Some of the best hiking trails in West Virginia can be found right here in Randolph County. Many describe our mountains as distant, lush, and tall. This is why most are enticed to escape in our outdoor paradise. The Alleghenies of the Appalachian Mountains, among the oldest mountains on earth, make up most of the county. Miles upon miles of forested trails are waiting to be explored and mountains ready to be summitted. Randolph County has adventures for all interests and experience levels; from family-friendly paths to scenic backcountry camping trips, you’ll be wanting to grab your hiking poles, put on your boots and start trekking.
Take an easy loop trail to enter into an enchanted forest at Gaudineer Scenic Area. It’s as if you are in a different world. Think green, dark green, moss covered floor soft enough to walk on barefoot (yes, you are in West Virginia), giant spruce trees towering above, and the smell of fresh pine that makes your lungs feel free. This area provides two of the easiest and possibly the most scenic hikes in the Monongahela National Forest. The Gaudineer Scenic Trail, about a 0.5 mile loop, will lead you to Gaudineer Knob providing you with a panoramic view at 4,432 feet in elevation. The Gaudineer Interpretive Trail is also a beginner-friendly trail and around 1 mile in length. Experience remnants of this rare, old-growth virgin Red Spruce forest with both trails. We promise, a visit at Gaudineer is worth it during any season of the year.
A pristine mountain lake is calling to your mind, body, and soul high up in Randolph County. Spruce Knob Lake is West Virginia’s highest lake. A relatively easy, flat 1-mile loop makes this hike ideal for the whole family. The trail leads you on a boardwalk through a pine-wood forest and an open shoreline filled with a variety of wild flowers depending on the time of year you visit. Hiking Spruce Knob Lake will make you feel like you’ve hiked through a few different eco-systems in just a short amount of time. It’s not unusual to spot Bald Eagles and many other birds soaring above the lake looking for their next meal. Only a 20-minute drive from the lake is the highest peak in West Virginia, Spruce Knob.
At a little over 2 miles in length, the River Loop Trail is a great hike for the family or if you only have time for a short moderate hike. This trail is set in a mixed forest and takes you down to the Shavers Fork River in the Stuart Recreation Area near the City of Elkins. The trail is enjoyed by many visitors and is a great way to watch for birds, wildlife, and identify the many different tree and plant species. If you have time after your hike, we recommend taking a short drive up to Bickle Knob Observation Tower.
Alright.. enough with the easy stuff right? We get it. You’re the experienced hiker and you want to know the best of the best in #RandolphWV. Otter Creek Wilderness is a unique, special place nestled between two mountains in the Monongahela National Forest not far from the City of Elkins. Otter Creek has over 40 miles of hiking tails for those looking for the authentic, backcountry experience. Because Otter Creek is managed as a Wilderness Area, the trails can be difficult and a map is a necessity. Primitive camping is permitted and designated campsites exist along the trails. One of our favorite trails and the most popular is the Otter Creek Trail where you can hike from Randolph County to Tucker County and truly experience the wildness and scenic landscape of West Virginia. The rugged trail offers spectacular views and a moderate to challenging hike. Large rock outcrops, lush rhododendron, and the rushing water of Otter Creek will make this 12-mile hike memorable. Key note: this is not a loop trail so if you do decide to hike from county to county then we suggest setting up a shuttle system beforehand.
The High Falls of Cheat is one of the most beautiful, more remote waterfalls to hike to in the Monongahela National Forest and at an altitude of over 2800 feet, one of the highest. There are many access points for the High Falls Trail. One of these is hiking along the West Fork Rail Trail in Glady, West Virginia. Read more about our firsthand experience hiking this trail here. At almost any trailhead, the 7-mile hike is not for the faint of heart due to the steady uphill grade over Shavers Mountain with 800 feet in elevation gain. A majority of the trail is shaded by a canopy of trees so it does make the hike bearable on a hot day. Although secluded a majority of the time, the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad passenger trains stop during train season for about 30 minutes.
A majority of Randolph County could be considered rural to most folks, and that also rings true to the only state forest located in our county, Kumbrabow State Forest. Kumbrabow State Forest is West Virginia’s highest state forest at an elevation of more than 3000 feet. There are plenty of hiking trails located within the forest all providing a different scenic experience. Hike about 2 miles on the Potato Hole Trail to the top of the forest’s highest point where you can see for miles. Watch an inspiring sunrise or sunset from the observation deck. This hike is considered moderate to difficult due to the steady ascent.
And last but especially not least, the crown jewel of the Monongahela National Forest, Dolly Sods Wilderness, is full of more than 47 miles of hiking trails, many of which are old logging roads and railroad grades. Stunning mountain vistas, a variety of unique ecosystems, and a majority of Red Creek drainage give nature enthusiasts the solitude that only the West Virginia wilderness can provide. Situated atop one of the highest plateaus east of the Mississippi the diverse ecosystem is similar to that which is found in southern Canada and weather can change drastically. A majority of the trails are encompassed by northern hardwoods, cranberry bogs, and mountain laurel and rhododendron thickets. Because of the many miles of hiking trails, Dolly Sods can be explored by all ages. Whether you are looking to hike 5 minutes and see a view, or you decide to go all out with your friends and do a week long backpacking trip, Dolly Sods has an adventure for everyone. The Sods truly provide a pristine Appalachian experience.
The mountains that make up Randolph County are vast with varied terrain laced with limitless hiking opportunities for all. With all of these options it is no wonder why West Virginia is called the Mountain State. Every season provides a picture perfect backdrop. The only thing needed is you!