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Gauley Mountain

Gauley Mountain, located in Pocahontas, Randolph, and Webster counties in West Virginia, is part of the dissected Allegheny Plateau that was uplifted in the Pennsylvanian Period of the Paleozoic Era. The mountain is underlain primarily with sedimentary rock formations. It lies within the Monongahela National Forest. A formidable landmark, Gauley Mountain rises in just 2.4 miles from an elevation of about 2,300 feet at a bend in the Elk River near Whitaker Falls to an elevation of 4,520 feet at Sharp Knob among the spurs of the Allegheny Mountains.

Gauley Mountain generally resembles the shape of a number seven, with the Gauley Divide, running west to east, making up the shorter, top stem. The divide is margined by Red Oak Knob (3,623 feet) and Bill Knob (3,074 feet) in the north and Bee Knob (3,234 feet) and Pompeys Knob (3,120 feet) in the south. The upright stem of the seven, Gauley Mountain proper, runs on a north-south axis from Randolph into Pocahontas County just west of Slaty Fork.

The area was timbered in the early 1900s; consequently, the hardwoods on Gauley Mountain are now generally 70 to 90 years old. Maple, beech, birch, oak, hickory, spruce, and pine dominate, along with markedly dense thickets of rhododendron. The Gauley Mountain Trail, which runs via an old railroad grade from near Slatyfork to the Little Laurel overlook on the Highland Scenic Highway, offers views of red spruce groves, hardwoods, wildlife, and wildflowers and ferns in season.

Louise McNeill, the late poet laureate of West Virginia, born in Pocahontas County, provides vivid descriptions of the region and its people in her acclaimed book of poems, Gauley Mountain (1939). For McNeill the development of the Gauley country stands for the whole history of West Virginia.

There is another, much smaller, Gauley Mountain located between the Gauley and New rivers, near Ansted in Fayette County. This mountain summits at 2,547 feet. It is crossed by the Midland Trail, U.S. 60. The highway’s marked switchbacks offer a thrilling drive and views of unique rock formations, timber, and steep relief. The short story ‘‘Time and Again’’ (1977) by West Virginia author Breece D’J Pancake takes place on this part of Route 60, immortalizing the mountain road for many readers.

Written by Hallie Chillag Dunlap


  1. West Virginia Atlas & Gazetteer. Yarmouth, ME: Delorme, 1997.

  2. Kenny, Hamill. West Virginia Place Names. Piedmont: Place Name Press, 1945.

  3. de Hart, A. & Bruce Sundquist. Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide. Charleston: West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, 1993.

  4. Lewis, Virgil A. First Biennial Report of the Department of Archives and History of the State of West Virginia. Charleston: Tribune Pub., 1906.