Here's an upside-down idea: Instead of sweating for hours to reach 4,840 feet, why not start your hike at this lofty level? Begin the Huckleberry Trail from a trailhead near the summit of Spruce Knob, where you're greeted by isolated flag spruce, mountainous heath, and a stunning view of the Allegheny Mountains. It's all downhill from there, using 70 miles of interconnecting trails. A 16-mile loop starts at Spruce Knob and uses parts of seven woodsy paths, including the Horton, Tom's Lick, Swallow Rock, and Bear Hunter Trails.
Where: 180 miles west of Washington, DC. The trailhead is 28 miles west of Franklin. Follow US 33 to just west of Judy Gap, then exit left on Briery Gap Road (County Road 33-4). At Simoda, turn left onto Forest Road 112, which leads to the trailhead.
Maps: The guidebook Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide ($14) is available from the visitor center (see below).
Trail Info: Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, (304) 567-2827.