Pocahontas County High Point Trip Report

Bald Knob (4,842 ft) and two unnamed points (4,840+ ft)

Date: June 8, 1999
Author: Fred Lobdell

The reader should be aware that there are 3 possibilities for the HP of Pocahontas County. Literature put out by the state gives Bald Knob as the state's second-highest point at 4,842 feet. However, this is only 2 feet above the highest contour so the other two points need to be considered also. I don't know how accurately the state surveyed these areas; my guess is that they're more interested in drumming up business for the Cass Scenic Railroad, owned and operated by the state.

The other two points are owned by Snowshoe Ski Resort. I talked with four different employees, and they don't seem to have a problem with hikers. In fact, they seem to encourage summer recreationists; that's why they have a bicycle shop on the premises.

Second, you should be aware that the railroad does not go to the summit. Rather, it goes to an observation platform and picnic area, but it's not the summit. As I didn't ride the railroad, I don't know if it's possible to hike to the summit from the railroad terminal with the authorities watching. The railroad ride costs $14 and takes 5.5 hours for the round trip.

The topographic map shows a road going to the top of Bald Knob, but apparently it's not accessible to the public. If you want to give the railroad a try, the station is in the village of Cass on WV route 66.

For a way that is both quicker and cheaper, continue west on 66 past the station to Back Mountain Road (county route 1). Turn right (north) on 1 and go about 5 miles on this twisting, turning, 1.5 lane road to Forest Service Rd. 235. Turn left (west) on 235 and follow it as it switches back several times in its climb to end at a "T" intersection with another road that runs along the ridge crest. (FS 235 shows as a jeep trail on the 25-year old topo, but has been upgraded to a good-quality gravel road.) You'll have to park here, as the intersecting road is gated in both directions.

Take the gated road to the left and follow it as it swings around unnamed knob 4654 in a big arc. This is easy walking; slopes are very gentle and the footing is good. After about 2.2 miles, and climbing about 200 feet, you will cross a stream at a hairpin turn. After another few hundred feet up the road, it will be possible to avoid the half mile or so to the intersection with the railroad by bushwhacking uphill to your left.

A climb of about 60 feet should bring you out on the road and railroad. Turn left and walk uphill for about a half mile to where a rough road crosses the railroad. (I found walking the railroad easier than walking the road along side it.) Turn right (south) here and follow this rough road as it climbs for about a half mile to the lookout tower and observer's cabin on the summit.

To get to the other two points, continue west from Cass on WV 66 for about 9 miles to the entrance to the Snowshoe ski area. (This point is about 0.8 miles east of the intersection of 66 with US 219.) There is a visitor center on the right as you turn into the entrance, where there is a large 3-D map of the ski complex. The entire area has undergone (and is still undergoing) an explosion of building, with condos and other developments all over the summit ridge, and I found it useful to compare my outdated map with the map at the center.

Drive up the entrance road, shortly passing under a gate that proclaims, with unintended irony, "Forever Wild". After about 4 miles there will be a 5-way intersection and the main road takes a sharp bend to the right. Follow the main road past various developments and through an open gate for about 2.5 miles to an area where construction debris is lying around. (This point is past where it is shown as ending on the topo; the road now appears to pass through the highest contour.) The road is gated a short distance ahead, and soon thereafter degenerates into a trail. A left fork starts descending the mountain; I don't know where it goes.

The high area, supposedly containing BM "Thorny", should be on the right (southwest). I wandered around among the spruce, blackberry bushes, and other stuff, trying to cover all the possibilities. I did not find any bench mark.

From this point, drive back the way you came to the 5-way intersection mentioned above, about 2.5 miles back. Stop somewhere where you can get a good view of the ridge directly in front of you; this is your third and last goal in Pocahontas County. Part of the south side of the ridge (facing you) has been cleared, and the highest spot appears to be along the ridge line in this cleared area.

At the 5-way intersection, one of the roads is gated; this is the one you want. A sign says that permits are required, but I was told by a ski area employee that this applies only to bicycles, not hikers. Park so you won't block anything.

Hike up the gated dirt road. The first switchback takes you back toward the east; where that intersects a road contouring along the side of the ridge, a sign informs you that the bike trail goes left (west). You should go right (east) for a couple of hundred feet before bushwhacking up the open slope to the ridge crest. At what appeared to be the highest point I found a metal pipe with a red plastic cap that read, "Survey Marker DAA Control Point". (I have no idea what DAA stands for!)

Return the same way.