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!


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


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


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


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


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)

Peak Fall Color in West Virginia

I may be biased, but West Virginia is one of the most breathtaking states during the fall season.  With our curvy mountain roads and expansive valleys, no matter where you look you are guaranteed to see vibrant reds and burnt oranges in your vision.  What I love most about fall in West Virginia though, is that it seems never ending.  As a resident of Charleston, I have to wait until the end of October for colors to be at their peak — and trust me, it makes for one amazing Halloween!  However if I find myself getting impatient, all I have to do is travel to higher grounds and I am able to enjoy the foliage sooner as higher elevations like Canaan Valley and the Highland Scenic Highway are already beginning to change colors (if you want to capture the sought-after Dolly Sods crimson photos we often see, the window is quickly closing).  West Virginia’s diverse elevations allow us to enjoy fall colors from mid September all the way through early November.  You just have to know where to go and when to visit.

That’s where the beauty below comes in.  If you’re interested in taking a road trip in the Mountain State this fall to see the array of colors, the West Virginia Division of Tourism has created this handy map that displays the peak color times.  In my experience, I believe this map is fairly accurate.  Of course, exact time frames for peak foliage greatly depend on the weather in August and early September but as a general rule, if you plan your foliage trips according to this map, you should be right on target.  Have fun and safe travels!


Until next time,
Sara (WV Travel Queen)