Monongahela National Forest

Hiking - Canaan Mountain Backcountry

Canaan Mountain is a high elevation plateau. The semi-primitive area consists of approximately 13,532 acres on the top of the plateau. Since Cannan Mountain is relatively flat, there are many seasonally wet places. Vegetation consists of second-growth spruce and hardwoods, rhododendron, and many mosses. Because of the elevation, a variety of plants are found here that are more typical of Canada than West Virginia. Elevations range from 4,145 feet at Pointy Knob to 3,100 feet near Blackwater Falls State Park.

Canaan Mountain lies west of State Route 32 between Canaan Valley State Park and Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia. Take Rt. 32 south 3.3 miles from the Blackwater River bridge in Davis to a large white sign that points to "'#1 Wilderness Road". This is the Canaan Loop Road.

History: This area was logged from about 1890 until about 1910 by several lumber companies. The Canaan Loop Road and several of the trails were once railroad grades. Terrible fires burned after the logging, sometimes for months, burning through the accumulated leaf litter until the rocks were bare. In 1985, with the completion of the Monongahela National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, this area was designated to be a place managed for non-motorized recreation and a largely undisturbed environment. Since the Canaan Loop Road was already in place, car-touring is still permitted, although off-road vehicles such as dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are not.

Wildlife: Wildlife to be found on Canaan Mountain includes black bear, wild turkey, and Northern Virginia flying squirrel, as well as more common species such as white-tail deer, small rodents, and songbirds. The Red Run area on the west side of Canaan Mountain has a reputation for being excellent timber rattlesnake habitat.

Ecology: Native flora includes red spruce, mixed hardwoods such as the oaks, the maples, black cherry, beech, birch, rhododendron, mountain laurel, and many species of moss, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers. Several of these species are remnants from the time when glaciers covered much of North America and temperatures were much colder. As the glaciers retreated, the high elevation in the Canaan area helped these species compete successfully with the less cold-tolerant species that invaded the lower elevations. Norway spruce and red pine plantations were made after the area was logged to protect this area from erosion and provide jobs for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's.

Canaan Loop Road

The Canaan Loop Road is approximately 18 miles long and good for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Driving the Canaan Loop Road is permitted, although one should exercise caution, especially when in a low-clearance vehicle. The road makes a loop from Rt. 32 to Blackwater Falls State Park, covering much of the perimeter of Canaan Mountain.

Trail System

Most of the trails are marked with blue blazes and signs, although they may be overgrown. Several connect with trails in Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley State Park. Maps of the park trails can be obtained at the park visitor centers. National Forest trails between these two parks offer a 'walk on the wild side. to those who wish to travel between parks or camp in a park and take loop hikes. Many of the trails are great for mountain bikes, also, but please use discretion on wet trails to avoid environmental damage. Much of the trail work on Canaan Mountain is done by volunteers. Feel free to help these dedicated people by tossing easily moved fallen trees and branches off the trails as you go. You are welcome to get off the trails and "bushwhack", if the rhododendrons will let you, but it is best to have a compass and map and know how to use them before you try it.

There are three trail shelters on Canaan Mountain and all are on a first come, first served basis. One is near the intersection of the Allegheny and Plantation trails, a second is on the Railroad Grade Trail south of Plantation Trail, and the third is on the west side of the Pointy Knob Trail.


Plantation Trail l FT #101 - Hike along the top of the Canaan Moutnain Plateau.
Fire Trail #1 FT #102 - Connecting trail.
Fire Trail #2 FT #103 - Connecting trail.
Fire Trail #3 FT #104 - Connecting trail.
Fire Trail #6 FT #108 - Connecting trail.
Allegheny Trail FT #701 - Use this trail to hike from the Blackwater State Park to the Canaan Valley State Park.
Lindy Run Trail FT #109 - Follow the Lindy Run downstream to Blackwater Falls.
Railroad Grade Trail FT #110 - Like Railroads, do ya!
Table Rock (Overlook) Trail FT #113 - A dead - end trail, but try it if you like to climb!
Mountainside Trail FT #114 - A loop west of Canaan Loop Road.
Pointy Knob Trail FT #139 - Another loop. This one's south of Canaan Loop Road.
Flag Run Trail FT #106 - Connecting trail.

Fire and Water

If you must have a fire, please keep it small and use only dead and down branches. We encourage the use of lightweight camping stoves. They are less damaging to the environment and more efficient for cooking. Join us in an effort to keep Canaan Mountain free of blackened rocks, sterile soils, and forest fires.

