Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike

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Description: This trek is similar to Roaring Plains Circuit described elsewhere on this site in that the Canyon Rim remains the focal point. It differs, however, in several ways. It allows for easier yet more scenic (Three more vistas! and interesting rock formations) access and regress to the campsite at the beginning of "The Hidden Passage". This will let you set up a base camp so you can enjoy the wonderful views and rugged terrain along the Canyon Rim without the encumbrance of a heavy pack. It also adds another 1.4 miles of exploration of the Rim with at least 2 more vistas and an additional 1.33 miles of the Roaring Plains Trail while eliminating the use of the Tee-Pee Trail. If time allows it also opens up the opportunity to make forays toward Flat Rock Plains, Mount Porte Crayon and Haystack Knob.

Caution 1: This circuit is for experienced hikers only. Knowledge and use of a topo map, compass and/or GPS units are recommended. Portions of this hike make use of "unofficial trails", animal paths and good old fashion bushwhacking. The chances of getting "off-trail" are pretty good so allow extra time.

Caution 2: The weather on the Roaring Plains can change in the wink of an eye, even in the summer months. Be prepared for temperature extremes. During parts of this outing you will be totally exposed to the elements. High winds can be a dangerous issue at times.

Google Custom Driving Directions

The start/end point is the eastern trailhead of the South Prong Tr on FR 19.

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Printable/Downloadable Map

View 3-D Map

Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users

 

Trail Notes: From the kiosk walk south on the South Prong Trail. Sections of the trail are on boardwalks constructed to protect delicate bogs. You will pass through thick Red Spruce forests and interesting rock formations. At 1.65 miles into the hike visit a nice vista that looks across the southern ridge of Dolly Sods. Shortly after that there will be a small campsite on the right with a view of North Fork Mountain and Chimney Rocks behind it. Right after that is a footpath on the left marked by a cairn. It seems to dead end at a rock field but some scrambling w/o packs will lead to yet another good view of North Fork Mountain. In 0.47 miles after the last vista pass an obvious footpath on the left. This is the actual beginning of the Hidden Passage. Don't turn hear. In a few yards come to another trail on the left marked with a cairn. Turn here and cross a stream to arrive at your base camp.

From camp follow the trail upstream and re-cross the stream at a pretty obvious point. Turn right onto the Hidden Passage. This is an unofficial trail but the tread has become more obvious with more frequent use.

Continue in a southerly direction toward a Rhododendron thicket on the other side of the meadow. There you will find an obvious path through the thicket, crossing a small stream as you go. On the other side of the thicket you will find yet another meadow. Look for the faint trail and cairns. You will still maintain a southerly course but you will be favoring the right side of the meadow until you enter a woods comprised mostly of birch and black cherry. The trail will bend to the left for a short distance until you are almost to the rim and then straighten out again. At 0.85 miles from the turnoff from the South Prong Trail arrive at the base of the ever popular “Meadows”. Cairns will direct you to a nice but dry and exposed campsite with partial views of the valley below.

Beyond this campsite is an obvious grassy jeep road. Follow this to the intersection with the Pipeline Swath. This is about 0.7 miles from where the “Hidden Passage” ended at the base of the “Meadow” or 1.74 miles from your base camp.

 

Turn left onto the Pipeline Swath and descend about 0.34 miles, cross a small stream and arrive at the remains of an old road that intersects the Pipeline. This is the beginning of Jonathan’s Canyon Rim Trail. If you feel up to a side trip stash your packs here and proceed down the Pipeline for another 0.24 miles or so until you see a cairn on the right directly across from a Forest boundary sign on the opposite side of the swath. This marks a trail out to a pretty nice overlook.

 

Return to the intersection of the old road. And turn left (if going up the swath) onto the old road. There is a dead tree with a blank sign mounted high on the trunk. This is the “iffiest” part of the hike.

 

Proceed down the road a short distance than turn right and cross a small stream. Skirt the edge of a small bog to your right. From here to the next overlook it is mostly an open woods bushwhack. Keep the rim or edge of the hill in sight and to your left and avoid any thickets to your right.

