The Dolly Sods Wilderness — originally simply Dolly Sods — is a U.S. Wilderness Area in the Allegheny Mountains of eastern West Virginia, USA, and is part of the Monongahela National Forest (MNF) of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Dolly Sods is a rocky, high-altitude plateau with sweeping vistas and lifeforms normally found much farther north in Canada. To the north, the distinctive landscape of “the Sods” is characterized by stunted (“flagged”) trees, wind-carved boulders, heath barrens, grassy meadows created in the last century by logging and fires, and sphagnum bogs that are much older. To the south, a dense cove forest occupies the branched canyon excavated by the North Fork of Red Creek.
The name derives from an 18th-century German homesteading family — the Dahles — and a local term for an open mountaintop meadow — a “sods”.
Dolly Sods is the highest plateau east of the Mississippi River. Dolly Sods is on a ridge crest that forms part of the Eastern Continental Divide. Most of its area is drained by the North Fork of Red Creek, which is a tributary of the Dry Fork River. Via the Dry Fork, Black Fork, Cheat, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed. South of Forest Service Route 19 is the adjoining Red Creek/Flatrock/Roaring Plains area, which is drained by the South Fork of Red Creek. Drainage on the east side of the ridge crest flows into the headwaters of the South Branch of the Potomac River, which is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The present-day Dolly Sods Wilderness (DSW) encompasses some 17,371 acres (70 km2) of U.S. Forest Service land and is itself only part of a larger 32,000-acre (129 km2) area now known as “Dolly Sods”.
Weather at Dolly Sods is pleasantly cooler than the weather in the Baltimore/Washington metro area. You can check out current weather conditions here.
Dolly Sods Wilderness has 47 miles of trails, many of which follow old railroad grades and logging roads. There are fords on some of the trails that may be a problem to cross during high water events. There are additional small stream crossings as well.
Trails are not marked. Ability to use a map is a requirement. Bring a compass and know how to use it. There are many unofficial trails that are not on the map and many paths around the numerous muddy and wet sections.
Dolly Sods is a popular hiking area. In the middle of the week, there are many other day and overnight hikers. During the weekend, it can get much more crowded and finding a parking spot may be a problem. There are plenty of established campsites.
Map of the trails. A waterproof map is available here.
The trail guide we used can be found here.