On our most recent trip to West Virginia we took a detour down Forest Road 18 and it had some of the best views we’ve seen in the Monongahela National Forest.
Forest Road 18 runs between Thomas and Parsons, WV and is 19 miles of dirt road that is maintained “sparingly” by the Forest Service. After reviewing our maps and with some tips from the locals, we took decided to take the road as a scenic way back to town after visiting the Olsen Observation Tower – which is located on FR 717 (FR 18 is located off of FR 717 at the intersection of FR 717 and State Route 219). Say that 5 times fast.
The road is relatively flat, un-gated, and open year round. The only caveat is that it is not plowed during the winter months, and there are 2 small water crossings that could potentially cause some problems for vehicles with lower ground clearance. Virtually any stock 4×4 can make it, just be aware of the current weather conditions and if you see a lot of snow don’t be an idiot.
Another tip is that you’ll see a lot of side trails that turn off, and the USGS TOPO maps will tell you that they are roads. Half of them turned out to be duds (we couldn’t find a road), the other half of the offshoots were gated shortly after heading down them. We checked out all of them so I’d recommend that you stay on the main road and enjoy the views.
We also spotted a few good camping sites along the road towards Thomas. They were well established, off the road, and could easily handle a group of 6-8 trucks. There’s also a bunch of hiking trails immediately off the road that run down to the valley below, so if you’re looking for a hike make sure to pack your boots.
Total time with stops for us to run the entire length of the road was about 2 hours, but you could easily do it in and hour or less if you didn’t stop and turn down dead end trails. I recommend that you take your time to stop and soak in some of the awesome views of the scenery and wildlife.
We’ll be back there this spring to check out and use some of the campsites; maybe well see you out on the trails and if you spot us come on over and join us for a beer.