 

You will eventually arrive at a very large oak tree with multiple trunks near the beginning of another meadow/bog. Turn left here and head towards the rim. You will find a footpath that leads out to the canyon and another fantastic view. You’ll pass another multi-trunked tree on your right. From here to the talus rock slope beyond the Tee Pee Trail the path will be more obvious with cairns marking the way through several boulder fields. Stay close to the rim and you can’t get lost.

 

At about 0.6 miles from leaving the Pipeline you will cross Roaring Creek (last firm chance for water for a while) and pass red forest boundary blazes and a survey marker. Continue following the rim. Almost any side trail to the left is apt to lead you to a view of the surrounding area. At 0.6 miles from the creek crossing arrive at “The Point”, the intersection of Roaring Creek and Long Run Canyons. This is a great place for lunch. A quick excursion to the rocks out on the tip leads to the best views of the day: Smith Mountain, Four Knobs, North Fork Mountain, Shenandoah Mountain, Chimney Rocks, Champe Rocks, Seneca Rocks, Spruce Mountain, Hay Stack Knob and more can be observed from one spot by simply turning your head.

 

From “The Point” travel north-west along the rim, crossing more boulder fields and passing through alternating Rhododendron and heath thickets and stands of Red Spruce stopping for the views along the way. If you’re backpacking, there’s a nice established campsite with a fire ring sheltered by Red Spruce about 0.24 miles from “The Point” but it is dry. There is one or two sites suitable for a tent or two as well as another incredible view just before this without fire rings. (It was at this vista that Gadget Girl shot the Golden Sunset seen as the banner for all of the WV hike links on this site.) In another 1.15 miles, passing yet another vista or two along the way, arrive at the junction with the Tee Pee Trail at another established dry campsite with a fire ring. In another 0.32 miles arrive at another fine vista and the Mother of all talus slopes! Follow the cairns for about 0.2 miles. They will then seem to stop. Look downhill for more cairns. At the bottom will be a large flat rock. Head for that point the best you can. Don't be afraid to use your butt. That's why you have one! Once off of the talus slopes cairns will direct you to turn left. At first the trail is rocky but you will soon find yourself walking on a grassy jeep road that goes in and out of meadows and young woods. Near the end the trail might seem to fade away. Look for a long fern meadow open to the sun. The trail runs straight through it and connects directly to a well worn footpath that leads to a gigantic campsite and the junction with the blue blazed Roaring Plains Trail. On the way up you might cross a small seasonal stream. Look for a cliff behind a fire ring that offers a good view down the Long Run drainage.

 

To complete this circuit turn right onto the Roaring Plains Trail. In 1.33 miles you'll pass the junction with the Tee-Pee Trail on the right. It is hard to spot but is marked by an old, rotted erosion dam/log. In another 0.98 miles reach the Pipeline Swath. Jor right for a handful of steps and then left onto FR 70. In about 0.34 miles pass the Boars Nest Trail terminus on the left. In another 1.43 miles turn right onto the South Prong Trail. Climb steeply for about 0.16 miles. Need one more vista to top off the day? Turn right into a nice campsite. Bushwhack through the woods as if you were paralleling the trail you were just on but in the opposite direction and diverging away from it just a tad. Keep your eye out for a huge, multi-branched maple tree in a Rhododendron thicket. Just behind it is a sandstone rock outcrop. A scramble to the top of it will reward you with a fine view of the South Prong Drainage and the southern edge of Dolly Sods.

 

Return to the campsite and turn right up the South Prong trail, soon crossing a small stream (the stream you camped by) and climb a few steps to the plateau. From there it is an easy 0.28 mile back to the trail on the right that leads to your campsite.

 

The next day backpack out on the South Prong Trail the same way you came in.

Printable/Downloadable Trail Notes

Critique This Outing

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Name: Jason Dashbach                                                                                             Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike

Date(s): 10/4-5/14                                                                                                   Rating: 5

 

