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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
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Seneca Rocks Weather Forecast
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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: DollySodder Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Made camp at the site by Cross Red Creek and day hiked the rest of the loop. For the amount of cars we saw parked on 75, it never felt too crowded. Kid and dog friendly. HOWEVER  is not a hike for a dog smaller than 15 lbs/short legs in my opinion simply due to the amount of mud and boggy spots. WEAR WATERPROOF BOOTS AND BRING EXTRA SOCKS. Tall socks will prevent scrapes from the brush. Saw a few folks on the trail with sneakers, you WILL get your feet wet if you do this. Trekking poles help your balance when crossing water on rocks. Took us about 5 hours with many stops and lunch to do the 9 mile loop.

This is a beautiful time of year to go. The scenery never disappoints regardless of time of year. The reds, golds and yellows across the scenery is absolutely amazing. The windswept boulders are amazing and there are tons of great spots for lunch.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 07, 2017
Beautiful hike through a unique and alien landscape, but the lack of water was a problem for our group. We did this hike as an overnight backpack on Saturday 10/7 - Sunday 10/8, shortening the route by taking the picturesque Beaver View trail (523) back up to Raven Ridge (521). We camped on Saturday night near the intersection of Dobbin Grade (526) and Beaver View. There are a lot of campsites established along Dobbin Grade, though most were claimed by the time we arrived late in the day. Firewood was plentiful, and there were tall trees to hang bear bags.

Our hike was at the tail end of a very long dry spell for the area - 30 days without rain. Consequently, we encountered no boggy areas along Bear Rocks (522), Raven Ridge, or Rocky Ridge (524). The trail was a little wet and muddy at times along Dobbin Grade, but nothing that was not easily bypassed.

The only water sources we encountered during the entire hike were at the crossings of Red Creek (Mile 1.0) and the Left Fork of Red Creek (Mile 6.5). (We bypassed the spring at mile 7.1.) I was carrying 2.5 L of water with me, but due to the heat/sun, the strenuousness of carrying a heavy pack, the distance between water sources, and sharing with other group members, I wished I had carried an additional liter.

Feel free to email me if you would like further details!

By: Jake Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, September 04, 2017
Backpacked this for my first visit, and I was absolutely amazed. I didn't have any problems with the mud because I wore waterproof boots (thanks to previous reviewers!). To hike along so are the northern flora was strange as a native to the region but also almost enchanting. I camped along the Canaan Valley overlook and enjoyed a spectacular sunset. The hike out was just as great. Will definitely be doing the longer version soon

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, August 28, 2017
Hiked the Dolly sods North Hike As an overnight with my 11 year old Son. We started late in the day and we made camp on the ravens ridge trail just before the rocky ridge trail tucked in the pine trees out of the wind. The trail to this point was very easy to follow. The rocky ridge trail had some very awesome views. There was a point where we got off the main trail but we were able to get back on track without to much trouble. The dobbins grade trail was a little mucky I only got my foot wet once. I took the advice though and Took the Ravens ridge trail back up to the bear rocks trail. We really loved this hikes. So many views all along the trail, the elevation changes were very easy this is West Virginia it gets much harder believe me. This has been one of my favorite hikes and I would highly recommend it.

By: Dad of 3 Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, August 25, 2017
We started our journey at the Blackbird knob trail head and hiked to the camping spot at the left fork of Red Creek. We had the entire area to ourselves. Coyotes fired up about 10 pm for a little while, then we could tell they were moving further away. Saturday morning, we hiked out to Rocky Ridge, then over to Raven Ridge, down to Dobbin Grade and then across to Upper Red Creek trail. We were going to camp along Red Creek at the Blackbird Crossing for night two, but being 2 miles from the parking lot, the kids decided we would hike out and get pizza on the way home. Great weekend of hiking. Still A LOT of muddy/boggy areas along the way, which isn't much fun. Otherwise it was a great weekend to be in the Sods! :)

    View all 72 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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