Monongahela National Forest, WV: Cranberry Wilderness Loop

Circle an upland swamp rich with views, solitude, and wild edibles.
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Circle an upland swamp rich with views, solitude, and wild edibles.

Hike among fern-lined forests and view highland bogs on a 15.7-mile loop along one of Monongahela National Forest's least-traveled paths. From the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, head south on the blue-blazed Pocahontas Trail into a grove of maple, beech, black cherry, and birch trees, which change into fall’s yellows, oranges, and purples in October.

Reach the Blue Knob Trail junction at mile 2.5, and turn right. Red spruce line the path, and a 50-foot spur near the top delivers you to the 4,383-foot summit, complete with a view of blue mountain ridges to the southeast. Return to the spur junction and continue northwest to join the Kennison Mountain Trail. Cross WV 39/55 at mile 3.7, then turn north onto the South Fork Trail .5 mile later. Hike past 10-foot-tall, moss-covered sandstone outcroppings, then cross a series of wooden footbridges over a few creeks.

After crossing FR 102, head northeast on the Cowpasture Trail, which passes through rhododendron tunnels to open fields with waist-high grasses and goldenrod. A wooden viewing platform at mile 6.9 offers an open glimpse of the wide, green expanse of the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, an acidic highlands bog like those more commonly found in Canada. Kennison Mountain (4,445 feet) stands to the west. Pick a few handfuls of cranberries, and camp in one of the flat, grassy areas on the left.

Next day, hike 5.2 miles to a wayward piece of blacktop and a set of placards marking the former site of Mill Point Federal Prison. Hit FR 102 again, and road-walk .1 mile north to the Cranberry Glade boardwalk. Retrace your steps on the Cowpasture Trail to the intersection with the Charles Creek Trail and continue south on the grassy, meadow-side path. Pass a thick spruce forest on your right—Mill Creek prisoners may have planted it in the 1940s. Turn right on SR 150 and continue to the nature center.

PERMIT: Not required

GEAR UP: Appalachian Sport, 3 Seneca Trail, Marlinton, WV. (304) 799-4050; appsport.com

MAP: Free; download at wvhighlands.org

CONTACT: (304) 653-4826; fs.usda.gov/mnf

-Mapped by Peter Rives

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 25.3

Waypoints

CRN001

Location: 38.183449, -80.252981

From the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, head south on the blue-blazed Pocahontas Trail into a grove of maple, beech, black cherry, and birch trees, which change into fall’s yellows, oranges, and purples in October.

CRN002

Location: 38.177315, -80.257827

Go straight on Pocahontas Trail at 3-way.

CRN003

Location: 38.170839, -80.272894

You'll reach the Blue Knob Trail junction at mile 2.5. Turn right down the red spruce-lined path.

CRN004

Location: 38.175807, -80.279135

A 50-foot spur near the top delivers you to the 4,383-foot summit, complete with a view of blue mountain ridges to the southeast. Return to the spur junction and continue northwest to join the Kennison Mountain Trail.

CRN005

Location: 38.17861, -80.282031

Turn right (north) onto Kennison Mountain Trail.

CRN006

Location: 38.184848, -80.280793

Cross WV 39/55 at mile 3.7.

CRN007

Location: 38.189151, -80.284336

Take a right to head north onto the South Fork Trail. Hike past 10-foot-tall, moss-covered sandstone outcroppings, then cross a series of wooden footbridges over a few creeks.

CRN008

Location: 38.211989, -80.284433

Cross the road and continue on South Fork Trail. Head northeast on the Cowpasture Trail, and pass through rhododendron tunnels to open fields with waist-high grasses and goldenrod.

CRN009

Location: 38.21158, -80.278086

At mile 6.9, you'll come to a wooden viewing platform. From here you can see the green expanse of the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Kennison Mountain (4,445 feet) stands to the west. Pick a few handfuls of cranberries, and camp in one of the flat, grassy areas on the left.

CRN010

Location: 38.215154, -80.243304

Bear right to follow the trail south.

CRN011

Location: 38.191476, -80.263964

At Cowpasture Trail, hang a right.

CRN012

Location: 38.195747, -80.273752

Hit FR 102 again, and turn right to road-walk .1 mile north to the Cranberry Glade boardwalk.

CRN013

Location: 38.197719, -80.275082

For a quick loop on Cranberry Glades Boardwalk, take a right here. Backtrack to CRN011.

CRN014

Location: 38.191375, -80.263882

Turn right to hike south on the grassy, meadow-side path. Pass a thick spruce forest on your right (Mill Creek prisoners may have planted it in the 1940s).

CRN015

Location: 38.186104, -80.258149

Hang another right to follow the Reserve Trail.

CRN016

Location: 38.182257, -80.258405

Turn left and follow trail back to the Visitor Center.