All water on Canaan Mountain should be considered to be contaminated by an intestinal parasite called Giardia. Giardia can cause a severe intestinal complaint that has symptoms similar to the flu. It can be found in any water, even those appearing to be free-running, clear, and cold, and is passed by improper disposal of waste by infected humans and animals too close to streams and lakes. Symptoms may appear a couple days to a couple weeks after drinking tainted water and include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and nausea Proper diagnosis and medication can cure the disease. Vigorously boiling the water will destroy the parasite. This is the best method for getting rid of it as some filters may not be small enough to catch the parasite and chemical treatments such as iodine or chlorine are not considered reliable.

Plantation Trail l FT #101

Length: 8.4 miles
Average hiking time: 2.5 hours
The major trail on Canaan Mountain, it starts 2.2 miles south of the Blackwater bridge in Davis on Rt 32 and cuts Canaan Mountain in half, running southwesterly until it hits the Canaan Loop Road. It runs along the top of the Canaan Mountain plateau for the most part, and flat places in the trail do not drain well. This trail is especially sensitive to environmental damage due to its high use, poor drainage, and the average annual rainfall of 50 inches in this area Portions of the east end of this trail are particularly pretty in June when the rhododendron and mountain laurel are in bloom.

Fire Trail #1 FT #102

Length: 0.4 mile
Average hiking time: 0.1 hour
This is a short trail that connects Rt. 32 and the Canaan Loop Road near Canaan Heights. It, and the other "Fire Trails," were used originally for quick access when fires raged through this area.

Fire Trail #2 FT #103

Length: 0.6 mile
Average hiking time: 0.2 hour
West of Fire Trail one, but the same idea.

Fire Trail #3 FT #104

Length: 0.8 mile
Average hiking time: 0.2 hour
Plantation Trail to Cannan Loop Road west of Fire Trail #2.

Fire Trail #6 FT #108

Length: 0.7 mile
Average hiking time: 0.2 hour
Canaan Loop Road to Plantation Trail.

Allegheny Trail FT #701
(Middle Cheat section)

Length: 4.0 miles
Average hiking time: 1.25 hours
This section runs from Blackwater Falls State Park to Canaan Valley State Park. The section from Blackwater Falls to the Canaan Loop Road is often called the Davis Trail, and the section from the Canaan Loop Road to Canaan Valley State Park is often called the Canaan Blackwater Cross-country Ski Trail. It passes through mixed hardwood and conifer stands throughout its length. Just north of the junction with Plantation Trail are some rocks that provide non-technical climbing. There is a 6 person adirondack shelter near here, also. Portions of this trail can be seasonally wet. The Allegheny Trail continues south of Canaan Valley State Park along the Glady Fork River and eventually ends up in Virginia It also continues north of Blackwater Falls State Park and goes to Pennsylvania.

Lindy Run Trail FT #109

Length: 2.8 miles
Average hiking time: 1 hour
It crosses the plateau of Canaan Mountain and follows Lindy Run downstream towards Blackwater Falls State Park and the Canaan Loop Road and can be expected to have seasonally wet areas.

Railroad Grade Trail FT #110

Length: 3.1 miles
Average hiking time: 1 hour
As its name implies, it follows an old railroad grade.

Table Rock (Overlook) Trail FT #113

Length: 1.1 miles
Average hiking time: 0.2 hour
This is a dead-end trail at the far western end of the Canaan Loop Road. It leads to a nice overlook and a rock face suitable for technical rock climbing. Please do not attempt these climbs unless you have the equipment and experience for technical rock climbing.

Mountainside Trail FT #114

Length: 4.8 miles
Average hiking time: 1.5 hours
This is a loop trail at the western end of Canaan Loop Road. Best access of this trail is from the north end where there is a sign and parking. The trail follows an old railroad grade along the western side of a point on the Canaan Mountain plateau before rounding the point and joining up with an old road of undetermined length on the south side of the point. This old road, which eventually meets the Canaan Loop Road, has poor drainage and is often very wet. This trail is not signed at the southern end and can be quite confusing from that end if one is unfamiliar with it.

Pointy Knob Trail FT #139

Length: 5.4 miles
Average hiking time: 1.75 hours
This is a loop trail that lies south of Canaan Loop Road. The west end of the trail follows the south fork of Red Run and can be expected to be seasonally wet. Two high elevation knobs can be found off the southern end of the loop: Pointy Knob, at 4,145 feet and Chimney Rock, at 4,081 feet. Two other unnamed high elevation knobs are between Pointy Knob and Chimney Rock. Views here are best in leaf-off season, though not spectacular. Chimney Rock, however, is an interesting sandstone formation.

Flag Run Trail FT #106

Length: 1.0 mile
Average hiking time: 0.3 hour
This is a connecting trail between Rt 32 and Canaan Loop Road. Parking is at the Rt. 32 end of the trail.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 26 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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