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Backpacker Magazine – August 1998

West Virginia Mountain Hobnobbing

Birds and deer are your only companions on this stretch of the Allegheny Trail.

by: Mary Burnham

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The lure of the wild runs especially deep in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest, where well-known wilderness areas like Cranberry, Otter Creek, and Dolly Sods attract backpackers like honey does bees. Just as wild and significantly less crowded is the other 90 percent of "the Mon's" 900,000 acres, a land known only to local nature lovers, some hunters, and a few solitude-hungry hikers. Consider the 12-mile portion of the Allegheny Trail from Gaudineer Scenic Area to High Falls in the vicinity of Durbin, for instance. Songbirds and white-tailed deer were our only company as my husband and I passed through stands of old-growth trees along the spine of Shavers Mountain.

We started at the Gaudineer Scenic Area, a 140-acre, mountain-top preserve, where we pitched our tent the first night beneath towering red spruce atop 4,309-foot Gaudineer Knob. From there we followed the yellow-blazed Allegheny Trail's strenuous course north, alternating between 4,000-foot knobs and 3,000-foot saddlebacks a half dozen times.

At 11.7 miles, the Allegheny intersects with blue-blazed High Falls Trail. Two miles west are the falls of Shavers Fork, one of the state's most beautiful streams. An east turn onto High Falls Trail leads to the West Fork Trail, an easy rail-trail along the west fork of the Greenbrier River. Another diverse habitat of wetlands, wildflowers, and field birds unfolds along this trail. In time, you pass through Wildell, a former logging town marked only by an eerie signpost.

At the end of West Fork Trail you can either have a car waiting, or take the flagged but as yet unfinished trail back to the Allegheny and go north to Gaudineer for a challenging 31-mile loop. To customize a shorter loop, take any of the connecting trails that lead from the Allegheny Trail east to the West Fork Trail.


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Danny
Aug 27, 2012

I concur the ALT is almost nonexistent in this area - I hiked up from the Beulah/High Falls trail and went south on top of the mnt. on the ALT looking for the Wildel Shelter. It was last Fall and the leaves were all down so that didn't help. I was able to find my way but I would use GPS for sure. I have been hiking on the West side of the Shavers Fork up on top of Cheat Mnt. Talk about unmarked trails - I am going to head back out this winter when its not so thick. If you look close you will find all kinds of stuff out there from the logging and mining days. Very cool place.

Todd Hansen
Jul 15, 2011

The Allegheny Trail (ALT) from Gaudineer Knob north to the junction with High Falls of the Cheat Trail was hard to follow in spots and apparently rarely used but doable in May 2011. The Allegheny Trail from Beulah to High Falls is well blazed and maintained. The West Virginia Scenic Trails Association person for this stretch of the ALT said they're going to get a volunteer work party together and brush and log out this stretch of the ALT north of south of the Johns Camp Run Shelter.

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