QUICK TAKE: Allegheny Trail, WV
DRIVE TIME: Gaudineer Scenic Area is in eastern West Virginia, about 180 miles (31/2 hours) southwest of Washington, D.C., and 175 miles (31/2 hours) west of Richmond.
THE WAY: From I-81 in Virginia, exit onto US 250 at Staunton and head west into the Mountain State. Four miles after passing through the town of Durbin, turn right on Forest Road 27 and into Gaudineer Scenic Area. Trailhead parking is about 2 miles in at the interpretive sign.
TRAILS: The yellow-blazed Allegheny Trail (#701) runs for roughly 330 miles from southern West Virginia into Pennsylvania. For the trip mentioned here, follow the Allegheny for 10 miles from Gaudineer Scenic Area to High Falls Trail (#345), which you follow west for 2 miles for a spectacular view of the falls. Backtrack and continue east on High Falls Trail to the West Fork Trail (#312), a 25-mile, scenic rail-trail that will take you south along the West Fork of the Greenbrier River. Several connector options take you back to the Allegheny and Gaudineer.
ELEVATION: Ranges from 2,700 feet at High Falls to 4,309 feet on Gaudineer Knob.
CAN’T MISS: For a tour of Gaudineer Knob, where snow may linger into May and 300-year-old spruce tower 100 feet overhead, follow the gentle, 1-mile Gaudineer Scenic Area Loop Trail (#373).
CROWD CONTROL: Don’t worry, there are no crowds. Wear something bright during hunting seasons, which run from late October to mid-December, and late April to late May.
PIT STOP: When you leave Gaudineer, you’ll practically drive into Tom and Nancy Jones’ place, The Last Frontier. The fare is American, the portions hearty, the view unparalleled.
WALK SOFTLY: Red blazes and yellow survey markers usually denote private property. Camp only on public land. Avoid grazing allotments.
MAPS AND GUIDES: A visitor’s map to Monongahela National Forest and USGS 7.5-minute quads Beverly East, Wildell, and Durbin are available for $4 apiece (plus $3.50 handling per order) from: USDA Forest Service, Monongahela National Forest, 200 Sycamore St., Elkins, WV 26241-3962; (304) 636-1800. Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide ($12.95, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, P.O. Box 306, Charleston, WV 25321) is an indispensable resource.
MORE INFORMATION: Greenbrier Ranger District, Monongahela National Forest, Route 250, P.O. Box 67, Bartow, WV 24920; (304) 456-3335.