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U.S. Forest Service

Eastern Region Viewing Area


mountain laurel. Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia). Photo by Alan S. Heilman, University Tennessee Herbarium.

early azalea. Early Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum). Photo by William S. Justice, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

round leaf sundew. Round Leaf Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia). Photo by Lee Casebere, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Dolly Sods

Forest: Monongahela National Forest

District: Potomac Ranger District

Description: Dolly Sods is an area of high elevation windswept plains on the Allegheny Plateau. The area is well known for its extensive rocky plains, upland bogs, and sweeping vistas. With the elevations in this part of West Virginia ranging from 2,600 feet to over 4,000 feet, the climate and plant life resembles northern Canada. It is a unique "island" of wild country surrounded by Appalachian hardwood forests.

Unusual plant communities are one of the attractions of the Sods. Sphagnum bogs, groves of wind-stunted, one-sided red spruce and twisted yellow birch, heath barrens, grassy sods, rhododendron and laurel thickets, and rocky barren plains invite exploration and provide an endless variety of vistas. The highest areas are covered with heath barrens, where azaleas, mountain laurel, rhododendron and blueberries seldom grow taller than chest high. These plants provide a fantastic floral display from May through July. Cranberries and the insect-eating sundew plant flourish in the bogs of floating sphagnum moss found in shallow depressions. Northern hardwood forests and laurel thickets are found at lower, more sheltered locations while boulder fields are common on the high elevation plains and near the Allegheny Front.

The Allegheny front is the eastern continental divide. Water flowing west drains into the Ohio River, Mississippi River and finally ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. Water flowing east drains into the Potomac River then into the Chesapeake Bay. This "Front" forms the eastern edge of the Allegheny Plateau and greatly affects weather patterns in the area. Most precipitation falls west of the Allegheny Front while the east side is in the rain shadow and receives relatively little precipitation.

Directions: Traveling to Dolly Sods is not easy! Forest Roads 75 and 19 are graveled, narrow and rough. Heavy traffic and dusty conditions can be encountered on many weekends. There are several ways to get to Dolly Sods, depending on where your travelling from:

  • From Petersburg, WV: Follow State Route 42 north to Jordan Run Road. Turn left onto Jordan Run Road and proceed approximately five miles to Forest Road 75. Turn right and go four miles to the Dolly Sods Scenic Area.
  • Follow State Route 28 and 55 south to Jordan Run Road. Turn right and go one mile on Jordan Run Road to Forest Road 19. Turn left and follow Forest Road 19 six miles to the Dolly Sods Scenic Area.
  • From Canaan Valley, WV: Follow Route 32 south to the Laneville Road. Turn left and follow the Laneville Road ten miles to the Dolly Sods Scenic Area. Before reaching the Scenic Area, the road passes several trailheads and the Dolly Sods Picnic Area.

Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Monongahela National Forest, Potomac Ranger District. For more information contact the Potomac Ranger District, HC 59, Petersburg WV 26847 (304) 257-4488 (voice and TTY).

Closest Town: Petersburg, West Virginia.