The South Prong Trail is a remote, rugged rail-trail that offers a moderate, though sometimes quite hilly, hike. There are two very distinct sections of this trail—one section is boggy, while the other is steep and forested.
Traversing the Flatrock Plains and Roaring Plains of Monongahela National Forest, this trail follows old logging corridors for part of its route. The western end follows approximately 3 miles of terraced rail beds along a flat corridor for a short while before heading uphill, or downhill, to the next terrace of rail beds, located almost vertically 15 to 25 feet below or above you.
The South Prong Trail is blazed with blue diamonds, but be careful if you are starting from the eastern end. The blazes marking the turnoff points through the terraced rail beds can be easy to overlook. The trail reaches an elevation of 4,130 feet and then levels off, following the Eastern Continental Divide. Near the midsection, you will cross Forest Service Road 70, a quiet road, and enter into different terrain: a landscape that is rocky and wet with beautiful flora. Red spruce are reclaiming the once deforested area, while azaleas, blueberries, rhododendron (West Virginia’s state flower) and thickets of mountain laurel surround you.
To turn your out-and-back trip into a loop trail, consider parking your car at the western trailhead and following the trail east. Once you’ve completed the hike, walk west along quiet Forest Service Road 19 for 1.5 miles. This will take you from the eastern trailhead back to the western trailhead, where you can close the loop.