BEST AREAS FOR WILDERNESS CAMPING
MONONGAHELA NATIONAL FOREST 901,000 acres. Located in the eastern part of West Virginia, Monongahela National Forest encompasses areas of both the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. The often wild and rugged scenery includes steep mountain slopes with rocky terrain, some caves, many creeks and waterfalls, and several major rivers.
The state’s highest elevation, 4,862-foot Spruce Knob, is here in the 100,000-acre Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. The Seneca Rocks are jagged and sheer-walled rocks which are almost 1,000 feet high.
There are also high plains, with heath barrens and bogs, and hardwood forests of oak and hickory, maple and birchwith some spruce, including old-growth stands, plus dense rhododendron and mountain laurel. Among the wildlife are white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, and wild turkey.
This National Forest has five designated wilderness areas: the 35,860-acre Cranberry Wilderness, the 20,000-acre Otter Creek Wilderness, the 12,200-acre Laurel Fork North and South Wilderness areas, and the 10,215-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness.
Activities: Backpacking and hiking are available on more than 850 miles of trails, including about 120 miles of the Allegheny Trail (see entry page 298). Difficulty ranges from easy to strenuous. A few trails receive heavy use.
Horseback riding is allowed on some trails, as is mountain biking outside of wilderness areas.
Cross-country skiing is an option during the winter. Canoeing is possible on several of the rivers. The Seneca Rocks area is popular for rock climbing. Fishing is also available, and hunting is permitted in season.
Camping Regulations: Camping is allowed almost anywhere in the National Forest, except near developed areas or where posted otherwise. Campsites should be at least 100 feet from trails and water sources, and well away from roads. Campfires may be made, but bringing a stove is recommended. No permits are necessary.
For Further Information: Monongahela National Forest, 200 Sycamore Street, Elkins, WV 26241; (304)636-1800. A Hiking Guide to Monongahela National Forest and Vicinity may be obtained from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, P.O. Box 306, Charleston, WV 25321.