping &ndash the combination of the distance and the fact that I don&rsquot have the equipment weighed against this, so we stayed at the State Park lodge in Davis, WV, a 30 minute drive &ndash the choice of trail was an excellent decision because of the wide range of scenery we passed through.
As far as the hike itself goes, possible due to a long dry spell in the summer of 2010, the bogs we were warned about didn&rsquot trouble us. There were signs of them, and for sure they would be challenging if the weather had been wetter than it was. Due to the dryness, the trails were clear and we had few problems orienteering, mostly because of well-placed signs at intersections &ndash supplemented by using a compass at some of them when the way wasn&rsquot clear (I kept my Casio Pathfinder alternating between compass and altimeter modes for the duration of the hike).
We encountered plenty of camp sites, which were mostly occupied by the afternoon &ndash early in the day most of the plum locations weren&rsquot taken. Since we may eventually go back and try our first overnighter here, we kept an eye on the locations for future reference. There are plenty of great camp sites, many of them have benefited from the inventiveness of past hikers&hellipat approximately 1.5 miles into the hike, just before the first major Red Creek crossing, we noticed a series of stepping stones set into the creek, and took a short break to explore the detour. This turned out to be a little island or peninsula, and the campsites were quite elaborate, sometimes even using rocks from the area to create fire pit seating areas!
Continuing on down into the canyon, there were more great campsites &ndash the reviews on this site state that these areas can be quite crowded, and it&rsquos easy to understand why after you experience the natural beauty of the place and consider how lovely a summer evening beside this little stream could be. A few of these sites were taken already by midday, but I think those folks had gotten in early or were doing a multi-day expedition.
We had a great time on this hike, and our experience was pretty much what the Hiking Upward guidelines say &ndash time, distance, stream crossings, etc. We met a few folks on the trail that were having the same great time we did: a couple that had spent four days out there camping, two guys fly fishing in the creek and camping overnight, and one guy letting his golden retriever take a dip in the stream. It&rsquos definitely a trip we&rsquoll make again.
I want to add a few words about this part of West Virginia. On Sunday we figured we&rsquod be pretty tired from the hike and need a partial recovery day before heading back to Northern Virginia. Two easy sightseeing side trips are within easy reach of the Wilderness: Blackwater Falls and the Seneca Rocks.
At Blackwater Falls, the water is colored by tannins from the upstream evergreen forests, and the cascade tumbles over copper-colored sandstone to fall 62 feet into Blackwater Canyon. There is a rock abutment that divides the falls into two horizontal sections &ndash we could see that during our visit, but apparently it&rsquos more dramatic during times of higher water flow. This is a state park, and they&rsquove built an extensive wooden staircase down to several viewpoints in the canyon.
Also, Seneca Rocks is a half hour south of the area. This formation is one of a series of &ldquorazorback ridges&rdquo in West Virginia, and it is the furthest south on the chain of peaks it terminates. In fact, this ridge borders the north fork of the Potomac River, which may place it in the western reaches of the original Fairfax land grant. There is a great information center here operated by the Forest Service, and there is also a little monument to the 10th Mountain Division, which trained here before deploying to Europe, where they would fight in Italy.
I have a fuller review of the Forks of Red Creek hike with phone cam photos on my Hawksbill Cabin blog, at this URL: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/search/label/Dolly%20Sods%20Wilderness
Between the hike and the two side trips, we had a great weekend in West Virginia. Dolly Sods was every bit the great experience we expected it to be, and my hiking team is thinking of a repeat visit.