Dolly Sods North BP



U-Tube Video by Blaine Martin

Description: This is a moderate 15 mile backpack through the scenic Dolly Sods North. You’ll walk through areas of breath-taking beauty. The entire trek is one big photo op. There are some deciduous forest along the way but you’ll spend most of your time walking through heath bogs on Dobbin Grade, grassy plains sprinkled with Spruce groves along Raven Ridge and the rocky, tundra-like ridge of Cabin Mountain. There will be views in every direction. Although there are suitable campsites throughout the area this description has you camping in a Red Spruce grove along the Left Fork of Red Creek. After breaking camp stash your packs near the junction of Black Bird Knob and Red Creek Trails and enjoy a romp in the waterfalls and swimming hole of “The Forks”.


There are some wet spots, especially along Dobbin Grade so have some dry footwear waiting for you back at the car. Also remember that mountain top weather can change with a wink of an eye and in many instances you might be totally exposed to the elements so pack accordingly.


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        As you reach the top of the mountain the large trees will disappear and the road will make a final sharp left-hand turn. Park here on either side of the road. The Bear Rocks trailhead is about 100 yards further down the road. There is limited parking there but these spots are often full.



Printable/Downloadable Map

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Trail Notes: First I need to thank Trudy and John Phillips and Jonathan Jessup for sharing their maps with me. Their insight has made my exploration of the North Sods quite enjoyable. I’ve hiked most of these trails 3 times now and carried my GPS unit the last time.


From the cars walk south on FR75 for about 100 yards and turn right onto an old jeep trail named Bear Rocks Trail (Tr522) and blocked by boulders. You will gradually descend to Dobbin Grade, passing a seriously eroded section of the jeep trail (A footpath to the left gets you around this.) and a mini-bog sheltered in a hollow. You’ll climb out of the hollow and descend to Dobbin Grade (TR526) at 1.02 miles from the start. The jeep trail is also badly eroded here. There are optional trails on either side.


Cross Dobbin Grade and descend further through a grassy area to Red Creek. There are a few good campsites here. Cross the creek. Climb to the first rise. You’ll end up on an old ATV trail. Do not take the ATV trail but turn right onto a footpath at the USFS Trail marker. As you enter the woods you’ll pass through a small wet area. Cross a drainage and immediately turn right (uphill). Follow the drainage for about 15 yards and turn left. Walk through the woods until you pick up another trail that goes uphill. Turn right. Soon you’ll arrive at the grassy slopes of Raven Ridge although, at this point, you are still on Bear Rocks Trail. Follow the Trail stakes for another 0.4 miles until you arrive at the junction of Raven Ridge Trail (Tr521). Turn right here.


It may be possible at certain spots to climb to the northern edge of the ridge for views of Dobbin Slashing and distant ridges. At about 0.2 miles from the last trail junction pass Beaver View Trail (Tr523) on the left. Soon reach a large grove of mature Red Spruce to your left (South). As you look at it there is a lone deciduous tree to its left, possibly a fruit tree. This approximates an opening in the grove and the front door of a fantastic campsite protected from the elements. Continue west passing an unsigned trail on the left that eventually connects with Beaver View Trail that you passed earlier.

At 0.86 miles from the Spruce Grove turn left onto a footpath cut through some small Red Spruce. In another 0.44 miles arrive at Rocky Ridge Trail (Tr524). Turn left here. From this ridge you can get sweeping views of Dolly Sods and much of what you just hiked.


Continue south on Rocky Ridge Trail. At about 1.18 miles the trail veers slightly to the right and crosses Rocky Knob. Weather permitting this is a great lunch spot with views of Canaan Valley and Mountain. You have to rely on several cairns and short patches of footpath to get through this area.


In about 0.3 miles from Rocky Knob you’ll pass a trail intersection in a wet area with a large boulder. The trail to the left is marked with cairns and leads to a dead end and a possible small emergency campsite should a backpacker need to get off of the ridge. By-pass this trail and in 0.2 miles arrive at a jeep trail. This is the junction with Dobbin Grade Trail (Tr526). Turn right to stay on Rocky Ridge Trail. Climb up a wide woods road to Harmon Knob in 0.48 miles. The actual knob is marked by a very tall cairn. The view point is across a large rock field along the edge of the ridge.


In another .04-0.5 miles arrive at the junction of Harmon Trail (Tr528). Turn left here and, in 1.44 miles, descend to the junction of Black Bird Knob Trail (Tr511). There is a galvanized sign post there but the sign itself was never installed. Turn left onto Black Bird Knob Trail. In about 0.2 miles descend to and cross the left fork of Red Creek. Immediately after crossing the creek turn left onto a footpath and follow it into a large Red Spruce Grove. There are several nice campsites to choose from. The largest is on the west bank.


