Description - The Monongahela National Forest was established following passage of the 1911 Weeks Act. This act authorized the purchase of land for long-term watershed protection and natural resource management following massive cutting of the Eastern forests in the late 1800's and at the turn of the century.
In 1915, 7,200 acres were acquired to begin the forest, called the Monongahela Purchase, and then on April 28, 1920 it became the Monongahela National Forest. Today the forest is over 919,000 acres in federal ownership in 10 counties in West Virginia, making it the fourth largest National Forest in 20 northeastern states. It is within one day's drive of one-third of the population of the United States.
- The rugged terrain of the Monongahela National Forest includes some of the highest elevations in West Virginia, and the state's highest point, Spruce Knob at 4,861 feet. Steep mountains are dissected by rivers and streams. The Forest encompasses the headwaters of five major river systems - the Monongahela, Potomac, Greenbrier, Elk and Gauley.
The Monongahela has some unique features. Cranberry Glades includes a fragile habitat of cranberry bogs, acid-loving orchids, cotton-grass and sundews, which can be viewed from a boardwalk. The Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area covers two distinctly different recreational areas. Spruce Knob has a "platform on top of the world". Seneca Rocks is a 900 foot formation of sandstone which is popular with rock climbers. A hiking trail in the area allows non-climbers the same view of the South Branch Valley. The scenic Smokehole Gorge is also in the Seneca Rocks area.
The Highland Scenic Highway is 33 miles long and crosses high ridges with sweeping views. It has four overlooks, a boardwalk trail and a fishing pier, all wheelchair accessible.
The Monongahela encompasses five designated Wilderness Areas. They range in size from the more than 35,000 acre Cranberry Wilderness, to the nearly 6,000 acre Laurel Fork South Wilderness.
Recreation - Recreation opportunities on the Monongahela include hiking, mountain biking, fishing, camping, hunting and rock climbing. The Forest offers primitive and semi primitive wilderness experiences. There are more than 500 miles of hiking trails, 23 campgrounds and two visitors centers.
Climate - Winters in this area are cool and sometimes cold with occasional heavy snow in the higher elevations. Spring and autumn are transitional periods, with normally mild temperatures but occasional seasonal fluctuations. Summers bring warm to hot, and often humid days.
The Monongahela National Forest lies in eastern West Virginia. The Forest is headquartered in Elkins, West Virginia, with forest offices also located in Parsons, Richwood, Bartow, Petersburg and White Sulphur Springs. The Monongahela sits within a day's drive of the metropolitan Washington DC-Baltimore area, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, central Ohio and central Kentucky.