Lake Moomaw, in the Allegheny Highlands, is created by the Gathright Dam that backs up the Jackson River for over 12 miles. The dam and lake were completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1980's, and was designed to provide flood control and recreation including miles of hiking trails that surround the lake. The lake is a popular area for boaters, and many people also canoe from Campground 3 out to the Greenwood Point Campground.
The out and back hike starts at the main parking area and beach passing the two tent camp areas Bolar Mountain 1 & 2. We highly recommend Lake Moomaw as a car camping location where you can not only hike the trails, but also swim, fish and enjoy other water sports.
Camping during the Off Season - Starting Labor Day: Campgrounds 2 and 3 closed. If you are backpacking, first stop at the marina to pay to camp and hang the pass on the car rearview mirror.
Mile 0.0 - From the trailhead next to the first camp spot of Bolar Mountain Campground 3 head up the blue blazed Greenwood Point Trail for 0.2 miles where the trail will make a turn back through the first of several gullies. Cross a small creek and turn back passing over a spur, then descend again through another gully before the steepest climb of 0.2 miles to the hike high point, and beautiful vista of Lake Moomaw.
Mile 1.1 - From the high point descend for 0.4 miles crossing a stream over a wooden footbridge, then steeply ascend a spur for 0.2 miles to the intersection of an older section of the Greenwood Point Trail.
Mile 1.9 - Continue left on the older section of trail. From here the variance in grade is considerably less for the remaining 1.3 miles to the Greenwood Point Campground.
First, let's talk parking. This trail is part of a recreational area, so there are a ton of RV/Camper campsites in the area. I was very confused about where to park my car if I was camping overnight on the trail, but eventually figured it out: Drive all the way to the turnaround-area right in front of Bolar Mountain 3 campsite area (there is a large dumpster there). Start walking toward the RV campsite loop, and the trailhead is just past the first campsite on your right.
I hiked the 3.3 miles with my 12 year old and 7 year old, but let me tell you - it is NOT an easy hike. Yes, the last 1.4 miles or so are a realtively steady descent, but you will be hiking up and down the mountain valleys before that. I was carrying all of our food and cooking gear for three days and two nights, and it was exhausting.
ATTN. BACKPACKERS: There are NO designated campsites until you reach the end of the trail. There are a couple spots in the middle of the trail, along a creek, that could serve as an emergency spot, but there is very little flat area until you reach the end. There are a couple small creeks along the trail where you can fill up your canteens.
Also, please be aware this is mos def BEAR COUNTRY, and there are signs all over the place warning you about it. Know your bear safety and be prepared. A woman we waved hello to along the trail was carrying a sidearm, and I had a big can of bear repellant (my youngest one kept a bear bell on his bag!). There were bear tracks and droppings along the trail, as well.
The campsites at the end of the trail, on the peninsula, are plenty big for a couple tents, and a few of them are out in the open. I chose to set up beyond the treeline, where we had some protection from the rain. Each site has a flat area for tents (if you choose to use them), a fire ring with a grill, and a picnic table.
The lakeshore is gorgeous, and great for kids (as long as they have some type of sandal/water shoe (the rocks can be sharp). It is relatively shallow until about 20 feet from shore.
Two downsides - and why I gave this a 3-star review. 1) These campsites are not ideal if you don't want to hear motorboats all day long. One campsite, on the south side of the peninsula overlooks a beautiful rockface...but the people there had to deal with motorboats driving past until very late at night. There is no escaping the sound during the summer! At the end of a 3+ mile hike, I want peace and quiet. I was not prepared for the roar of engines at midnight. 2) Often, boaters will leave garbage at the campsites. One prime campsite was filled with junk, a full garbage bag, a broken tent, bottles of water (which we used!), etc.
On the way out, we stopped at the hot, powerful showers and had a very sweet-smelling drive home.
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 23, 2016
Lake Moowmaw is GORGEOUS. The hike itself is not terribly difficult, my girlfriend and I both had heavy packs on and completed the hike in about 2 hours with breaks to take in the views/have a snack. Greenwood Point is a fantastic camping spot, the water is clear and clean and firewood is plentiful. The entire area is lush with vegetation, make sure to bring insect repellent! The five stars is for the camping spot itself, the hike is awesome, but the camping really made the experience for us.
Date of Hike: Thursday, November 12, 2015
Always great to return to Lake Moomaw. Spent a perfect 2 autumn days canoeing and camping at Lake Moomaw. It was a thursday and no one was there. Was able to take some pictures too: http://waynorthblog.com/2015/11/06/lake-moomaw-in-the-fall-george-washington-national-forest-va/
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 13, 2015
This was my second time back here and it was awesome as always. Gave it a 4/5 because of the traffic on the lake.
I wrote a full review on my blog with lots of photos for those that are interested: http://waynorthblog.com
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 30, 2014
I would consider this an intense cardio workout. Also hard on your calves. There were alot of switchback, up and down, get your heart racing parts. The trail was easy to follow though it was sparsely marked. There were several downed trees and brush overgrowing the trail in a couple places. We scared off one deer and saw no other wildlife. We didn't pick up any ticks on this hike.
The bench at the top of the first steep climb was a welcomed break. The lake was very low, but the view was still beautiful. The stream crossings were all dry. There was no running water at all. There were quite a few campers at the other end, but still plenty of beach to stop and have a picnic lunch before you head back.
My husband, doggy, and I did this hike over Labor Day weekend and it was surprisingly hot out. Definitely make sure you bring plenty of water to keep hydrated. We saw only two other parties of hikers on the trail. Overall, a good hike but it was intense.