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Backpack the Lions Head Loop

Durbin, West Virginia

based on 3 reviews



21.1 miles

Elevation Gain

2520 ft

Route Type



Added by Reid Koutstaal

The perfect weekend backpacking trip with some unique backwoods camping. 

What used to be an artillery testing site during WWII, Dolly Sods is a great place for backpackers of almost any expertise. Water is easily found throughout the wilderness area and while 21 miles might feel like a lot, it is very manageable over the course of 3 days. 

Attached (at the bottom) is an incredibly helpful guide with clear directions for almost every mile. It offers helpful advice on which trails to take, what time of year to take them, and where to camp each night.

The first day you're going to hike about 9 miles. The views are great along the way offering great opportunities for a scenic lunch, and plenty of photo ops if you're into that. On the trail guide attached pay attention to mile 9.4. When it says there is a nicer campsite upstream, walk upstream and you won't miss it or regret it. 

If you have some extra gas in the tank, skip the guide's directions to camp at mile 14.6 and continue on to roughly mile 17. I recommend eating lunch at mile 14.6 near the stream and swimming holes. It offers fresh cold water, and even a place to soak your feet if you are feeling tired.

At mile 17 you are in a huge open field with a few options of trails to take. There is a campsite located at the bottom of the hill near the stream, but if you look up right as the hill drops off there is a small cluster of a few bushes and trees. This is a campsite with breathtaking views of the valley you're in. If you like to feel small, this is your spot. 

The next day is an easy 3 mile hike out, putting you right back at your car. 


1. While the trail might not be crowded, we arrived at our campsites between 4-5pm each night and other came after us looking to camp where we were. So the is some possibility of a prime site being taken if you show up to late. 

2. Wood for a fore can be hard to come by at some of the sights. Especially the 2nd night in the valley. Scrapping together some wood is possible but not as readily available as one might like. 

3. The guide is full of helpful hints. Read it carefully

For the helpful guide, click here

For more specifics on directions and parking, click here.

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Dolly Sods gets TONS of rain, so don't expect to put together a fire (especially in the valley) if there has been recent rain. Dry wood is rather hard to come by. I'd echo the authors suggestion, push on toward the later campsite and try to get there on the earlier side!

This hike was excellent with great diversity of scenery. The hike has no extremely tough sections but lots of elevation change, making it plenty challenging with camping gear to carry. Don't skip the rock scramble to Lion's head lookout. Waterproof hiking boots are highly recommended as there are several muddy sections. The directions to the second campsite mentioned here overlooking the meadow are a bit vague. I think the bushy trees mentioned are straight ahead up the hill after you cross the stream and intersect Dobbins Grade trail at around mile 17. We just camped by the stream for the convenience of the nearby water.

This was my boyfriend and I's first backpacking trip and it was beyond amazing! The Dolly Sods wilderness is stunning and a perfect combination of adventure and challenges. Can't wait to go back next year! Lion's head was incredible and the view up there is breathtaking!!

Leave No Trace

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