Trail(s) Hiked: (loop) In: Tea Creek Mtn Trail, Right Fork of Tea Creek Trail Out: Right Fork of Tea Creek Trail, Tea Creek Trail
Distance Covered: 10.9 Miles
Outdoor Travels Rating: 3 out of 5 Backpacks
- Awesome water falls
- Nice views
- Variety of topography and vegetation.
- Few suitable camping spots.
- Pre-hike excitement can often lead to wrong turns. Make sure to read your compass correctly!
- There's usually high-ground paths around particularly muddy sections of the trail - Use them!
- Even if there appears to be a shorter alternate trail available, it's always better to follow the blaze marks or cairns.
- You're always safer to pitch camp at obvious, well-worn spots than to risk finding a suitable place further down the trail. Those spots are usually well-worn for a reason.
Nuts & Bolts
Location: Tea Creek is part of the Cranberry Wilderness Area. Located on Forest Road 86 via the Highland Scenic Highway (State Route 150), 1 mile north of the Williams River Bridge turnoff. From Marlinton take US Route 219 north 7 miles to State Route 150, which is the Highland Scenic Highway. Turn left onto State Route 150 and drive approximately 9 miles to the Williams River Bridge turnoff, located on the left. Turn left at the stop sign onto Forest Road 86 and drive 1 mile. The campground and trailhead is located on the right.
Trails: Trailheads for Bannock Shoals, Tea Creek Mountain, Tea Creek, and Williams River trails are located at the campground. These trails connect with several other trails within the Tea Creek area, which provides access to 5400 acres of primitive backcountry. There are 45 miles of trails, with three adirondackstyle shelters for overnight camping.
Directions: Two state highways that combine to form the Highland Scenic Parkway provide the major vehicle access to the area. WV-150 runs N-S along the eastern edge of the Cranberry Wilderness and WV-39/55 runs E-W along the area's southern boundary. The Cranberry Visitors Center is located at the junction of WV-55/39 and WV-150. From the Washington area, take I-66 west to I-81 south to I-64 west. At Lewisburg, West Virginia take WV Route 219 north. Around Seebert, West Virginia, take 39/55 west to the Cranberry Visitor Center.
Facilities: The Tea Creek campground sites have parking spurs, picnic tables, fire rings with a grill, waste receptacles and a lantern hookups. Several campsites also have a tent pad, although all sites are suitable for tent or trailer camping. There is a main water pump in the day users parking area. Additional picnic tables are also available for day users. There is no electricity or telephone service available. Camping fees are $6 per night. Sites are on a first come, first serve basis. Maximum length of stay is 14 days.
Activities: Hunting and fishing (and trapping) are permitted, subject to West Virginia State Hunting and Fishing Regulations. However, the area is totally within the Black Bear Sanctuary, which is closed to all bear hunting by regulations of the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. The Williams River is stocked once a month February through May. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources stocks trout in the section bordering the Tea Creek campground. Catch and release fishing is enforced two miles below Tea Creek campground and extends two miles downstream. A state fishing licence, National Forest stamp and trout stamp are required.
Contact: Marlinton Ranger District, PO Box 210, Marlinton WV 24954
Phone: (304) 799-4334 or the Gauley Ranger District, HC 80, Box 117, Richwood, WV 26261 Phone: 304-846-2695
Maps & Stuff
at WV Forest Service
Lots of great photos to give you a good idea of what the area is like!
Tea Creek Wilderness Area
Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
Risking life and limb to obtain a hiking stick.
08/2000 - by Jeff Cobb, Outdoor Travels
Tea Creek is located within the 35,864acre Cranberry Wilderness Area (CWA). The CWA is located in Webster and Pocahontas counties, West Virginia within the Monongahela National Forest. The CWA is one of the East's greatest Wilderness Areas. It includes the entire drainage area of the Middle Fork of the Williams River and the North Fork of the Cranberry River. The northern and southern parts of the area are drained by the main Williams River and the South Fork of the Cranberry River. Terrain is typical of the Allegheny Plateau. The mountains are broad and massive, and dissected by deep, narrow valleys. Elevations range from 2,400 to over 4,600 feet. The primary forest cover is mixed Appalachian hardwoods, and pure red spruce stands are common at the highest elevations.
