You’ve probably never heard of Marlinton. And, after a quick Google search, you might think there’s really no reason this little West Virginia town should have crossed your radar prior to now.
No town sits closer to the bounty of jaw-dropping-beauty that is the Cranberry Wilderness than Marlinton (unless you count the unincorporated cluster of dwellings called Edray). This part of the world might be a little rough around the edges, but that’s what we find so dear about it. Arguably the wildest place east of the Mississippi, the Cranberry Wilderness, a 47,815-acre swath of wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest, affords wildlife, solitude, and rain in spades. Here’s how we like to go outside and play!
Play: Ditch the car, the phone, the computer, the inbox, pack your bag, and hit the trail. To really experience the Cranberry, you need to immerse yourself in it. For a great 25ish-mile loop, try the North/South Trail-Middle Fork Trail-North/South Trail. Camping at the confluence of Hell For Certain Branch is out-of-this-world remote. The trail is often unmarked, save for a few cairns, and overgrown, so be sure to bring a map with you. And, because this area is designated wilderness, try not to make your own campsite. There are plenty of clearly established campsites along the trail and even shelters once you drop down onto FR76.
Not feeling like tackling a backpacking trip? The boardwalk along the Cranberry Glades is absolutely stellar and you’re likely to see plenty of signs of wildlife. Keep a close eye out for pitcher plants and other unique flora that are more commonly found in the arctic-like ecosystems of Canada. FR76 along the Cranberry River is also a great gravel road that is relatively flat and perfect for biking or strolling. Shelters along the river are first come, first serve but there are plenty of options. Even on the busiest of weekends, you’re likely to find an opening.
Stay: There are tons of dispersed camping sites along the Cranberry River and Williams River that are available on a first come, first serve basis. Should you want some comforts from home, the Tea Creek Campground is hands down our favorite semi-primitive campground. The sites here are shrouded in rhododendron with the gentle roar of the Williams to lull you to sleep. Rates are somewhere in the vicinity of $10 and there are no showers, but there are vault toilets and potable water available.
Eat: It’s slim pickins in Marlinton, but no visit is complete without a hearty breakfast from the Greenbrier Grille and Lodge. Otherwise, it’s recommended you plan ahead and prepare—the nearest legitimate grocery store is just under an hour’s drive away if you want more than gas station offerings.