With grassy meadows, giant boulders leading to sweeping vistas of the Allegheny Mountains, heaps of rhododendron in the springtime, crystal clear rivers and streams, and winding paths through the Monongahela National Forest, Dolly Sods Wilderness is, in my opinion, a true gem of a hiker's paradise on the East Coast. There are campsites as close as 1 mile into the hike, but you can hike the whole 11.9 mile loop. 

This particular hike is great as there are multiple camping sites, both established and backcountry, and views for miles around almost every bend. Still not convinced? This high-altitude plateau has characteristics typically found in Canadian landscapes. so you can travel north without leaving your backyard below the Mason-Dixon Line -- high five y'all!

From the parking area on FR75 (go to the second entrance for Dolly Sods for Bear Rocks, GPS: 39.06352, -79.30326) take the Bear Rocks trail, TR522. After the first mile, you will reach a wooden walkway to cross your first bog, then cross Red Creek. There is a great campsite to the right here, with a fire ring and plenty of hammock space. If you wanted to set up camp and explore with a lighter load, this would be the place.

The trail continues to the left, then makes a sharp right once you hit the fern field. Walk over another wooden footpath, through a little forest, and reach your first meadow with mountain views. At mile 2.3, it will intersect with Raven Ridge Trail TR 521 -- continue straight on TR 521. At mile 3.8, turn left on Rocky Ridge Trail TR 524. Shortly after this, you will reach the windswept boulders with the most amazing views and tons of photo opportunities. I camped here (there is a spot to the right with a fire pit) and explored the area with just a camera in hand and dog on leash.

Feel free to continue on the trail, just follow the small rock cairns as this section can be a little tricky. To finish the loop in the morning, at mile 5.5 turn left on Dobbin Grade Trail TR526 as it descends in the valley, follow until mile 8.1 where you will turn left uphill on the Raven Ridge Trail TR521, then finally at mile 9.6, turn right again on Bear Rocks Trail TR 522 and retrace your steps to the parking lot. There are no blazes on the trails here, so bring a map so the trail numbers make sense. Happy exploring and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the area!

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Backpack
  • Camera
  • Hiking shoes
  • Snacks
  • Food
  • Hiking poles (for those boulders!)
  • Water and water treatment as you can fill up along the way
  • Hammock for bonus points.
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RT Distance 11.9 Miles
Elevation Gain 1050 Feet
Activities Camping, Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Wildflowers

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Awesome

Just a couple hour drive from the DC area, this hike, and the Dolly Sod wilderness in general were amazing. Saw a great variety of terrain, vegetation, and wildlife, including a black bear.

Great Adventure

I loved to doing this! It is what I was looking for. It was a great family experience. We had a clear night for the most part. What a view! I did take trail 526 out, and the last leg of it is all bog. There are places where you just have to trudge through. I probably would take a left on the Raven Ridge Trail (521) and exit that way instead if I did it again.

this is a great place to camp

This is a great place to camp and has some of the darkest skies on the east coast, making it an ideal place for astro photography and star gazing.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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

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