At 330 miles, the Allegheny Trail (ALT) is West Virginia’s longest hiking trail and one of its least traveled. This trail follows a network of roads and trails from the Mason-Dixon Line near Bruceton Mills, WV to the southern border of WV and VA near Petersburg, WV. In September 2017, my husband and I thru-hiked the ALT as a celebration of our 5-year wedding anniversary and to explore the Mountain State we call home. In three weeks, we discovered scenic back roads, lesser known recreation areas, hidden history, and endless solitude. This three-part blog series highlights the 40-mile section of the ALT that winds its way across the new Dolly Sods & Seneca Rocks Lizard Map. I hope our experience will encourage you to find your own adventure on the Allegheny Trail!
The Heart of the Highlands (HoH) Trail System has chosen much of this section of the Allegheny Trail (ALT) as part of their Core Loop and for good reason. I highly recommend this tour of two state parks and one National Forest backcountry area as a fantastic overnight trip, day hike, or trail run. Get out there and enjoy guaranteed solitude along well-maintained trails that are easy on the eyes and not too hard on the legs either.
To begin your adventure, leave one car parked at the Resort Lodge at Canaan Valley State Park and shuttle another car back to Davis, WV. There are a few options as to where to begin your adventure: One option is to park at the trailhead kiosk across the road from Shop-N-Save and enter into the back side of Blackwater Falls State Park via River Road Trail. Another route of the ALT leads along the paved main road into Blackwater Falls State Park (Blackwater Falls Road). This second option is a good option if you want to see the quintessential falls (well worth the quick side trip) and don’t mind sharing the road with park traffic.
Either way, you’ll soon hop on the quiet Yellow Birch Trail in Blackwater Falls State Park, which will connect with the Davis Trail that leads you out of the state park boundaries and up a steady climb into the Canaan Mountain Backcountry. About 3-4 miles into your hike, you’ll encounter the Canaan Mountain Shelter. This would be a great place to spend the night if you’re making the trip a two-day adventure.
Two more route options exist at this shelter intersection: Davis Trail continues southeast towards Canaan Loop Road; while Fire Trail #6, which is reached by heading west on Plantation Trail for about a mile, takes a somewhat parallel route south to Canaan Loop Road. Either option is fantastic, as the Canaan Mountain Backcountry offers some of the most pleasant, scenic, and solitary hiking I’ve ever encountered. The trails through this plateau are often wet so pack an extra pair of socks!
Reach Canaan Loop Road and follow the gravel goad to the next trail section of the ALT. Soon, turn south onto one of my favorite sections of the ALT. Also known as Railroad Grade Trail, in season, you’ll be able to pick wild huckleberries or cranberries near the trailhead kiosk. Your hike will descend off the Canaan Mountain plateau and along the back edge of Canaan Valley Resort State Park. Although the lodge area is usually busy, you’re more likely to share this lesser-used trail with wildlife than with other humans. At about 10 miles into your hike, you’ll start to see the cabin area of the state park. Follow the signs and the paved road for about a mile to reach your car at the Lodge.
Emily Huguenin is a WV resident and long-time lizard seeker. She and her husband thru-hiked the Allegheny Trail in September 2017 and are happy to share beta about this lesser known trail through West Virginia. When she’s not hiking, trail running, or cross country skiing, Emily serves as assistant director at Camp Hidden Meadows, a youth summer camp focused on helping kids explore and love the great outdoors. Feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about exploring the Allegheny Trail.
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I had two seriously long days in the woods planned, for an estimated total of 44 miles of backpacking. My plan was to follow a slew of lesser-known trails to create a loop that incorporates both Black Forest Trail and West Rim Trail. I picked this route after studying the Pine Creek Lizard Map. There are countless trails on this excellent map, but some of them are old, neglected, and untravelled. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Winter is a great time to do this kind of exploring. There are no rattlesnakes, nettles, or ticks. Streams are easy to follow, and the cold temperatures can dress up the stream banks with ice sculptures. The lack of leaves creates winter vistas where in the summer there is only endless green. So off I went.