The next morning return to Black Bird Knob Trail and turn left (east) onto it. You’ll pass through a thick growth of Spruce, open, grassy meadows and deciduous forest. In about 0.7 miles from the left fork arrive at the junction with Red Creek Trail. The sign is missing but it is marked with two large cairns. Turn right here and descend to “The Forks” in 0.9 – 1.0 miles. You might want to stash your packs somewhere along the descent.


After enjoying “The Forks” recover your packs and return to the last trail junction. Turn right onto Black Bird Knob Trail. In 0.34 miles turn left onto Upper Red Creek Trail (Tr509) and follow it up, over and down an open grassy hill to the junction of Dobbin Grade Trail (Tr526).


Turn right onto Dobbin Grade Tr. This is an old rail road grade that was used to haul lumber in days gone by. Being an RR grade the climb out of the bog is very gradual with several boggy areas along the way. Soon after making the last turn you’ll pass Raven Ridge Trail on the left. Continue on Dobbin Grade. Cross the right fork of Red Creek and immediately turn left to stay on the trail. If you stay on the road that goes up to a wind whipped tree you’ll turn around to enjoy a fantastic view of DSN.


If you walk up to the vista, return to Red Creek and continue up Dobbin Grade. At about 1.05 miles from the crossing arrive at Beaver Dam Trail (Tr520) on the right. This trail takes you out to FR75. In another 0.62 miles reach the junction with the Bear Rocks Trail. Turn right here and retrace your initial steps back to the cars.

Printable/Downloadable Directions and Trail Notes

Critique this outing



Name: Sally                                                                                                                               Hike: Dolly Sods North Backpack

Date(s): 04/12 to 13/14                                                                                                        Rating: 5


Critique: I did a quick overnight trip and was not disappointed. A few notes: 1. The signage is much better than when this trail was first described. In places where it is indicated there is just a post or a cairn, there are now clear signs. 2. That said -- there are points where a certain trail turns or looks uncertain and there are no blazes to guide you. The description is very helpful here -- also look for footprints. 3. Some boggier places now have wooden walkways, which are nice. 4. This hike was wet when I went, but the weather was nice, so it worked out. Definitely prepare with waterproof boots! And bring extra socks! You're going to need them. A pair of Chacos or the like for crossing streams would be a nice extra. 5. You have to park farther away than this description indicates -- this adds about a mile at the beginning and end of the hike. And the beginning, it's all uphill. At the end, it's downhill. 6. You should pack in water for the first couple of miles as there isn't a place to get water until you're on the hike (so fill up at home or at a rest stop). Once on the hike, there are about 4 places to fill up on water: the first is your first crossing of Red Creek. The second is the small spring described next to the emergency camping spot (though I wouldn't be certain if this would be flowing in dryer times or late summer), the fourth is at your camping spot by red creek, and the fifth is when you cross Red Creek again on the second day. I liked so many sure opportunities for water since it meant I didn't have to carry a lot (which is heavy!) This was a fantastic trip. The weather in mid April was very warm and the solitude was a delight. There were small patches of snow left, which I took advantage of when I got hot and put a scoop in my cap to cool down. I will definitely be returning.




Name: Laura                                                                                                                             Hike: Dolly Sods North Backpack

Date(s): 10/19-20/13                                                                                                            Rating: 4


Critique: We did this hike October 19, and loved it. The area is really like nothing else in Virginia, but more like what you would see in Canada, or Scotland. In reading about Dolly Sods, I saw that it was classified as a sub arctic bog, but I have yet to understand how something in Virginia came to be classified as sub arctic. The place is certainly popular enough—hardly room to park the car. We saw plenty of hikers and groups on Bear Rocks Trail. But after we got onto Rocky Ridge Trail, we were on our own. Great views, really amazing landscape. Even at this high point, the many rocks on the ridge were seated in water, and the heath was as damp as a wet sponge. The directions were good, and the signage was better than I had expected. It can be a bit tricky to pick your way down the southern part of Rocky Ridge trail, as it is only rocks, and there really is no discernible path. There is the odd cairn here and there. Red Spruce Grove was a fabulous campsite—large, sheltered, near water. My only complaint is that is very popular, and that in the hollow, sound carries *very* well. We thought another group had camped only a short distance away, but when I went to get water, I saw that they were actually at least twice the distance we had thought—yet we could here every word and laugh at their camp. The next day, things got…interesting. We enjoyed hiking along Blackbird Trail and Upper Red Creek. We were prepared for boggy areas, with waterproof boots and gaiters. What we weren’t expecting was nearly a solid mile of trail that was bog. I don’t know if forces of nature had conspired against us, or if it is typically like this. Hiking through boggy sections was at first run of the mill, then as they stretched out and got longer and wider, more difficult. When we had covered more than a mile and still weren’t leaving them behind, they began to mar the enjoyment of what would otherwise have been a very pleasant hike. I am still wishing I had taken the turn at the Raven Ridge Trail, although I have no way of knowing whether this would have been better. We met several hikers coming from the opposite direction who had given up on the trail. Some had their shoes off, and were in the process of draining. One fellow had gone into the bog up to his knee. All of them were turning around. Disappointing as this section of the trail was to me personally, my greater concern was for the trail, and the landscape itself. Most hikers, when faced with a boggy section of trail, were going around. This meant that the trail was widened, and the natural landscape given way to numerous boots wishing to stay dry and mud free. I can’t help but think this will have a extremely negative impact on this section of Dolly Sods. I really loved the hike in Dolly Sods, and would go back there again in a heartbeat.




