If you’re looking for a place to camp that is easily accessible, yet immersed in the wilderness, then look no further than Monongahela National Forest. It is located in eastern West Virginia and is one of the most biologically diverse national forests in America. This is a destination you won’t want to miss during your next road trip in the camper. Mountain ranges, rivers, and rare animals all traverse through the forest, creating many opportunities for visitors to reconnect with nature. So, load the campervan, and make your way to West Virginia.
The forest is comprised of over 900,000 acres of land available for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, snowshoeing and more. The Cranberry Glades Botanical Area is a unique area to explore since it encompasses the largest bogs in the state. If you want to see some breathtaking views, you can discover three cascading waterfalls at the Falls of Hills Creek Scenic Area. Children and history buffs alike will love to stop at the Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, where you can learn about the plants and animals that live in the forest. You can also check out some local art on display or climb the indoor rock climbing wall at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center.
Whether you’re looking for a backcountry adventure or a more comfortable RV camping experience, there are numerous options available. Eighteen campgrounds within the forest are available for RV and trailer camping. We’ve highlighted the top three to help you find exactly what you’re looking for in your next motorhome getaway.
The Monongahela is one of the most reachable national forests in the United States. In fact, it is within a day’s drive of approximately half of the population. Routes 150, 39, 55, and 33 all lead into the forest and connect with smaller forest roads. Most campgrounds and recreation areas are located off of paved roads, making it easy for large vehicles to navigate. Although some highways traverse through the Allegheny Mountain range, the elevation never exceeds 5,000 feet. The Highland Scenic Highway crosses through the forest and is known for its beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. There are four designated lookout points along the highway that are able to accommodate large vehicles. Parts of the highway and other roads within the forest are not maintained during the winter, so be sure to plan you’re route ahead of time if you plan on traveling during the snowy months. The forest receives an average of 60 inches of precipitation every year, so some routes may be flooded and difficult to maneuver.
Seneca Shadows is the newest campground within the Monongahela National Forest and offers exceptional views of the famous Seneca Rocks. Twenty-five drive-in sites are RV and trailer friendly, with a maximum length of 35 feet. Each site is equipped with a fire pit, picnic table, paved parking spurs, and a lantern hook. Electric hookups are available for 13 campsites in Loop C. Flush toilets, drinking water, and showers are available for all. Pets are allowed, so don’t hesitate to bring your four-legged friends.
The campground is open from early April through the end of October, and as one of the busiest campgrounds in the forest, it’s a good idea to make a reservation. The campground is especially loved by climbers and hikers with many trails and climbing opportunities available nearby, so don’t forget to pack your hiking boots or climbing shoes along with you in the campervan. Other outdoor activities in the area include fishing and scenic driving. If you’re looking to stay away from the crowds, come back in the autumn when the fall colors are at their peak.
A family favorite (pets included) within the Monongahela National Forest is the Lake Sherwood Campground. With a large variety of recreational activities in the area, it’s impossible to be bored in this picturesque campground. One-hundred and four family units are available for RVs and trailers less than 40 feet in length. Sites are equipped with gravel parking spurs, fire rings, picnic tables, and lantern posts. Flush toilets, hot showers, and drinking water, a playground, and a volleyball court are also located on-site. The campground is open from mid-March to the end of November with reservations available up to six months in advance.
Situated next to Lake Sherwood, water lovers can enjoy swimming, kayaking, and canoeing. A boat ramp is available, so don’t hesitate to attach your boat to the rig. A range of different species calls this area home, including fox, bobcats, mink, otter, deer, and wild turkeys, making for great wildlife viewing. Other opportunities for fun include fishing and hiking. Many trails leave right from the campground and vary in length and difficulty. The scenic 3.5-mile loop around the lake is the most popular trail in the area and is suitable for beginners and experts alike.
For those looking for a more primitive camping experience, Cranberry Campground will bring you closer to nature from the comfort of your RV. Most of the 28 sites can accommodate RV and trailers up to 40 feet in length and are outfitted with picnic tables, fire rings, lantern posts, and gravel parking spurs. Handpumps and vault toilets are accessible nearby. Generates are permitted during certain hours. Pets are allowed as long as they are leashed. The campground is open from mid-March through the end of November, and all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re planning on camping here during the busy fishing months, you may have trouble finding a campsite. Trout stocking occurs at the beginning of spring and again in the fall, making it the perfect place for anglers to camp out. The area is also known for its numerous hiking trails due to its proximity to Cranberry Backcountry and Cranberry Wilderness. Lick Branch, Little Fork, Rough Run, Birchlog, and North-South Trail are all in the Cranberry Wilderness, making it the perfect chance to reconnect with nature.
If you’re a cycling fanatic, attach the bike rack to your RV and prepare to hit the trails at Monongahela National Forest. Although no trails are maintained specifically for mountain biking, hundreds of miles of trails are available for bikers. One of the most popular areas for biking in the forest is the Cranberry River Area. Cowpasture trail is a six-mile trek surrounding the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. Other sections of trail well-liked amongst mountain bikers include the Gauley Mountain Area, Glady-Durbin-Middle Mountain Area, and Upper Shavers Fork Area. Respect forest rules and don’t stray from the path.
Whether you’re an experienced climber, or a rooky looking to improve, the Monongahela Forest is stacked with opportunities. Skilled climbers can head to Seneca Rock at the intersection of Route 33 and Route 55. Here they will find over 375 mapped climbing routes with varying degrees of difficulty. Several rock climbing schools are located in the nearby communities of Seneca Rocks and Riverton. They offer training in beginner and advanced rock climbing, as well as a climbers rescue course.
Day hiking gives campers a great way to see the forest by foot, so don’t forget to pack your hiking boots in the RV. Trails wind through the forested backcountry, scenic mountain peaks, and carpets of wildflowers. Skill levels vary by route. Cranberry Mountain Nature Center has a variety of trails to choose from and has maps and water available during their open hours. For a more scenic route, check out High Rock Trail #409.
With hundreds of streams, lakes, and rivers, fishing inside the Monongahela National Forest is a breeze! Many streams are stocked all year round with rainbow, golden rainbow, brown, and brook trout. Within the lakes, you’ll find bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout. The South Branch Potomac River and the Greenbrier River are popular amongst anglers and offer some of the state’s best smallmouth bass fishing. Be sure that you’re up to date on current license and registration with the state of West Virginia.
Winter brings a different kind of serenity to the Monongahela Forest once the snow starts to fall. Miles of ungroomed trails and unplowed highways offer a place to lay down tracks with your skis or snowshoes. Some trails have poor drainage and pose a challenge for these activities, so plan your routes out ahead of time. The Lake Sherwood Area trails system is a favorite amongst winter sports lovers and has a variety of trail lengths perfect for beginners and more experienced skiers and snowshoers.
If you’re looking for an alternative way to traverse through the forest, come back in the winter and hook up the snowmobile to the back of the rig. The snowy season offers a unique way to see some scenic views and possibly even some wildlife. The only available snowmobiling area within the forest is the Parkway section of the Highland Scenic Highway. This area is not maintained during the off-season, so no need to worry about other types of vehicles on the road.