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Middle Fork/Big Beechy - Cranberry Wilderness, WV

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
16.7 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
2 days. Day 1: 5.0 hours. Day 2: 4.5 hours.
2,170 ft
Monongahela National Forest
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Park off WV150 at the Big Beechy, North Fork trail parking area. 38.29553, -80.24901

The 47,815 acre Cranberry Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest has over 70 miles of hiking trails. The area is very rugged, with densely forested areas and steep mountains. The trails in the wilderness are not blazed, and depending on the time of year you decide to hike, a map, compass, and GPS are highly recommended as many of the trails can be harder to navigate. Your reward is one of the most beautiful areas on the East Coast, with moss covered mountains, streams with pools, and exceptional solitude.

The 16.7 mile Middle Fork/Big Beechy loop hike we have mapped here is done clockwise descending the Middle Fork Trail on day 1, then ascending the Big Beechy Trail on day 2. The Big Beechy Trail is steep and rocky, and is safer to climb then descend in our opinion.

The first day hiking along Middle Fork is a pleasant stroll along countless pools. Spend the night camping next to the waterfall at the confluence of Middle Fork and Beechy Run at one of the 5 large campsites. On day 2 the first 2.4 miles is the most challenging as you climb to the ridge. You are then rewarded with old growth forest, as well as fields and stands of spruce.

  • Mile 0.0 - From the Big Beechy trailhead parking area follow the path over an earthen berm, then shortly arrive at a trailhead information kiosk. In 0.2 miles the Big Beechy Trail TR207 turns right off the main wider trail. The trail junction is easily missed if you are not looking for it.
  • Mile 0.2 - Stay straight as the path you have been following becomes the North Fork Trail TR272. Follow the North Fork Trail as it gently begins to descend the mountain, then in 1.2 miles arrives at the intersection of the Middle Fork Trail.
  • Mile 1.4 - Stay right on the Middle Fork Trail TR271. The trail will now follow the right bank of Middle Fork. The trail is heavily forested and passes many pools along the run. Also pass several good campsites as the trail meanders its way down the valley. There are also several small tributary creeks including the North Branch, Hammond Run, Slade Branch, Slick Rock Run, and Sheets Gordon Run. The Middle Fork Trail also crosses Middle Fork to the left bank, then crosses back over to the right bank.
  • Mile 7.8 - Pass the Laurelly Branch Trail TR267 on the left. This trail intersection did not have a marker as of June 2015, and also can be easy missed. Continue along the Middle Fork Trail for another 1.6 miles and arrive at the Big Beechy Trail intersection.
  • Mile 9.5 - Cross Beachy Run where the best campsite is next to the waterfall, however if that campsite is occupied there are 4 more large campsites in this area on the bank of Beachy Run. (The Middle Fork Trail continues another 2.6 miles to the Three Forks Trailhead parking on FR86)

    Day 2

  • Mile 9.5 - Cross back over Beechy Run. Turn left on the narrow Big Beechy Trail as it steeply climbs the mountain. For the next 2.4 miles the Big Beechy Trail is rocky, narrow and has a steep drop off, watching your footing on the narrow trail is a must. There are also several sections of dense Stinging Nettle, so either were long pants, or be prepared to carefully navigate this as it intrudes on the trail in many places.
  • Mille 11.9 - Once reaching the ridge the Big Beechy Trail passes over several knobs, then in another 2.3 miles arrives at the District Line Trail intersection on the left. Again this trail junction is easy to miss. Look for a small rock cairn.
  • Mile 14.2 Continue on the Big Beechy Trail passing several sections where the area is covered almost entirely in moss.
  • Mile 15.4 - At this point the Big Beechy Trail makes a hard right, with the overgrown and abandoned Northsouth Trail turning left. Stay right on the Big Beechy Trail as it shortly passes over the high point on Sugar Creek Mountain at 4,521ft. Now gradually descend towards the intersection of the North Fork Trail.
  • Mile 16.5 - Arrive back at the intersection with the North Fork Trail. Turn left for the remaining 0.2 miles to the parking area.
  • Mile 16.7 - Arrive back at the Big Beechy trailhead parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Middle Fork/Big Beechy Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Middle Fork/Big Beechy hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, July 01, 2017
Middle Fork Trail was overrun with nettles and thorny plants. There were probably 100+ downed trees (July 1, 2017) on the loop which made it significantly harder to hike with a pack. We weren't hiking after a storm and there was moss on many of the trees so I don't think the trail is very well maintained.

The camping spot at the waterfall with the waterhole was really nice and worth the hike there. Lots of firewood around.

The forest was weirdly empty of animals and silent. We saw two watersnakes and heard birds but didn't even see a squirrel the whole time.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Did this hike by myself during the weekday and didn't see a single other person the entire time, it was gorgeous. The trail is still a bit hard to follow at points with countless downed trees on the Middle Fork trail. I started with Big Beechy since I wanted to hike to a further campsite the first day and camped at McClintock Run which was a nice spot though the Hell for Certain and site at the junction of Beechy and Middle Fork looked like the best options. While I agree the incline off Beechy would be somewhat tricky to go down if slick, it was fine with the trail dry.

At the junction of the Laurelly Branch and Middle Fork it looks like you should cross the river and go on Laurelly due to downed trees obscuring the Middle Fork so just be aware that you won't cross the creek until after Hell for Certain since it's a bit confusing.  

Beautiful trail, particularly Big Beechy, though definitely echo the need for pants and boots since fairly muddy and overgrown with nettle in places.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, July 01, 2016
Major flood damage in this area from recent storms. At parts, the Middle Fork trail may be impassible due to blow-downs and trail collapse. The Hell for Certain campsite is now under 6 inches of sand. Definitely not for a beginner. Still, gorgeous area and very wild.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 24, 2015
We did this as a 2-night trip, arriving at the parking area about 4:30 Friday afternoon.  We spent Friday night at the first campsite marked on the map (N38 16.939 W80 14.937).  Nice little spot next to the creek - all the camp sites along the Middle fork looked very nice and are sheltered from the wind.  The campsite at N38 18.123 W80 16.464 would be great in the Summer, with a small waterfall and private pool not visible from the main trail in the tributary trickle that entered the Middle Fork.

Our second night was spent at the confluence of the Middle for & Big Beechy Run - its a great spot with abundant well burning wood across the run from the sites.  As you can imagine, the fire-wood is well-picked over and hard to find on the side of the creek next to the sites.

Clockwise is definitely the way to do this one.  Hiking down to the Big Beechy trail is easy, a nice and steady downward slope on an old road with several stream crossings and a few spots where well-placed cairns make it possible to find the disappearing trail.  It was neat to see evidence of the road construction, like the stone-work of periodic culverts on the side of the road away from the creek and the remnants of what looked like an old bridge that we stumbled upon while eating lunch near a small falls and interesting rock formations at N38 17.780 W80 17.036.  We encountered several sections of ankle-deep mud as well.

It rained Saturday night, which made the steep ascent of the Big Beechy trail a slick challenge.  The ground was covered with leaves, making it difficult to find the Big Beechy Trail at first and several times throughout the day.

There were still spots of beautiful color but it looked to me like we missed the peak time, lots of leaves were down and trees were bare.  The Beeches that still had leaves were bright yellows to deep oranges and the some of the Maples had color as well.

Early June
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