Monongahela National Forest: High Falls Trail to High Falls on Shavers Fork Cheat River, Elkins, West Virginia
Despite its generic name, the High Falls of Cheat is known as one of Monongahela's more distinctive waterfalls. As less than 20 feet in height, the falls isn't very tall - but its signature feature is its width, stretching across a 100-foot wide cliff. The enormous pool and swimming hole denoting the base of High Falls is a welcome sight on a warm summer day. A scenic trail leads to the falls across Shavers Mountain from the West Fork Glady Fork valley. High Falls is unusual in that it is one of the longest waterfall hikes in Monongahela, yet it is also easily accessible by a scenic tourist train ride from Elkins. The Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad Company runs a seasonal track through the Tygart Valley and up the remote gorge of the Shavers Fork Cheat River, otherwise accessible only by foot. The track runs directly past High Falls, so during the summer, don't be surprised to find company from people who reached the falls by train. On the other hand, you're likely to have the hike and falls all to yourself in the cold winter months, especially if you choose to visit after a foot of fresh snow has fallen, like I did. This hike occurred on Monday, February 1st, 2021. My plan was to simply hike the High Falls Trail out and back from the trailhead along FS 44.
New River Gorge National Park: Waterfalls of Fern Creek and Endless Wall Trail, Fayetteville, West Virginia
The Endless Wall Trail is one of the most famous trails in New River Gorge National Park and all of West Virginia. Following the brink of the gorge for nearly two miles, the trail provides many outstanding views looking down from the towering cliffs of the Endless Wall. None is as legendary as Diamond Point, a rock promontory that features unobstructed views in both directions of the New River Gorge. However, what is less common knowledge is that the Endless Wall Trail serves as an access point to a set of spectacular off-trail waterfalls on Fern Creek. The trail crosses a placid Fern Creek above the gorge rim, but few people realize that a plethora of awe-striking beauty lies downstream. A side trail off the Endless Wall Trail known as the Climbers' Trail descends into the gorge through a series of ladders and caves, providing relatively easy access to Matteus Falls and Upper Fern Creek Falls. But reaching the middle and lower waterfalls of Fern Creek is a true adventure that is devoid of any paths, full of expansive rock gardens, and punctuated by house-size boulders. This trip report is split into two sections: the first describes the Fern Creek waterfall excursion, and the second describes the rest of the easy Endless Wall Trail. I initially hiked the Endless Wall Trail on Saturday, August 1st, 2020. I then returned to the area and explored the entirety of Fern Creek from top to bottom on Sunday, January 17th, 2021. This trip report combines details and photos from both hikes.
Monongahela National Forest (Laurel Fork North Wilderness): Laurel River Trail to Stone Camp Run Junction, Elkins, West Virginia
The Laurel Fork Wilderness is one of the least-travelled areas in Monongahela National Forest. The wilderness spans the length of the Laurel Fork of the Cheat River, an impressive waterway that winds through a remote area of the mountains east of the unincorporated community of Glady. You won't find any spectacular vistas or towering cascades here, but what you will find is a pristine river and a lovely (albeit sometimes faint) trail where solitude is guaranteed. The Laurel Fork Wilderness has been split into two halves by CR 40/FR 423, which crosses Laurel Fork at the Laurel Fork Campground. The report below describes an exploratory foray into the Laurel Fork North Wilderness. This hike occurred on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021. Starting at the campground, I traced the Laurel River Trail downstream through the broadening Laurel Fork valley to a junction with the Stone Camp Run Trail, and I then returned the same way.
Monongahela National Forest: Right Fork Tea Creek - Red Run - Gauley Mountain Loop, Tea Creek Wildlife Management Area, Marlinton, West Virginia
The Tea Creek Wildlife Management Area is the little, less intimidating brother to the better-known Cranberry Wilderness. Located just northeast of the Cranberry Wilderness on the other side of the Williams River, the Tea Creek area features dozens of miles of hiking trails with many of the same rushing creeks and dark spruce forests. Unlike the Cranberry Wilderness, all trails in Tea Creek WMA are well-marked and easier to follow. The loop described here is a very nice introduction to the area, traversing a myriad of ecosystems across the headwaters of Right Fork Tea Creek. The hike begins in the vast Tea Creek Meadows alongside Highlands Scenic Highway and follows first Right Fork Tea Creek and then Red Run for the first several miles, passing along beaver-formed wetlands and through rock gardens. The return route traces a relaxing old logging grade along the higher and drier slopes of Gauley Mountain. This hike occurred on January 2nd, 2021. My plan was to hike the Right Fork Trail from Tea Creek Meadows to the Red Run Trail. I then followed the Red Run Trail to the Gauley Mountain Trail, and I took the Gauley Mountain Trail back toward Tea Creek Meadows. I closed off the loop along the Right Fork Connector Trail and exited via the Tea Meadows Interpretive Trail.
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Coming in 2021! (Delayed by Covid-19)
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