Trip Report: (Hello) Dolly Sods

Posted by Jen on

Good weather + fall foliage + eager backpackers meant that we had the perfect combination for our trip to Dolly Sods. To try to accommodate as many as possible, we pulled together two groups: me (Jen) leading a group from Bear Rocks with Merritt leading a group from Blackbird Knob. He’d explore some of the routes in the southern part and then swing north, while we could head north first and then loop through the south.

At Vienna, we grouped everyone into card and then headed to Mooresfield to meet Merritt at the Sheetz. I was glad that I printed out directions as we got quickly spread out on 66 with the traffic, but we all arrived to the Sheetz within minutes of each other. Now, with Merritt, we headed out to Dolly Sods. My grouping of cars stopped first at Bear Rocks, and I have to admit that I was shocked at the number of cars. I expected it to be busy but it was coming close to the point that you couldn’t fit any more near the trailhead. Merritt’s group continued down the road.

We started our hike in, meeting Ryan at the trailhead. Many of the earlier sites were taken but I was happy to see that the one I had in mind was only occupied by one lone tent. We tried to be quiet as we set up our tents. With nothing in the forecast calling for rain, I left my tarp off and was able to enjoy the stars as I went to sleep.

The next day, our route took us along the northern trails with the goal of camping by Lions Head. For all the cars we saw, the trails were curiously bare of hikers—we saw just a few as we hiked along. We were making good time—too good time—so we stopped a number of times to take photos and enjoy the views, and got to Lions Head just around 3 p.m. Merritt, Jeff, Shane, and Dy came up for the views from their campsite along Big Stonecoal, and we all trooped together to Lions Head for sunset.

It stayed warm that night, which surprised us all. I had packed insulating layers which I barely used. Another surprise was the bear-hunting dog who ran through the camp and stood close to my hammock. I peeked out only to see the flashing light of his radio collar.

Sunday, we headed down to the Forks area. As we descended, the temperature dropped dramatically and we came to the Forks to find people encased in down. It is a popular spot for a reason, but I’m glad we didn’t camp there as it was packed.

We continued along, and I thought that the trails were drier than usual. Perhaps we could take a chance on Dobbin Grade? Backpackers verified that Dobbin Grade wasn’t that bad. Decision made. I directed us along the trail. Let’s just say that there were some dry stretched, but we got a good taste of Dolly Sods.

With the end in sight (literally as we could see all the cars), we enjoyed the last bursts of fall color along the trail. We had good timing, running in to Merritt and his group at El Rancho in Mooresfield, and celebrated Kathryn’s birthday.

All in all, a good weekend. I’ve been enjoying the photos, and am a bit envious of the route that Merritt did as they encountered an amazing waterfall and had other great scenery along their route. That’s another great route to check out in Dolly Sods.