3 Backpacking EscapesComing to West Virginia to get off-the-grid? We’ve got you covered. West Virginia’s mountainous topography paves the way for smooth, riverside hikes and backpacking through dense forests. As an avid hiker, you will soon learn the lay of the land in Almost Heaven.
Destination 1: Exploring the Cranberry Wilderness
The Cranberry Wilderness has been called the crown jewel of the Monongahela National Forest, which covers more than 47,000 acres filled with rhododendron thickets, rushing streams, wide-open meadows and breathtaking views. Here, you can set out with nothing more than a backpack of supplies and be perfectly content with the nature that surrounds you. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of spots perfect to pitch a tent. You might even see a black bear or two.
The best way to experience the Wilderness is a combination of trails that form a 24 or 27-mile route. Beginning along the North Fork, climb up the Birch Log Trail and down along the Laurelly Branch Trail to the Middle Fork of the Williams River.
Then you have a decision to make: For the shorter trip, take a right to the Hell for Certain Branch camping area. For more mileage, go left and follow the path to the confluence of Big Beechy Trail and Big Beechy Run, where there are some good camping spots. Whatever path calls to you, the return is easy. Simple follow your footsteps back the same way you came.
Destination 2: Settling in at Spruce Knob
Spruce Knob is unique, because unlike the rest of its mountain range, it has a distinct alpine-vibe. So much that before you know it, you’ll be transported to a place that feels far away from the West Virginia you once knew. It’s the highest peak in the Allegheny Mountains and the highest point in West Virginia at 4,863 feet. It’s also the 13th most isolated peak in the contiguous U.S., so you’ll certainly find solitude here.
The 16.5-mile trek to the summit has been called one of the top 5 backpacking routes in the mid-Atlantic. The trail travels through spruce forest and meadows, with waterfalls along the way and, of course, panoramic views from Spruce Mountain.
Destination 3: Discovering Dolly Sods
With its sandstone cliffs, red spruce trees and grass-filled meadows, the high-altitude plateau known as Dolly Sods is a backpacking beauty for the books. The area has more than 47 miles of trails in total, but the 15-mile hike through Dolly Sods North is particularly breathtaking. You’ll travel through dense woods and along grassy slopes, past bogs and through creeks, all to get up to a ridge with some of the best views around of Dolly Sods and the Canaan Valley.
An insider travel tip: the best time to discover Dolly Sods is in the fall when wild blueberry bushes are in full bloom. Shades of ruby red line the mountain, and you’ll have plenty of sweet treats ripe for the picking after a long day of hiking.
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