Living in metropolitan DC is RUFF! With all the hustle and bustle of the city, there's nothing we crave more than venturing outdoors and exploring nature. Although there are a lot of great parks around DC such as Great Falls, Rock Creek, Sugarloaf Mountain, Catocin Mountain Park, Shenandoah National Park, to name a few, Simba (our Shiba Inu) quickly claimed every trail! We wanted to find something new. Fortunately, we found what we were looking for in West Virginia.
At first glance, the wilderness of WV is not as impressive as the snow capped 14,000 foot mountain peaks of the Rockies, but after taking some time to soak in the surroundings, we realized that the Appalachians have a unique, ancient charm all their own. If you are on the east coast and have wandering paws, here are a few of our favorite spots to sniff around in wild and wonderful WV!
Dolly Sods Wilderness
Dolly Sods Wilderness is vast (17,776 acres and 47 miles of trails), but our favorite part is the Bear Rocks Preserve, which is close to dedicated camp sites and serves as a great trail head! To get there, you'll need to drive to the top of Dolly Sods via several twisty, bumpy gravel and dirt roads. If you live the Jeep life like we do, the drive will be a little slice of heaven for you.
Once you finally crest the mountain, you'll be greeted with spectacular views of forests, wildflower strewn plains, and neighboring mountains. Look a little closer, and you'll be amazed at how different the climate and environment are from the surrounding areas. Choose a hike and one minute you could be strolling through plains more reminiscent of those in Canada, and the next you could be traversing mossy rocks in what you easily could mistake as a thick, green jungle.
For those looking to hike in to Dolly Sods instead of drive, there are several trails that lead from the bottom of the area to the top, one of which is the Red Creek Trail. It consists of about 12 miles of meandering dirt paths, minimal rock scrambling, and stream crossings along a beautiful river - perfect for dogs. Simba loved every bit of the trail. He got to play in mud, splash in water, and growl at deer, all while carrying his own cargo. Talk about strong and independent!
New River Gorge
New River Gorge is located in southern West Virginia. The gorge was carved into the Appalachian Mountains by New River, which is actually one of the oldest rivers on Earth! The area has many different trails which offer awesome views of gorge and the amazing steel arch bridge that spans it. If your in the mood for a scenic drive, there are 83 miles of interstates, highways, and two lane roads that take you all around the park. You can even drive down a road that passes directly below the bridge supports to the river below and back up the other side.
One of the many great hikes near New River Gorge is the Endless Wall Trail. It snakes along the edge of a cliff, offering amazing views of the gorge below (Simba stayed on the leash for this one). Although it's a very short hike, it's packed full of unique forest environments. We also noticed a lot of rock climbing anchors, so take note if you like to rock climb. If your looking for a longer hike, there are many other trails in the area to roam.