The Path Less Traveled #016: Allegheny Trail – WV’s Best Kept Secret
Andrew D 06.28.21
West Virginia has historically been one of the East Coast’s most used, but not talked about playgrounds. Whether it be shredding powder, off-roading, rafting, or other activities, West Virginia also has some of the best, but least busy trails all within miles of metropolitan locations. Today’s focus will be on the Allegheny Trail, and why I believe people should skip the AT as their first thru-hike and do this instead.
Welcome to our recurring series of “The Path Less Traveled.” We want to take you along for our exploits out in the wilderness while hiking, camping, exploring, and general adventuring in this series. This will include our small daily victories, foibles, tips, tricks, and reviews of gear we authentically appreciate and frequently utilize. While a well-worn trail can often be the pathway to a leisurely day, the paths less traveled can often spur on some of the greatest memories, misadventures, and fun we could imagine. Join us in the Comments as we share our travels, and hopefully, we can all come together for a greater appreciation of the outdoors.
AT Becoming Overcrowded, Overrun… Overrated?
The Appalachian Trail has been declaring record numbers of thru-hikers each year, with roughly 25% of all attempts completing the entire 2000+ mile journey. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy state up to 3,000,000 individuals step foot on the AT each year. Crowding in some areas is common. Most people complete the 2,190 miles of AT within six months (+/- a few weeks).
Choose the Path Less Taken, The Allegheny Trail
Within 300 miles of either beginning point of the Allegheny Trail, there are roughly 8-million residents. If even 0.1% of them were interested in hiking, the Allegheny Trail would have seen 8000 people complete the trail. Rough calculations for a complete thru-hike from 2010-2020 are less than 100 individuals per year. The Allegheny Trail has some gnarly sections and great spans of wilderness.
There are no calculated averages on how long it takes to complete, but the few individuals I have interviewed claim a month is about right for its 330 miles. One of the Trail Coordinators I interviewed claimed the West Virginia Scenic Trail Association was in contact with an experienced thru-hiker that planned out his days and miles before setting out; making mail delivery stops and carrying food/water weight a predetermined science. Due to the challenging terrain, the experienced thru-hiker re-assessed his calculated quest and gave up several days in. It is recommended to go at your own pace on this trail with little expectation for a finishing date beyond the “one-month” quota.
Meeting The Crew
On June 18, 2021, I drove down to Watoga State Park, in Marlinton, West Virginia for the 34th Annual Woods Week of Wacky Work and Welaxation. This is a week when West Virginia Scenic Trail Association members join in for hard work and fun times. It officially ran from June 17th – 25th, but as a salaried employee, I had prior obligations on the first day.
That Friday, I met many members of the WVSTA during their annual membership meeting. The President, Laura Finch ran the meeting and went over the current status of the trail, plans, and took recommendations (and votes) from attending members. Awards for trail dedication were handed out to many members putting in countless hours to ensure the quality of the trail continues to improve.
I counted 25’ish attendants to the annual meeting and met some of the most dedicated outdoorsmen in ages. Doug Wood has been developing and hiking the Allegheny Trail before I was born. I don’t want to pin an age on him, but he claims the first time he hiked a decent section of the Allegheny Trail was in 1978. During the wonderful dinner, I spoke to an award recipient, Greg. He states he’s an out-of-stater that has fallen in love with the Allegheny Trail decades ago and would often go out and maintain sections of it before finding out there was a(n non-profit) organization dedicated to maintaining and improving the trail.
Partnerships, Trail Maintenance, and More!
During the annual meeting, a member of the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau came and expressed interest in partnering with the organization in gaining mutual exposure for the town and trail. With the major influx of outdoor activities, especially during Coronavirus 2020-2021, it would make sense to promote activities that keep people safe, and away from each other; the Allegheny Trail does just that!
Future goals of building shelters every five miles on the trail were expressed, as state and federal agencies partner with the West Virginia Scenic Trails Association in terms of labor or materials to help continued maintenance. One of the big activities this year was to repair a bridge crossing a creek. Long-lasting pressure treated, weather-resistant lumber was to be hiked into the woods and cut on-site to replace the boards from the bridge’s inception in 1996.
Saturday morning, I was planning on hiking in a few boards 2-miles each direction to the site of the bridge. Mitch Klein, secretary, and coordinator for the WVSTA states it was a challenge to get to the location. Unfortunately, with a lack of close monitoring of my Type-1 Diabetes and eating foods that others prepared, I felt like complete garbage in the morning with blood sugar running over 300. This doesn’t happen very often for me, maybe once or twice a year. I unfortunately returned home and got IV fluids to help reduce nephropathy. Did take a picture on the way back!
State of the
Many willing heads and hands attended the W5 this year, with shelters, trails, and bridges all-seeing love and attention. Here are some photos, more can be seen on their Facebook page.
If you’re interested in hiking the Allegheny Trail or joining the West Virginia Scenic Trail Association, check out their site: https://www.wvscenictrails.org/
There’s a 25mi hike likely occurring October 8th – 11th, 2021, starting in Durbin, WV. Pre-registration, Liability Waiver, and Attendance Fees (fundraising + food!) can be found here: https://www.wvscenictrails.org/trek
Allegheny Trail swag available for readers.
Provide info on this GOOGLE FORMS LINK.
I’ll mail the first two people the sticker(s)!
FULL DISCLOSURE: The writer is a voting member of the WVSTA; receives no additional benefits from being part of the organization (other than tasty meals and voting rights!), nor compensation for this article.