Critique: Four of us did this hike the first weekend of October 2014. It is a really wonderful walk with amazing views at many points along the canyon rim. We found ourselves staring the hike with snow flurries at the trail head but no real snow ever came. The temps stayed seasonably low both days but we didn’t see much precipitation after that.
The trail can be difficult to follow in places and we took a couple of wrong turns, most notably while looking for the tee pee trail at the end of day 1. We took a trail that was marked with a cairn about where we thought it should be but we had turned off the rim a little too early and had to back track once we realized we were walking on the wrong heading. The tee pee trailhead is at the opposite end of a well-used campsite, so if you are looking for it and are not at a camp site you haven’t found it. Even once you are within the camp site it is not obvious and it is concealed with some small pines and brush. The canyon rim trail just passed that same campsite is also the most difficult to follow section of the overall trail, at least it was for us. Prior to that section it was fairly straightforward and we didn’t have any major issues finding the way. I would also recommend that you fill up on water at the streams when you pass them. The whole reason we were looking for the tee-pee trail was because the rest of the campsites along the rim were dry and we didn’t have enough water left for dinner and breakfast so we were going to cut off the last horn on the rim and camp closer to water.
Our original plan for the hike had been to camp at the big site about 2 miles from the trailhead per the trail notes and then do the rim as a day hike without packs but there was a HUGE group (no joke 30-40 people doing trail maintenance) there already so we figured we would just use one of the other sites along the way and we kept pushing on to the next one and the next one and then got to a point where everything left was dry and a good ways from any water. It didn’t help that we walked on what we thought was the tee pee for a good 20 minutes before realizing the mistake.
We definitely could have done a few things differently on this hike to make it a more comfortable experience but we still had a great time and the views were beautiful. We also ended up sharing the site with another group of super nice people who got a great fire going so things worked out even with some wrong turns, more weight and less water than planned. I will definitely go back as it will be much easier the second time around having some actual experience with the route.

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Name: Mntjohn                                                                                                           Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike

Date: 9/14/13                                                                                                            Rating: 5

 

Critique: my GF and i drove up FR70 to the pipeline and did a modified version of this hike. pipeline to canyon rim trail to teepee trail and back to the pipeline via the roaring plains trail. the descriptions given here are excellent, we did this with no map, compass or gps(although i did have the description and map and a compass i never had to use them.) the route was pretty obvious to me and although we did get misdirected a couple of times it never took more than a minute or two to get back on track -even on the teepee trail. the week before this we hiked the south prong from fr19 to fr70, fr70 to the pipeline and hidden passage back to the south prong and out ...again doing this without the use of map, compass or gps. had a little problem after the meadows where the hidden passage veers right, took us about 5 minutes to re-find the trail, otherwise was smooth sailing the scenery and views are second to none and we had a great time on both hikes. i highly recommend doing these hikes in segments as to allow more time for exploring and soaking up all the great views and scenery my advice to anyone wishing to hike the canyon rim and hidden passage is to study this page and the corresponding topo as much as you possibly can -get it into your bloodstrem so to speak. then i believe if you have good backcountry intuition and a good sense of direction that you will have no problems ...as always take your time and know the terrain ..print this page and the maps and you will be fine this area is fast becoming my favorite, thanks for the grat maps and trail descriptions

 

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Name: JNK556                                                                                                            Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike

Date: 06/15/13                                                                                                         Rating: 4

 

Critique: Did this hike with ArfcomHkr, weather was nice, all be it still a lot of mud with all the rain we have had. South prong trail is nice, but rocky, good views off trail in the boulders. Hidden Passage is really nice, trail is pretty easy to follow, but could be confusing in some spots. Canyon rim trail is very rough, and in many places over grown, but still pretty easy to follow. We lost the trail near where you cross Roaring Creek, but picked it back up with a little searching and our GPS's. ArfcomHkr took a fall after "The Point" on some rocks, so we decided to cut the loop short and go through the TeePee trail. I wish we wouldn't have. TeePee trail is overgrown, hard to follow in alot of spots, we actually had to bushwack though a thicket to find the trail, and we ended up lost for 30min at the very end of TeePee about 25yds from the Roaring Plains intersection, as you have to pretty much fight your way though a thicket and a small seep to get out on to Roaring plains. All in all though it was a fun hike, and the views are great along the whole way, just don't try it unless you are very skilled with a GPS, compass map, and have a good sense of direction.

