Primitive Camping in WV
Top 10 Primitive Camping Sites in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia
West Virginia is a treasure trove for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and adventurers. With its lush forests, rolling hills, and stunning mountain landscapes, it's the perfect destination for those who crave an escape from the daily grind. One way to truly immerse yourself in West Virginia's natural beauty is by experiencing primitive camping. Also known as dispersed or backcountry camping, primitive camping allows you to enjoy the serenity and seclusion of the great outdoors without the amenities of established campgrounds. In this article, we'll explore the top ten primitive camping sites in West Virginia, offering site details and directions to help you plan your next wilderness adventure.
Located in the Monongahela National Forest, Cranberry Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in West Virginia. It offers 47,815 acres of unspoiled wilderness, featuring pristine rivers, cascading waterfalls, and dense forests. This area is perfect for primitive camping, with numerous backcountry campsites scattered along its 100 miles of hiking trails.
Directions: From Richwood, WV, head east on State Route 39/55 for approximately 15 miles. Turn right onto Forest Road 76 (Cranberry River Road) to access the wilderness area.
Otter Creek Wilderness
Covering 20,698 acres, Otter Creek Wilderness is another gem within the Monongahela National Forest. Home to the beautiful Otter Creek, this remote area is known for its rugged terrain and secluded camping spots. Primitive campsites can be found near the creek or along the 42 miles of hiking trails.
Directions: From Elkins, WV, take US-219 South for approximately 22 miles. Turn right onto County Route 12 (Stuart Memorial Drive) and follow the signs to Otter Creek Wilderness.
Seneca Creek Backcountry
Nestled in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, Seneca Creek Backcountry offers a primitive camping experience amidst some of West Virginia's most iconic landscapes. Campsites are scattered along the creek and adjacent meadows, offering stunning views of the surrounding peaks.
Directions: From Seneca Rocks, take WV-28 South for about 10 miles. Turn right onto Briery Gap Road (County Route 32) and continue for about 6 miles to reach the backcountry area.
Dolly Sods Wilderness
The Dolly Sods Wilderness is a unique destination due to its diverse ecosystems and striking rock formations. Spanning 17,371 acres, this area features a variety of terrains, from dense forests to open meadows. Dispersed camping is allowed throughout, and sites can be found near trailheads or along the Red Creek.
Directions: From Petersburg, WV, head north on US-220. Turn left onto Jordan Run Road (County Route 28/3), and continue for about 8 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 75 to access the wilderness area.
Tea Creek Wilderness
Tea Creek Wilderness, another part of the Monongahela National Forest, covers 6,013 acres of dense woodlands and high-elevation bogs. Its rugged beauty makes it ideal for primitive camping, with campsites available along the Williams River and Tea Creek.
Directions: From Marlinton, WV, take US-219 North for about 8 miles. Turn left onto State Route 150 (Highland Scenic Highway) and continue for about 6 miles to reach the wilderness area.
Laurel Fork Wilderness
Situated within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, Laurel Fork Wilderness offers 12,158 acres of unspoiled beauty. This area is known for its old-growth forests, clear streams, and abundant wildlife. Primitive campsites can be found along the Laurel Fork River and its tributaries, as well as along the 16 miles of hiking trails.
Directions: From Huttonsville, WV, head east on US-250 for approximately 12 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 14 (Laurel Fork Road) to access the wilderness area.
Roaring Plains West Wilderness
Roaring Plains West Wilderness, part of the Monongahela National Forest, encompasses 6,792 acres of rugged terrain, offering solitude and spectacular views. The area is known for its high-elevation meadows and rocky outcroppings. Dispersed camping is permitted, with sites available along the South Prong Trail and other hiking paths.
Directions: From Davis, WV, take WV-32 South for about 9 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 19 (Laneville Road) and continue for about 5 miles to access the wilderness area.
North Fork Mountain
North Fork Mountain, a 24-mile-long ridge in the Monongahela National Forest, is an excellent destination for primitive camping. The ridge provides stunning vistas of the surrounding valleys, and campsites can be found near overlooks or along the North Fork Mountain Trail.
Directions: From Petersburg, WV, head west on US-220. Turn left onto Smoke Hole Road (County Route 2) and continue for approximately 12 miles. Turn left onto Forest Road 79 to access the trailhead.
The Allegheny Trail, a 330-mile long-distance hiking trail that traverses West Virginia, offers numerous opportunities for primitive camping. The trail passes through various state parks, forests, and wilderness areas, providing a diverse range of camping experiences.
Directions: The Allegheny Trail can be accessed from multiple trailheads throughout the state. Popular entry points include Parsons, WV (near Blackwater Falls State Park) and Marlinton, WV (near the Monongahela National Forest).
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
While New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is known for its iconic bridge and whitewater rafting, it also offers primitive camping opportunities. With over 70,000 acres of protected land, backcountry camping is allowed in designated areas, such as the Glade Creek and Grandview Sandbar.
Directions: From Beckley, WV, take US-19 North for about 20 miles. Follow signs for the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
West Virginia's stunning landscapes and pristine wilderness areas make it a prime destination for primitive camping. Whether you're seeking solitude, adventure, or a connection with nature, these ten sites offer a memorable and rewarding experience. Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and to be prepared for your backcountry adventure, ensuring that you and future generations can continue to enjoy these wild and wonderful places.