Fields of red flowers atop the Appalachian Mountains in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, West Virginia

The Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in the Monongahela National Forest is one of West Virginia’s greatest comeback stories. From near destruction to one of the most beautiful landscapes in Appalachia, the area is a testament to preservation and perseverance.

Dolly Sods Battle With Nature and Man

In the 1800s much of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area was robbed of its beauty when it was logged down to the bare dirt. In the 1950’s Dolly Sods beauty was threatened again, but this time by the U.S. Army, when the area became a World War II Practice artillery range. Though finding a live weapon today is unlikely you will still find warning signs.

In September 2016 five fires caused much of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area to be closed down. Three of the fires were determined to have been caused by campfires that were left unattended. Despite logging, fires and mortar shells, Dolly Sods’ forests and plains have not only survived, they have become a part of one of West Virginia’s most pristine destinations.

Sunrise over Big Bear Rocks in the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area
 "Sunrise at Big Bear Rocks in Dolly Sods Wilderness"
by Dennis Deitrick CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Big Bear Rock and Lions Head: Two of Dolly Sods’ Main Attractions

Dolly Sods is packed full of so much natural beauty that no matter what trail you choose you will not be disappointed. However, visitors should not miss out on the opportunity to visit Big Bear Rock. Big Bear Rock offers one of the wildlife area’s most unforgettable views. Standing on the rocks surrounded by natures beauty the majestic view will leave you wanting more.

Big Bear Rock is perched on the ridge of sandstone cliffs with a 3,000- foot drop. If you look to the east, you will find the South Branch of the Potomac River. On a sunny day, you can get a breathtaking view of seven different mountain ridges that extend all the way to Virginia. The hike to Big Bear Rock is a moderate one so be prepared. The effort will be well worth it.

As beautiful as the views are at Big Bear Rock there is a spot that offers even more beauty and solitude. Lion’s Head Rock is a group of rocky crags that resemble the outline of a lion’s head. It is a three-mile hike and the final quarter mile has a pretty steep slope. Have a seat on Lion’s Head Rock and enjoy the magnificent view of the Red Creek Valley.

The seeming limitless views, lush forests, and grassy plains will remind you why they call West Virginia almost heaven. Besides its 47 miles of hiking trails, Dolly Sods offers nearly unlimited camping sites, most with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.

It’s easy to find a soft bed of moss or pine needles to set your tent up on after a long day of hiking or climbing. Keep in mind that Dolly Sods is home to wildlife including black bears, coyotes, and snakes so be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

For detailed information, check out the Dolly Sods website or call the Cheat-Potamic Ranger District at 304-257-4488
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