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Dolly Sods is situated on a part of the Allegheny Plateau and features flat, windswept plains and striking topography. The elevation ranges from 2,600 feet to over 4,000 feet. The high-elevation grass balds, or sods, take their name from the Dahle (pronounced ‘‘dolly’’) family who grazed livestock on these sods at the turn of the 19th century. The Dolly Sods Wilderness and Scenic Area, designated by Congress in 1975, is within the boundaries of the Monongahela National Forest in Tucker and Randolph counties in West Virginia. Its 10,215 acres contain an extensive system of hiking trails. To the northeast, the 2,400 acre Dolly Sods Scenic Area borders the wilderness. The picturesque Bear Rocks, located at the northern end of the scenic area, are managed by the Nature Conservancy.

The boulder-strewn plains of Dolly Sods were once covered with a majestic red spruce forest where trees grew to 90 feet tall and more than four feet in diameter. This original forest was logged in the 1800s, and the underlying thick, fertile soil was destroyed. The area is now primarily heath barrens where azalea, mountain laurel, rhododendron, and blueberries abound. Cranberries and the carnivorous sundew plant are found in upland bogs characterized by sphagnum moss. The climate of Dolly Sods is harsh, with frost and freezing temperatures possible all year. Almost constant prevailing winds from the west create ‘‘flagged’’ spruce, stunted trees with branches only on the eastern side, away from the wind. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Dolly Sods is used for backpacking, camping, and picnicking.

From October 14, 1943, to July 1, 1944, the army transformed parts of Dolly Sods into an artillery range for training of military troops bound for duty during World War II. In 1997, most trails and designated campsites were cleared of munitions left behind.

This Article was written by Patricia Hissom

Related Articles


Venable, Norma Jean. Dolly Sods. Morgantown: West Virginia University, 2001.

"Dolly Sods Wilderness and Surrounding Area," Pamphlet. U.S. Forest Service, 1988.

Cite This Article

Hissom, Patricia "Dolly Sods." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 02 February 2012. Web. 14 July 2024.


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