Name: Mike                                                                                                                                Hike: Dolly Sods North BP

Date(s): 05/24-26/13                                                                                                            Rating: 5+


Critique: This is my favorite trip yet, not that I am experienced much. But the scenery is so beautiful, the hiking so easy, water is so readily available, and the campsites are like something from a dream, it has to be a 5+! The trails were well marked, unlike some of the older reviewers have stated. The campsite about 1 mile into the hike had room for up to 5 tents, and a nice fire ring. The campsite further along on the left branch of Red Creek (where it says Camp Here on the map) is tremendously large. It was almost big enough to be a campground, and was perched right along the Creek. Be forewarned that the trail just crosses a beaver dam down near where the Upper Red Creek and Dobbins Grade Trail intersect. You will see the ponds from a distance and realize the trail goes right through them over the dam. The Dobbins Grade is very muddy and you will get muddy and wet without fail (maybe not true in drier times of year?). Overall, this is a beautiful trip with lots of vistas, varieties of terrain and plant life, and gentle climbs and descents. I would even say beginners could easily do this trip.


View from Cabin Mountain




Name: Gregory St. Clair                                                                                                         Hike: Dolly Sods North Backpack
Date: 10/30-31/2010                                                                                                            Rating: 5

Critique: I absolutely loved this hike! We had a wonderful time and the views where amazing. The trails where well marked and easy to follow. We had fun navigating through the rock field at the top, Cairn and trail hoping. We ended up descending to forks and camped right on the peninsula of the left fork. The low temperature dropped just below freezing and Sunday the high was in the mid 40s. I cant wait to return to the Dolly Sods, I always have so much fun there!



Name: rlpurcell                                                                                                                         Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: Sept 13 - 16th, 2010                                                                                                     Rating: 4.5

Critique: This was a fantastic backpacking trip for the eastern US. We left Bear Rocks around 11:30AM Monday walking west into a 30-35 mph wind under sunny skies. Could have done without the wind which lasted until the next morning, but the scenery was so nice, nothing could ruin it. We camped the first night in an established camp in some pines near the Raven Ridge Trail. A dry campsite, we each had set out with 3 liters of water each. A great evening and sunset!

Tuesday was the most rocky, and with a 60 pound pack, at age 52, I don't mind saying it was rough on my knees. The trail is so easy to follow now with most of the side trails now recovered and new trail signs up. The trail, even in the boulder area of the Rocky Ridge Trail is logical and easy to find...thanks to the work the forest service did in recent years!

Word of warning. Just prior to coming to the Harman trail, we past a man carrying an antifreeze plastic bottle. He said he was on lunch and worked for the Canaan Valley housing authority. He avoided most of the questions I tried to ask and we wondered the rest of our hike why someone would have antifreeze on the trail. He looked somewhat like the maint/custodian man on Scrubs, tall and thin. I would not recommend filtering water from wet spots on the Rocky Ridge Trail...all I can think is that some of the home owners are tired of hearing coyotes howling at night. me if you get sick or the forest service finds dead animals from antifreeze at contact me.

We camped the second night at the pines on the left fork of Red Creek. The water was great...cold and tasted great after filtering.

Day three was down the Upper Red Creek trail to Dobbins. The bog was not bad being September and the Beaver Dam provided a way to get across some of the stream. The one place where the trail could be marked better is where the Upper Red Creek Trail connects to Dobbins Grade. Make sure you turn right! In the field this is not so obvious. Three dry and sunny days...who gets so lucky! We spent our third night in the pines along Dobbins Grade between the Beaver Dam Trail and Bear Rock Trail.

