Dolly Sods Wilderness: Lions Head Loop Day 2 – Part 3

Continued from Day 2 Part 2

We huffed and puffed up the hill. From Rocky Point Trail we turned north onto Red Creek Trail.

It was getting to be lunchtime and we still had several miles left to go, so we aimed for the little campsite icon on the map next to a river. That way, we could filter some water and boil our lunch. This map will give you a good idea of the location.

Forks of Red Creek

There were several campsites next to the river on both sides – at least three distinct places were visitors can camp in solitude from one another.

My husband also took a great long exposure photo:

As with many of the rivers and creeks in Dolly Sods Wilderness, this river had a brownish-red tinge to it. It made us wonder what makes it that color. In any case, it’s safe if you filter it!


After a relaxing and refreshing meal, we started our trek uphill on Red Creek Trail again.

I must admit, this part of the trail was starting to blur for me! We were already quite tired and our backpacks were chafing our hips painfully (we found a remedy for the next hike, though). I do remember the forest being beautiful, though. One of the lovely features of Dolly Sods Wilderness is the variety of small plant life, bushes, and lichens. Sometimes you feel like you could be under the sea.

On Red Creek Trail, just before reaching the the turnoff back to the parking lot on Blackbird Knob Trail, there was a delightful meadow filled with blooming St. John’s Wort bushes.

Bushy St. John’s Wort

Bushy St. John’s Wort, or Hypericum densiflorum, is a member of the St. John’s Wort Family (Hypericaceae). It is a native shrub that grows along the east coast of North America and some places in the south, blooming in mid-summer. It likes to grow in low boggy places,  wet meadows, stream banks, roadside ditches, and moist pinelands.


That last two miles back to the parking lot after we turned onto Blackbird Knob Trail was tough and passed in a bit of a haze. We stopped often to rest. Over the two-day trip we had hiked 15.4 miles, longer than we had ever hiked in a weekend. We’d done 12- and 13-mile day hikes before in Shenandoah, but those were with lighter packs. I think another factor affecting us was that we’d never done a long hike with heavy backpacks before. We just weren’t used to it. Even so, this loop is very doable in one weekend.

We got back to our car around 4:30 pm. It was late for us, and we still had a three hour drive back home, but we were happy. Our first backpacking trip had been a success and we had fallen in love with the sweeping landscapes and mixed forests of Dolly Sods Wilderness. With it’s many camp spots next to rivers and beautiful variety of nature, this southern half of Dolly Sods Wilderness is a perfect place to go backpacking.

3 Replies to “Dolly Sods Wilderness: Lions Head Loop Day 2 – Part 3”

  1. Congrats on your first backpack hike! 🙂

    1. Thank you! 🙂 We enjoyed it very much. My husband and I are now itching to go backpacking every weekend that we can. Hopefully it won’t get too cold too quickly. We want the camping season to extend as long as possible!

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