Backpack the Lions Head Loop
West Virginia › Dolly Sods Wilderness
Added by Reid Koutstaal
The perfect weekend backpacking trip with some unique backwoods camping.
What used to be an artillery testing site during WWII, Dolly Sods is a great place for backpackers of almost any expertise. Water is easily found throughout the wilderness area and while 21 miles might feel like a lot, it is very manageable over the course of 3 days.
Attached (at the bottom) is an incredibly helpful guide with clear directions for almost every mile. It offers helpful advice on which trails to take, what time of year to take them, and where to camp each night.
The first day you're going to hike about 9 miles. The views are great along the way offering great opportunities for a scenic lunch, and plenty of photo ops if you're into that. On the trail guide attached pay attention to mile 9.4. When it says there is a nicer campsite upstream, walk upstream and you won't miss it or regret it.
If you have some extra gas in the tank, skip the guide's directions to camp at mile 14.6 and continue on to roughly mile 17. I recommend eating lunch at mile 14.6 near the stream and swimming holes. It offers fresh cold water, and even a place to soak your feet if you are feeling tired.
At mile 17 you are in a huge open field with a few options of trails to take. There is a campsite located at the bottom of the hill near the stream, but if you look up right as the hill drops off there is a small cluster of a few bushes and trees. This is a campsite with breathtaking views of the valley you're in. If you like to feel small, this is your spot.
The next day is an easy 3 mile hike out, putting you right back at your car.
1. While the trail might not be crowded, we arrived at our campsites between 4-5pm each night and other came after us looking to camp where we were. So the is some possibility of a prime site being taken if you show up to late.
2. Wood for a fore can be hard to come by at some of the sights. Especially the 2nd night in the valley. Scrapping together some wood is possible but not as readily available as one might like.
3. The guide is full of helpful hints. Read it carefully.
- Trail Guide featured above
- Sun protection
- Appropriate clothes for the season
- Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag
- Food, Cookware, Stove, Fuel, Bear Canister (Can't hurt to have)
- Flashlight, Matches/Lighter
- Toiletries, Toilet Paper, Trowel,
- Bear/Bug Spray
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Backpacking, Camping, Chillin, Hiking, Photography
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
This was my boyfriend and I's first backpacking trip and it was beyond amazing! The Dolly Sods wilderness is stunning and a perfect combination of adventure and challenges. Can't wait to go back next year! Lion's head was incredible and the view up there is breathtaking!!
More Adventures Nearby
Hike Table Rock
West Virginia / Table Rock Trail Head
This hidden gem is located near Lindy Point and Blackwater Falls State Park. Unlike Lindy Point, which is very popular, hikers are usually able to enjoy the views from Table Rock all by themselves.
Hike to Chimney Rock in the Monongahela National Forest
West Virginia / Landis Trail
Chimney Rock (also referred to as Chimney Top) is a hidden gem in the Monongahela National Forest that offers some of the best views in the state of West Virginia.