 

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Name: Jonnie                                                                                                             Hike: Roaring Plains Base camp and day hike
Date: Oct 6-9, 2011                                                                                                  Rating: 5

Critique: As FR 70 was open to the pipeline, we 4 brothers ages 61 to 69 drove to the pipeline and set up camp 100 yards up the pipeline. Next day, we hiked up the Roaring Plains trail, missed the left turn on the TP trail to the rim as there was an attractive young gal standing in front of the cairn and the trail was overgrown, hiked ~2 miles farther to a nice spruce sheltered campsite on the rim with fire ring and overlook. Reversed direction on RP trail, turned left on unknown trail that we were told would take us to the pipeline a mile from camp. But the trail petered out after a rock field so we reversed again and arrived back at camp.
Next day, hiked southeast on the pipeline to where the "jeep trail" meets the pipeline (nice site nearby with fire ring but no water). Using map and compass (bushwhack needed) we took a heading of 220 degrees from north to end up where we wants to be on the rim, crossed Roaring Creek, eventually picking up the rim trail for the next mile or so.
Views along the rim were gorgeous--deciduous trees in a riot of color down to the bottom of Long Run Canyon, blue ridge after blue ridge to the horizon, deep green of the spruces, scarlet blueberry heaths, grey sandstone rocks, deep blue sky--doesn't get any better.
Continuing on the rim trail, we passed a couple of nice sites with fire rings but no water, missed the TP trail turnoff (what else is new?), carefully picked our way down the "mother of all talus slopes" following the cairns, lost the trail at the bottom, bushwhacked up to and along the rim for another mile or so til meeting the Roaring Plain trail again, and back to camp on the RP trail.
Many folks camping there that weekend , including a group of 16 Washington Backpackers who filtered in between 8pm Friday and 2 am Saturday, and 2 truckloads of bear hunters and bear dogs on Saturday.
The TP trail needs clearing at both ends, rock/boulder fields tricky, several unmarked trails present, map/compass/GPS recommended.

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Name: Matt                                                                                                                 Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike
Date: 10/5-7/11                                                                                                       Rating: 5

Critique: Great hike but you really need to study the maps and trail descriptions. You can easily get lost if you miss a turn. Some of the trails seem like animal paths because they are so narrow. The description provided is excellent as long as you have a good sense of direction.

I lost my way for a moment when I took the group down the Tee Pee Trail to cut over to the Roaring Plains Trail. The problem is the Roaring Plains Trail is only blazed in one direction (three times over 2 and a half miles). So if you take this shortcut be sure to turn right when you hit the trail junction with the old log in the ground. There were two orange markers in the trees to mark the trail head.

I managed to lose my Canon digital camera somewhere between The Point and the intersection of the Tee Pee Trail with the Roaring Plains Trail (taking the Tee Pee Trail instead of continuing on the Rim Trail). I know this is a long shot but if anyone finds a camera please
contact me.

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Name: Jeff                                                                                                                   Hike: Roaring Plains
Date: 7/15/11                                                                                                           Rating: 5

Critique: Beautiful hike. We did not do the entire circuit, instead we returned via the forest road. Long pants are a good idea since the trail is very brushy in places. Highlights of our trek are the meadows (east of the pipeline swath) where we saw a goshawk, and the point, with incredible views, some of the best I've seen. Trail is very overgrown west of the pipeline swath, although there is a treadway under the thick blueberry and laurel bushes. A compass is necessary. In dry weather, water sources may be limited. Trail is rocky in places, although I did not find the terrain very challenging along the route we took.

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Name: Laura M.                                                                                                         Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike
Date: attempted 04/15/11                                                                                    Rating: n/a

Critique: So my critique is more of a warning to those that want to do this trail - we drove 4 hours - arrived at 1am and decided to sleep in our cars and start fresh in the morning. The weather report that I found before we left was for Drydock, WV - it said 20% chance of rain, 40 degrees (F) for the low - so I thought, let's risk the rain, we can handle it. It turned out that it not only snowed by sleeted all night long (making for a v. cold car) - - the updated weather report in the morning had a warning for extreme wind conditions w/up to 50mph gusts - the warning suggested being v. cautious along ridgelines. So unfortunately - we decided it best to forgo this hike - and found a different trail in this area. My advice - make sure you have the weather report for the elevation that you will be at -- the weather @ 4K feet is v. different than the weather at 1500 feet. Also make sure you get a wind report and are prepared for snow/sleet in mid April! As a side note, we hiked along Red Creek in the valley (shielded from the wind) - and then up the mountain on a few other connecting trails. It is GORGEOUS in this area (although rocky, too!!!). We will def. go back to this area of Monongahela! Be careful - we were there after period of strong rain - and the creek crossings were very hairy in places. But all-in-all a beautiful area. Wish we got to see more of the ridgeline described in this hike - maybe next time!

