The Nature Conservancy’s 477-acre Bear Rocks Preserve is one of West Virginia’s most beloved natural areas.
Time stands still high above Canaan Valley, in Dolly Sods, where a flat, windswept expanse of subalpine heath barrens opens up to the sky.
Bear Rocks Preserve is a cornerstone of this wonderfully diverse and complex ecosystem, which lies on a ridge crest that forms part of the Eastern Continental Divide.
Stunted red spruce, ancient bogs and forlorn boulders define this haunting landscape, where creatures typically found in more northern environs roam oblivious to their geologic isolation.
Whipping, whistling wind greets visitors to Bear Rock’s barren expanse, where the undulating mountains of the east fold out across the skyline.
Dotting this view are large birds of prey like the golden eagle that ride warm air currents rising from the valley below, while colorful warblers, vireos, thrushes and other songbirds hug low to the ground, where a profusion of plant life provides protection and food.
Lightly treaded trails entwine throughout the preserve’s unique plant communities, leading hikers through a variety of shrubs like blueberry, huckleberry, mountain laurel, azalea and rhododendron.
In some areas, soggy, decay-logged soil supports plants like common cottongrass.
Throughout, red spruce trees poke from patches of soil, and are at once both nurtured and hampered by the icy cool climate.
An assortment of unique creatures cling heartily to the unforgiving landscape. Here, lucky travelers might catch a glimpse of the Cheat Mountain salamander, on the federal threatened and endangered species list. Harder still to spot is the snowshoe hare or saw-whet owl.
Once mostly covered by dense, towering red spruce and hemlock forest, Bear Rocks and the surrounding area saw major deforestation, followed by livestock grazing, by the turn of the last century.
Today the landscape is recovering well, with Conservancy efforts in the region focusing on mending and connecting large protected landscapes and planting red spruce trees.
We invite you to explore this beautiful preserve and support our efforts to protect it for future generations.