An Autumn Trek in West Virginia’s Dolly Sods Wilderness

Exploring the wild, wonderful wilderness of West Virginia in Dolly Sods.
worms-eye-view photography of Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia

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The arrival of autumn usually means a surfeit of articles about hiking and getting back to nature. So, it was a pleasure to learn about a relatively unknown forested patch of West Virginia known as the Dolly Sods Wilderness—a “bit of Canada gone astray.”

West Virginia’s Route 48 (one of many projects for which the late Sen. Robert Byrd deserves credit) dips and climbs through forest-draped mountains; a platoon of white windmills marches along some of the ridges; and road cuts make visible hundreds of millions of years’ worth of geological history.

The region’s beauty exists because of — and despite — its dramatic history. The gorgeous landscape was first shaped by a combination of geologic processes and primeval plant growth, then almost destroyed by the rapacious humans who mined the coal seams to exhaustion and cut the old-growth forest into stumps. Canaan Valley (in local pronunciation, it rhymes with “inane”) is now a national natural landmark, and in addition to the Dolly Sods Wilderness, it overlaps with or abuts a national wildlife refuge, a national forest, two state parks (Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley Resort State Park, which offers golf and skiing), and a second ski resort. There are endless opportunities for scenic and recreational enjoyment.

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