July 24, 2018

1965: USDA designates the first National Recreation Area in the United States. That area is Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks NRA.
2018: Purple Lizard Maps explores the area to discover and map the best recreation opportunities still available for the public. We visited this area six times in six months searching for maintained and unmaintained trails, open and gated roads, and what we think are the most interesting spots—which we note with a Purple Lizard on our maps. We drove to Spruce Knob multiple times:
Spruce Knob Monongahela National Forest
We got to see the region go from late winter browns to full on summer greens.
Spruce Knob Monongahela National Forest West Virginia 
This is the view from the highest point in West Virginia!  
We found some truly gnarly 4wd roads that our friends at Main Line Overland will really enjoy!
Dirt 4 Wheel Drive Road Monogahela National Forest WV 
4wd Road in Monongahela National Forest WV
The Department of Adventure also found some back roads that were in better condition than expected. Several pipeline projects are active in these forests right now. We checked trail access points at a few of these projects to ensure our maps are updated and correct. While these projects can interrupt trails and the wild experience, they also usually result in updated conditions of old forest roads. The photo below shows construction near North Fork Mountain Trail. Forest Service Road 79 is now in better condition, which means our friends at Freeze Thaw Cycles will have an easier time accessing North Fork Mountain Trail!  
Pipeline Equipment Monongahela National Forest WV
We toured Smoke Hole and Big Bend in search of river access points.
North Branch South Fork Potomac River Monongahela National Forest WV 
We liked Big Bend so much we pitched our tent and stayed for a night! This is a great campground and they have hot showers - what more could you ask for?
This part of the river can get extreme - which is why the whitewater seekers love to run it at high water - and we wondered just how high it gets. Then we found this spot - apparently it gets way over our heads! We'll stay home on those days. 
Imagine this river with 8 or more feet of water and you get a sense of how insane this place gets!
The scenic vistas are beyond scenic along Route 33:
We also stopped at Seneca Rocks a few times to be sure we had correct intel for the climbing crowd and our friends at Organic Climbing and Nittany Mountain Works.
Seneca Rocks Monongahela National Forest WV
Climbers at Seneca Rocks Monongahela National Forest WV
Speaking of climbing, we also stopped at NRocks to ask about their unique system of trails and climbing routes.
Nelson Rocks Preserve Monongahela National Forest WV 
We also completed fieldwork of the trails using bikes and hiking shoes. It is important to verify trail intersections on Purple Lizard Maps, and we'll go as far as crossing high water in order to field truth our maps.
Seneca Creek Trail Seneca Creek Monongahela National Forest WV
We even brought Rogue the Adventure Pup along for one trip. Rogue isn't shy about her body language; she always lets us know which trails dogs will enjoy: 
Rogue the Adventure Pup Monongahela National Forest WV 
and which trails dogs may not enjoy:
Seneca Creek Seneca Creek Trail Monongahela National Forest WV
She also let's us know when it's time to quit for the day and enjoy a cool drink:
Rogue The Adventure Pup Plantation Trail Monongahela National Forest WV 
We found some great paved roads, with spectacular winding turns and mountain views. We even found an amazing restaurant and inn off of Route 33 near Elkins. Forks Inn will be on our next map, Elkins-Otter Creek Lizard Map, but it is so nice that we wanted to highlight it on our Dolly Sods-Seneca Rocks Lizard Map too!
Germany Valley Vista Monongahela National Forest WV 
Big Timber Brewing Co. is another local gem. You can find this brewery in Elkins, after a long day of recreation in the back country. Or head over to Thomas, and enjoy some local brews by Mountain State Brewing Company!
What are you waiting for? Grab your Lizard Map and go on an adventure today!
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