Dolly Sods Hiking Information

Update October 2004

Hiking in Dolly Sods, especially Dolly Sods North, is not for novice hikers. Many unwary hikers and backpackers have become lost even within the small area of Dolly Sods. The Forest Service has recently installed trail signs at the intersections of trails within the Dolly Sods Wilderness. But the bears really love to tear the signs apart, so there is no guarantee of a sign at an intersection. As of the first week of October, the Forest Service is installing signs in Dolly Sods North. These signs are only at the ends of the trails. Some of the trails are not marked yet. The Forest Service plans to make the Raven Ridge Trail entirely in the Forest property at the Rocky Ridge junction. This would take it off the jeep road at the western end.

There are no blazes in any part of Dolly Sods. There are cairns, piles of rocks, marking many of the trails. But there may not be a cairn at a crucial turn, or conversely, someone may have built a cairn where there is no trail. So just because there is a cairn does not mean you are on a trail. Cairns may vary from a simple three rock pile to four foot monstrosities as seen on the Big and Little Stonecoal Run crossings of Red Creek.

If you plan to hike in Dolly Sods North, you must be able to accurately read a map and use a compass. Many of the trail intersections are difficult to see unless you are looking for them. This is especially true if you are going from an old railroad grade or jeep road to a side trail. And as noted above many intersections are not even marked with a cairn.

In the open, grassy areas of Dolly Sods North, all terrain vehicles are making new trails and using the existing trails. Because the ATV damages so much plant life, these paths look like main highways. The actual hiking trail may have gone on a different route or may branch off the ATV path. The ATVs actually are not allowed within the Forest Service areas, but have easy access through the surrounding private land.

We added this information because of the comments we received both via email and out on the trail of the difficulties hikers were having finding the trails. Dolly Sods is rough terrain. Distances can easily fool you. If you are unsure of your trail finding abilities, hike with someone who knows the area.

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