Randolph County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: May 25, 2008
Author: Shannon Dillmore

I'm happy to report the parking/access situation here has improved. There is now a parking area for the Flat Rock Run Trail about a quarter mile west of the trailhead.

To get there, I traced my way back from the Dolly Sods Wilderness following FR 19 back to where it becomes Laneville Road and turned left onto Bonner Mountain Road. About 0.4 mile after making this turn, an easy-to-miss lot is present on the western banks of Red Creek.

Alternatively, to get there from the US-33 and WV 32 junction, head north on WV 32 for about 4.4 miles, turn right onto Bonner Mountain Road, and after about 4 miles be on the lookout for a brown sign marking the trailhead on your right. Follow the road for about a quarter mile, where you will cross a bridge. The parking turnoff is on the left just after crossing.

We walked the road back up to the trailhead. There is a cutout in the fence now, so I walked through that to the well-marked trail, which is marked by blue diamonds in its entirety. The trail rises gently for the first couple of miles, and there are a few points where very nice views of waterfalls from Flat Rock Run can be had. The trail climbs quite steeply after this, then levels off when you near the spruce forest. Just before meeting the junction with the Roaring Plains Trail, the Flat Rock Run trail turns left and an old jeep road continues straight. This might be the old railroad grade Allen DeHart was referencing in Fred Lobdell's trip report. I followed this for about 100 yards but felt it was taking me further from the summit, so I retraced my steps and followed the Flat Rock Run trail to the junction. As I later learned, this made my life tougher.

From the junction (marked with a sign), I bushwhacked through open fields for the first third of a mile or so, then the thick spruce hit, where I followed my GPS bushwhacking through towards the summit. At about 0.15 mile from the summit waypoint, I took leave of my senses and decided to disregard by GPS and go for higher ground nearby. I did this because a) my GPS told me I was at an elevation of 4,760 feet and b) I could see no higher ground anywhere else. This was a huge mistake, as I wasted over an hour of time and about two square feet of perfectly good skin on my legs and arms. Frustrated, I found no benchmark, so I decided to follow my GPS after all. After another 45 minutes, the bushwhacking eased and I moved quickly though open terrain for the last 0.1 miles to the ribboned and easily-located benchmark, exactly where my GPS said it should be. I was elated. The ground just north of here is very dense, just like the stuff I bushwhacked through to the false summit.

Hat's off to Fred for doing this route without GPS. The route he and I took to the summit, following the contour from the false summit, is the hard way. On the return, I took a more southerly approach back to the trail junction and found the bushwhacking to be easier, though still unpleasant.

On the way back, I met some hikers also headed for the summit. They told me that the unmarked path that I had followed for 100 yards eventually leads to a ribboned route to the summit, which in their words is "much easier" and involves little to no bushwhacking (perhaps it meets with the route Mike Schwartz took).

So, I'd highly recommend trying to reach the highpoint that way. The bushwhack route is long and probably the second most unpleasant I've done. The stats tell the tale: 12.2 miles, 2,470 feet, 7 hours and 20 minutes, and a drastic decrease in the happiness of my dog. About two and a half hours of our time was spent on the 1.4 miles of bushwhacking. Those that don't think you can interpret satellite signals better than your GPS should fare much better.

I saw a wild turkey and a black bear on the way back.