Mountain State Monday: Bell Knob Fire Tower

Atop many of West Virginia’s mountains stand fire towers, some of which are still in use today.  Others have succumbed to the elements and are no longer in working order.  However, approximately a dozen are still intact, some easily accessible in tourist areas (i.e., the one at Whittaker Station at Cass Scenic Railroad) while others are off the beaten bath.  Among the harder to reach ones is Bell Knob Fire Tower in the Dolly Sods Area.

The Bell Knob Fire Tower sits along the ridge and overlooks Petersburg and the Chimney Top section of the North Fork Trail.  It began operating in 1943 until 2010 when a record snowfall blew off the top.  You may still access it on foot via a grassy road just off Forest Road 19, however, please use caution when approaching the tower, as it may be unsteady.  If you’re a geocacher, there is also a geocache nearby (GCKGNT).  The search for the geocache is actually what brought me to the tower!

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The beginning of the road to the Bell Knob Fire Tower; this is a space for one or two cars before this gate.

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When you reach the tower, the trees clear out. It looks like people still visit to camp!

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Bell Knob Fire Tower; its roof was blown off in 2010.

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A view up to the top, which is now boarded closed.

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The tower overlooks the North Fork Mountain Trail and the town of Petersburg

 While you must be careful when approaching these structures, they are wonderful to see.  Soon, you will even have the chance to climb and stay overnight in one at Seneca State Forest.  I’m hoping to stay in that one when it’s renovated 🙂

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)

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Mountain State Monday: Kaymoor Top

Nestled deep within the New River Gorge near Fayetteville are the ruins of the former bustling mining town of Kaymoor.  Built by the Low Moor Iron Company in 1899, Kaymoor operated until 1962 and once employed over 1,500 men.  Once it closed its doors, the property was left to deteriorate until the National Park Service acquired the property.  Many of the structures are still in a deteriorated state however the NPS does keep up with regular maintenance and tries its best to keep the foliage from swallowing the structures.

Since the main Kaymoor site sits at the base of the gorge, the only real way to get there is DOWN.  Down 823 steps to be exact.  However, if you are not up to the trip to the base of Kaymoor where most of the structures and coke ovens are, then you can always venture halfway down the side of the gorge to Kaymoor Top.  At Kaymoor Top, you will find the sealed mine opening, abandoned buildings, and the old posts to the rail car system that used to take miners down the mountain.  At Kaymoor Top, you will also find the stairs that will take you down to Kaymoor Bottom.

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Kaymoor Top is accessible two ways: from the Kaymoor Trail/Wolf Creek Trailhead off of CR-82/Fayette Station Road and from the Kaymoor Miner’s Trail at the tip top of the gorge.  The Kaymoor Trail from CR-82 is two miles with a moderate incline; it’s a fairly long but leisurely trek.  The second way to access Kaymoor Top is from the Kaymoor Miner’s Trail off Gatewood Road, just outside of Fayetteville.  The Miners Trail is only 1/2 mile however it is extremely steep and has rocky switchbacks down the mountain.  I do not recommend the Miner’s Trail unless you are in excellent physical shape, have proper hiking shoes on, and bring with you a good amount of water (a hiking stick may be useful also).  It’s the quicker route but it’s one of the steeper trails in the gorge so please use caution if you attempt.

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For more information on Kaymoor Top, please visit:
Pictoral History of the town of Kaymoor
Kaymoor Miners Trail information
Kaymoor Trail information

Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)