While Potato Knob is not a very high mountain, even by West Virginia standards, it is a very steep and imposing peak. It rises abruptly from the steep flanks of the water-carved valleys around it, and it's capped with a fine ring of exposed rock. Its slopes are clothed in mountain laurel, rhododendron, and a wonderful cloak of mature hardwoods and hemlocks. All in all, it's as fine a mountain as I've climbed in quite a while.
On this latest trip, I was going to hike the higher peaks in the park, but my wife asked me why I was always so keen to hit the biggest mountains. So I decided to try Potato Knob. I have to say I am very grateful for her suggestion. This was one great climb. One should be careful, as the route to the top is very definitely class III in places. The isolation of the peak and the views of and from that mountaintop were worth the effort.
Located near the entrance to Holly River State Park.
Directions to the park entrance are: Holly River State Park is located on WV 20, 32 miles south of Buckhannon and 20 miles north of Webster Springs. Interstate 79 offers several access points to WV 20.
Part of West Virginia's second largest state park, the easiest route to Potato Knob is via the Left Fork Road, about one mile south of the entrance to Holly River State Park on WV 20. Drive 4.1 miles down Left Fork Road to the gated Potato Knob Area. Park either on the right of the road, or in front of the gate and hike toward Shupe's Chute (an interesting waterfall). About a half-mile down this road you come to the trail to the summit, which is gained by hiking very steeply up, and then via a class III scramble the final 150 feet or so.
The trail to the summit is blazed red. It ascends steeply, pretty much in just a straightforward manner with no switchbacks, very little ridgeline walking; just right up the slopes into the exposed rock. There's no literature on how long the trail is to the summit, but my estimate is one half mile with about six hundred feet gain in elevation. It's a tough climb.
The entire Potato Knob Trail is 7& 1/2 miles in length and leads deeper into the park where it joins with the Wilderness Trail. Near the junction with the Wilderness Trail, it passes through some very large old growth trees (I didn't make it to see them, but the rangers tell me they're impressive).
Red TapeNo permits. No fees. (To hike or swim or climb.)
The website for Holly River State Park is here.
When To ClimbAll season. Spring, Summer, and Fall are probably best. Some of the scrambling may be dangerous in icy conditions.
There is camping in the park. At the developed campgrounds (there are four of them), and at designated backcountry sites deeper in Holly River State Park.
Sites at the developed campground are $15, and $19 (for electric sites). There are bathrooms and hot showers.
The park also has cabins, and a fine restaurant.
Mountain ConditionsCheck the weather report for Webster Springs or Buckhannon.
- Holly River State Park
Official page for The Holly River State Park in West Virginia.