Wildlife in the area includes black bear, whitetailed deer, wild turkey, grouse, snowshoe hare, cottontail rabbit, mink, bobcat, fox and a diversity of birds, snakes, and amphibians. Naturally acidic water conditions limit fish variety. Streams within the area are not stocked.
Over 50 miles of maintained hiking trails are located in the CWA. Trails are marked at intersections only, with routed, unpainted signs. All paint blazes from prewilderness days have been removed. The area is not heavily used, so hikers must be alert, and make sure they're following the existing "beaten path." Compasses are a must! Bridges are not provided at stream crossings. During periods of high water or cool temperatures, cross streams with caution.
You should plan for rain (or for snow, in winter, spring, and fall). The area receives more than 60 inches of precipitation annually. The weather changes suddenly and frequently, and it's not uncommon for the area to receive 2 to 3 inches of rain or 12 to 18 inches of snow in a single storm. Frost may occur during any month of the year. Know the symptoms of hypothermia and how to treat it.
Access to trailheads is not guaranteed from December-March since these roads are not snow plowed. Tea Creek is located within a day's drive of much of the east coast, but remains secluded and quiet, with ample opportunities for the visitor to escape crowds. Country roads are often gravel and encourage slow driving. Restaurants, motels and other services are found in the many scattered small communities surrounding the CWA.
The surrounding mountains of Tea Creek are shaped by a common feature of the CWA moving water. The Monongahela Forest is home to the headwaters of five major river systems and hundreds of miles of smaller streams. The rivers and streams support a coldwater fishery that includes native and stocked trout. In the spring, during high water, some of the rivers may be run by whitewater enthusiasts. The lower summer flow is more suitable for lazy float trips or canoeing through scenic valleys. Some of the best rivers include Shaver's Fork of the Cheat, the south branch of the Potomac, Cranberry River, the Greenbrier River below Durbin, and Dry Fork.
Topographically speaking, Tea Creek is in the most rugged part of the Plateau province where three steep valleys converge within a few miles at the Williams River. Many peaks in the surrounding plateau rise above 4,000 ft. Elevation along the Williams River at Tea Creek is about 3000 ft while on the southwest side of the river the steep slope of Sugar Creek Mountain rises to 4000 ft.
The diversity of terrain, rock types and abundant moisture at Tea Creek encourage a corresponding diversity in plant and animal life. In many places soil nutrients are also enhanced by the presence of carbonates in the rock, which lends to the coppery color of the water, thus the name "Tea" Creek.
Christopher came down to Lewisburg Friday night so we could get an early start on the trail first thing Saturday morning. My wife, Amber and I treated him right: grilled food on the deck and pre-season NFL football on the tube. We talked a bit, checked out some stuff on Christopher's laptop, did some pre-hike packing, and then turned in.
We arrived at the Tea Creek campground early Saturday morning. The first thing we did after stretching our legs was look for hiking sticks. After walking a few feet from the parking lot, Christopher found a nice straight stick. I had no luck and decided to try my looking down by the river.
It had rained quite a bit the week leading up to the hike, so both Tea Creek and the Williams River were running high. I noticed the low water bridge leading to the campground was serving as kind of "dam," and the debris had backed up along the upstream side of the bridge.
I noticed a smooth, straight stick poking out of the pile - the perfect walking stick! I got down and tugged on the stick but it wouldn't budge. I tentatively placed a foot on the debris pile. Well, it seemed solid. I got down on it with both feet and began yanking at the stick. As the stick began to dislodge, I felt the debris suddenly shift under my feet. FYI: Standing on a collapsing pile of debris above a cold, swift-moving body of water is not a place you want to find yourself if you can help it.
With speed rarely seen in a slow, white guy, I instinctively jumped up and belly-flopped onto the bridge. The debris dam broke apart, and my walking stick floated away. Christopher was laughing hysterically as I got up and brushed myself off. Someday, he'll get his.
We began our hike and soon came to our first intersection. After a quick check of the compass, we set off to our left. After about 20 minutes, we knew something was wrong. We were supposed to be on Tea Creek Mountain Trail, headed up. Instead, we were hiking fairly level ground and Tea Creek was alongside us. We checked the compass again. Doh! In his pre-hike excitement, Christopher had read it incorrectly. We backtracked to the intersection and headed up the mountain. It was no big deal. To us, getting lost is just POTA (Part Of The Adventure).