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Name: Donna Miller                                                                                                   Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike
Date: 9/4/2010-9/6/2010                                                                                      Rating: 5

Critique: Beautiful! A perfect three day hike, with an easy first and third day, and a quite lovely day hike the second day.

We loved this hike--one of us had some compass skills, one of us had a GPS along. Neither compass nor GPS was needed (though we felt better having a GPS along). The Canyon Rim Trail's not difficult to follow, *as long as you are careful and stay alert*.

At the bottom of the "Mother of All Talus Slopes" we lost the Canyon Rim Trail--it took three of us 15 minutes to find it again. This was the only spot we had a bit of trouble. But don't let that turn you away... this hike has it all--incredibly gorgeous views along the rim, solitude along the rim trail, few hikers, and a peaceful campsite in a beautiful grass opening by a small creek.

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Name: Tim                                                                                                                   Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike
Date: 8/20/10                                                                                                            Rating: 4

Critique: I did this circuit as a one day hike. The weather gods were smiling on this day and produced a crystal clear, sunny day. I had the trail notes, GPS loaded with waypoints file for this hike and a topo map and used all of them to stay on the trail. The portion of the hike on the USFS trails were a no brainer. The "Hidden Passage" trail was a bit hard to follow in places. The "Canyon Rim" trail was a real challenge to follow. In the area of the Talus Slope cairns were few and far between. I think some of the cairns may have been destroyed. I spent more than an hour trying to find the continuation of the trail at the bottom of the talus slope. Once I found it, I should have went back rebuilt some of the cairns on the talus slope, but I was, at this point, way behind schedule and needed to make up some lost time.

As for the hike itself, this was far and away the most spectacular hike I have ever done in the MNF. The views all along the Canyon Rim are just breathtaking. I don't know of any other trail in WV that compares with this for scenic vistas. I didn't encounter any hikers on the Hidden Passage or Canyon Rim segments of the hike.

The USFS was spreading gravel and grading FR19 on this day and the drive from Laneville to the top of the mountain is much improved.

I would really recommend this hike for experienced hikers. A GPS is highly recommended.

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Name: Mark                                                                                                                 Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp and Day Hike
Date: 6/26-27/10                                                                                                      Rating: 4

Critique: Due to time restraints and the omission of packing a lunch, we just made a short day hike after staying at the base camp the night before. We didn't go off South Prong trail, so I can't comment on the other trails, but this was very easy to navigate. The camp was nice, but there aren't any others with water that we could find (within .25 miles), so make sure you get there early.

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Name: Mike Hamilton                                                                                                Hike: Roaring Plains Base Camp/Day Hike
Date: March 29, 2008                                                                                                Rating: 5

Critique: Great day! No clouds and about 40 deg. Saw only a couple of patches of snow along the shaded areas of the Pipeline swath. A little bit of water on the trail leading to the "basecamp", and then quite a bit along the pipeline from the Eastern edge to the hill leading up to the microwave tower. Coming in, I turned off the main trail at the "basecamp", and proceeded towards the Hidden Entrance as I had successfully done once last summer, but at the time had to turn back before making the pipeline due to a less than enthusiastic hiking partner. This time, with a more willing companion, we made it to the pipeline, but I confess I was all over the place between the "basecamp", and the pipeline. The trail became REALLY obscure! I was semi-lost, but new I'd eventually get to the pipeline as I could always see the ridge across the valley to the East. My cheap Garmin lost satelite reception enough that I didn't count on it to get me back the same way, so we took the pipeline to the forest road back to the car. Interesting to see a lot of scat along the pipeline with hair mixed in, and even a bit of what appeared to be chards of bone. I assume it was from some kind of cat, larger than a domestic cat. Saw no one else. The gate at FR75 was still closed. The forest service roads right now are the worst I've seen them, looking like the military practiced bombing runs, and much erosion. Plan to get a front end alignment after this trip if you get up there before any maintenance is done on those roads!

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