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Monongahela National Forest encompasses ten West Virginia counties in the Allegheny Mountains. Noted for its rugged terrain, highland bogs, blueberry thickets, vistas of exposed rocks, fast-moving streams and thick cover of trees, the forest was established in 1920 after widespread cutting of eastern forests. One of the 920,000-acre forest's best known attractions is Spruce Knob, West Virginia's highest peak at 3,861 feet.
The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area, four bogs just north of the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center that can be seen from a half-mile-long boardwalk; Seneca Rocks; and July-blooming rhododendrons are among the region's highlights.
Many good routes traverse the forest; some provide picturesque drives. The 43-mile Highland Scenic Highway between Richwood and US 219 follows SR 39/55 for 21 miles, then SR 150 for 22 miles, offering spectacular views of the Allegheny Highlands. US 250 offers some exceptional scenery. Between Huttonsville and the Virginia line the highway crosses 4,353-foot Top of Allegheny. A 60-mile section of US 33 from Elkins east to Franklin also offers splendid vistas.
Bears, deer, grouse, rabbits, squirrels and turkeys can be hunted in season. The forest contains 129 miles of warm-water fishing and 576 miles of trout streams. Gaudineer Scenic Area, off US 250 north of Durbin, protects 140 acres of virgin red spruce. The Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, 17,371 acres west of Hopeville, offers wide views and upland bogs with unusual plants. In the 20,698 acres of Otter Creek Wilderness Area hiking trails thread through mountainous terrain. Fernow Experimental Forest, administered by the U.S. Forest Service, adjoins Otter Creek; hunting is permitted in season.
Other wilderness areas within the forest are Cranberry, Laurel Fork North, Laurel Fork South, Spice Run, Big Draft and Roaring Plains West. The forest is traversed by some 500 miles of hiking trails and an extensive backwoods road and trail system for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. An excellent hiking guide to the forest is available for a fee from the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, P.O. Box 306, Charleston, WV 25321.
For further information contact the Forest Supervisor, Monongahela National Forest, 200 Sycamore St., Elkins, WV 26241; phone (304) 636-1800, voice and TTY.
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