After two hours of fairly steady uphill hiking, the trail became rock-strewn and we came to a great overlook. We took some pictures and then found a great boulder/rock outcropping to sit down and eat lunch. As we munched our sandwiches, we gazed down on the Cranberry Wilderness Area below. We agreed it was one of the best lunch spots we'd ever encountered, and was a great way to start the trip.
After resuming our hike, we exited the woods near the Scenic Highway. Off to the right, we noticed the Little Laurel Overlook area where cars can pull off for sightseeing. We continued our hike to the left and entered into a beautiful high country meadow about waist high with golden rod. Before we dropped out of the field into the woods, our trail took us through a Blackberry thicket. Late July and early August is prime Blackberry picking season in this area of West Virginia. This particular thicket was well stocked and I'm surprised we didn't scare off a bear or two. We stopped to sample a few of the sweet, tart tasting berried before the path descend into the tree cover.
The path became increasingly soggy and primordial-looking as we descended back toward the Tea Creek basin. Occasionally, the distinctive smell of wild Dill would waft up, reminding me of seafood. I wondered to myself if it would be possible to catch some fish, sprinkle them with wild dill, and fry them up over a roaring camp fire. There was one problem: I don't fish!
Eventually we came across the intersection of Red Run Trail and the Right Fork of Tea Creek Trail. There were two great camping spots at this location, but it was still early so we decided to press on to see what else we could find.
In hindsight, it was a mistake. The further we made our way down the trail, the more we realized that spacious camping spots were at a premium on Tea Creek. The trail was bracketed on both sides by thick stands of trees and brush. As we continued looking, we were passed by two mountain bikers heading the opposite direction. It was getting late, and as they plowed through the soggy trail, up to their pedals in muck, with trickier conditions ahead, we thought they must be crazy.
Eventually, we stumbled across a very small clearing about 30 yards off the trail. We lucked out, because the site was adjacent to the creek, so we had a good water source, plus rocks to build a small fire pit. We cleared out the site best we could, pitched camp, and had a nice dinner of Lipton noodles mixed with chicken with a side of fresh asparagus with lemon.
We hung our food and garbage, sat around the fire for awhile, and as the sun set we settled down in our tents. As well as being a handy water source, the creek served us well at this point, too, as the babbling of the water over the rocks was a nice sound to go to sleep to.
After breaking camp, we started off again the next morning. The trail was relatively flat, but gradually descended as we made our way down the Right Fork of Tea Creek Trail. As we grew closer to the intersection with the Tea Creek Trail, the trail grew sharply steeper and more mountainous.
A short while later, we could hear the faint roar of water. As we hiked steadily downward, the roar grew loader until we finally reached an open area where we intersected Tea Creek Trail. As the trees opened, we could finally see the source of the roar. An awesome series of waterfalls cascaded down as two smaller tributaries formed Tea Creek, which eventually ran down and emptied out into the river at the campground.
This particular spot was about 3 miles from the campground and would make a great day hike. There is a primitive lean-to located here that is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. On this particular morning, a lone fisherman occupied the spot.
Christopher and I walked down to the falls. There was a particularly impressive flat rock that would be good for sliding, and several large swimming pools. The water had carved the rocks and there were some intriguing formations. After several fantastic photo ops, we put our packs back on and set off for the final segment of the hike back to the campground.
The trail followed the creek closely so we were privy to some more great vistas along the way back to the car. Not far from the end of the hike, we came across an alternate trail that went off the left up the hill. There was a cairn, but the trail was also fairly steep. The other section of the trail continued straight ahead. After a brief discussion, we decided to go straight because (a) the shortest distance is a straight line, and (b) we didn't feel like climbing.
Mistake! Several minutes down the trail, we suddenly came to a section that was completely washed out. It was a 15-20 foot slide into the creek below. Our only options were to backtrack or bushwack around the washed out section. We decided to bushwack, and spent way too much time and energy hiking up and through a thick Rhododendren thicket that did its best to snag our packs and trip us as we pushed our way through.
We emerged back at Tea Creek campground, none the worst for wear, happy for the comforts of dry socks and cold beverages waiting in the car. If I had one bit of wisdom to share, it would be to always bring a pair of sports sandals. It's great to take off your boots, put on some dry socks, and put on sandals when you finish a hike. It's really refreshing. They're also great to put on after you pitch camp, for that matter.