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With five wilderness areas and 500 miles of trail, you can’t go wrong in any of the Monongahela’s 909,000 acres. Serenity rules on the 20-mile Laurel Fork Trail through Laurel Fork North and South Wildernesses. The background murmur of the river will quickly lull you into easy hiking on the evenly graded trail. Ferns billow out in all directions, making you feel like you’re walking on green clouds in your own little slice of forest heaven.
Contact: Monongahela National Forest, (304) 636-1800; www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf.
Dolly Sods Wilderness
Sphagnum bogs compete with rare sundew plants at the upper reaches of Red Creek in this wilderness. Huckleberry bushes engulf old railroad tracks and winds sweep across the Allegheny Mountain plateau, stunting and twisting the wiry red spruce. Here, you’ll taste nature’s wild side in scenery reminiscent of Canadian wildlands.
Contact: Cheat Ranger District Office, Monongahela National Forest, (304) 478-3251; www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf.
“The passage of the Patowmac through the Blue Ridge is perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.” Thomas Jefferson’s 200-year-old recommendation still rings true. From the south, take the AT up to Jefferson Rock (the breathtaking view from which inspired those famous words), then east through Harpers Ferry. Trek the final few miles of the AT in West Virginia, and then, if time permits, continue on for days or weeks.
Contact: Appalachian Trail Conference, (304) 535-6331; www.atconf.org.