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Dolly Sods and Bear Rocks, WV

At the Bear Rocks overlook.

Dolly Sods Wilderness isn’t the kind of place you go to get away from it all – it’s the place you go to have it all. “All” in this case means sweet backcountry campsites, great swimming holes, nearly 360 degree views, deep forest, wildlife (and not just the amazing birding), bouldering, fishing and – especially in its adjoining north neighbor, Bear Rocks – a wild blueberry season like you’ve never seen before.

“(Bear Rocks) is a beautiful, rocky summit on top of the Allegheny front that gives way to a broad plateau of heathlands, bogs and spruce and with incredible views to the east,” says Rodney Bartgis, West Virgina State Director of The Nature Conservancy, which owns Bear Rocks. “It’s one of our most heavily visited preserves in West Virginia.”

And for good reason. August is great for blueberries; it’s legal to pick them on site for personal use (i.e., stuffing them in your face) but no commercial picking is allowed. You won’t be the only human or animal getting in on the action. Look along the trails for bear scat full of blueberry seeds. The caterpillars of the rare pink-edged sulphur butterfly eat the blueberries here, too. That’s just one of the interesting and rare species that call Bear Rocks home, including the endangered Cheat Mountain salamander.

Day hike among the blueberries and huckleberries on Bear Rocks trails (not as overrun as the Dolly Sods trails, which have been loved to death) and snap some mantle-worthy pictures. If you have a few days, by all means spend them here. The primitive Red Creek campground, within the Dolly Sods portion of the Monongahela National Forest, sits atop the windswept ridge, nestled among the flagged red spruce trees. It fills up on a first-come, first-served basis, so you just might need a camping plan B.

For many, plan A is prime backcountry camping, a main attraction in Dolly Sods (not Bear Rocks – it’s a day use area). The classic trail is the Red Creek Trail. Be sure to take it at least as far as Rocky Point, where the view will definitely make you feel like you have it all.

Where it’s at: Four hours from Pittsburgh; from WV 32 in Davis, WV, turn east onto county road 45 and follow the brown signs to Dolly Sods (it’s 13 miles, and you will take forest road 19 to forest road 75)

Contact: The Nature Conservancy
Monongahela National Forest, http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf/index.shtml or (304) 636-1800

Digs: Red Creek Campground ($11); Harman’s North Fork Cottages are at the bottom of the mountain ($99-$139), www.wvlogcabins.com or 800-436-6254

Grub: Pizza to the north is at Sirianni’s Pizza Café in Davis, WV, (304) 259-5454; pizza to the south is at the Front Porch Restaurant in Seneca Rocks, WV, (about 20 miles away, the view is unbeatable), (304) 567-2555

Brew: Blackwater Brewing Company in Davis, www.blackwater-brewing.com or (304) 259-4221

Pick up a copy of the Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy – it’s available both in print and CD versions, www.wvhighlands.org