Thursday we had a short hike back to the car. When we broke camp that morning there was a large pack of dogs moving north to south on the other side of the stream in the pines. We were a bit concerned but never saw them, but could track thier movement as they barked as they ran. Once on the forest road we passed three or four trucks with empty kennels in the back looking for their dogs, which were 1.5 to 2 miles from the forest road as we placed them that morning.

Normally we see about 10% color in the trees and the blueberry plants are more red...looks like a bit of a brown out this year. We saw lots of deer, no bears, heard coyotes only one night, heard an owl one night, but it was strangely quiet during the nights. This loop makes a great four day/three night backpacking trip for those of us who like to relax a bit more and examine the environment around us. We only saw three sets of day hikers and one backpacker in the four days we were out. On our way out, it began to rain in Elkins! Great timing!!! I have trail junctions from my GPS if anyone wants them...just email me.+


Name: Mark                                                                                                                               Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: 5/24-25/09                                                                                                                    Rating: 5

Critique: This hike made me realize how out of shape I am coming out of winter, but my burning legs couldn't dampen my spirits on this beautiful hike. Absolutely outstanding. Dolly Sods is like no other area in the Mid-Atlantic, and this hike really shows it. The only disappointment was at Harmon Knob where we noticed a larger than normal group of people and a bench. Upon walking down to the overlook we found a road and trail just below; somewhat disheartening after hiking in roughly 6 miles the hard way. The campsite area was very nice, with 4 nice sites and several other spots you could stay if it filled up. We will definitely make this trip again.


Name: BCW                                                                                                                               Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: 10/7 - 10/8/06                                                                                                             Rating: 5

Critique: Amazing place.  Did it with two friends coming from DC and we were blown away.  The fall colors were peaking and the blueberry bushes were blazing red.  Weather on Saturday was low 40s, windy, and foggy; then on Sunday it was 70 and sunny.  Did not see many people Saturday, but there were lots of day hikers and families on Sunday.

We did the exact hike as described.  Got to camp very early Saturday (2pm) in part because the weather on Rocky Ridge was brutal so we just blew past it as fast as we could.  Took it easy on Sunday and also did a quick side visit of Bear Rocks Preserve after getting back to the car.

Almost all the trails were signed and easy to follow except for a brief stretch starting out going south on Rocky Ridge.  Trails were wet but nothing too bad until Dobbin Grade.


Name: Jim Kirk                                                                                                                         Hike: DSN BP
Date: 9/23-25 /06                                                                                                                  Rating: 5.5

Critique: I hiked parts of this once before with Mike, and then last weekend did the Bear Rocks>Dobbin>Upper Red Creek> to Red Creek Forks> Rocky Point> Big Stonecoal>Red Creek.

Had planned to add about 5 more miles in there or so by going out BB Knob W and down Breathed Mt. but rained like mad for most of Sunday so we hiked to the forks and set up a tarp to wait the rain out.

By the time the rain stopped and thankfully the sun returned was too late and we set up camp.

Cabin Mt. awesome as always but this was my first journey out Dobbin Grade and what an awesome bog. We made bannock with Huckleberries in it, cranberries were in profusion. We camped first night on Upper Red Creek just above that awesome bog on Dobbin and I kept walking down there and just staring it was so awesome!

Thanks as always to Mike, the "Bhodisattava of the Trail" for his trail notes to make us a bit more confident we are going in the right direction


Name: HLG                                                                                                                                Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: 9/22/06 - 9/24/06                                                                                                      Rating: 5                                                                              

Critique: Dolly Sods is like its own world in the mountains of WVA, with a unique climate and flora to match.  This is a nice loop without too much vertical rise. Excellent views and plenty of photo ops.  A GPS really helps where trail intersections are not marked well, such as at the junction of Raven Ridge and Rocky Ridge trails. Parts of Rocky Ridge trail are very challenging with a heavy pack - having to jump over crevasses.  All-in-all a great hiking experience.  Wear waterproof hikers with good ankle support!  Campsites in Red Spruce groves are well-protected.


Name: NCH                                                                                                                                Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: 9/2/2006 - 9/4/2006                                                                                                  Rating: 5

Critique: Great hike, though soggy due to T.S. Ernesto. My group is traditionally west coasters and DSN impressed all of us. Feels like you are on top of the world in the first five miles.


Name: mw                                                                                                                                 Hike: Dolly Sods North BP
Date: 9/17/05 - 9/18/05                                                                                                      Ranking: 5

Critique: incredible. do go if you live within a 6 hour drive. get there late and crash at the smoke hole motel. eat breakfast there and take off for a few days surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery you've ever seen.


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