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Pike Knob Preserve

Central Appalachians

This preserve boasts some of the finest views in the state.


Secluded amid a 3,600-acre string of protected peaks on North Fork Mountain lies The Nature Conservancy’s Pike Knob – a 1,600-acre preserve boasting some of the finest views in the state.  From its open fields, visitors can gaze out over the expanse of West Virginia’s large, intact mountain landscapes, where family farms dot the valleys, golden eagles cruise the skies and coyotes howl in the distance. 
To the west of the preserve, Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest point, intercepts weather systems, causing storms to drop much of their rain and snowfall before they hit North Fork.  As a result, the mountain is one of the driest in the East. These dry conditions help to make Pike Knob Preserve, and the landscape it’s nestled within, one of the most ecologically significant areas in the Central Appalachians.

What You'll See

Here, red pine and paper birch add diversity to the oak-dominated forest that cloaks the mountain.  Surprisingly small, some of these oaks actually comprise an old growth forest with some trees more than 300 years old. Pike Knob is also home to the most southern natural occurrence of red pine, which covers the mountain side and is succeeding into the open meadows.  Along the summit, rocky outcrops make perfect homes for herbaceous species and ferns like silver nailwort, three-toothed cinquefoil, and rusty woodsia that mix in with native grasses such as Canada mountain-ricegrass and poverty oatgrass.

Hunting the slopes of the oak and pine landscape are bear, bobcat and gray foxes.  In the fall, hikers with keen eyesight may spot migrating hawks and eagles while nesting songbirds like blue-headed vireo, winter wren and black-throated green warblers nest here during spring. 

Conservation Work

Main threats to Pike Knob Preserve and North Fork Mountain are habitat fragmentation, invasive species, second home development, and trampling of rare habitats by off-road vehicles and visitors.  In order to safeguard the preserve, the Conservancy is:

  • Controlling non-native invasive weeds like cheatgrass, viper’s bugloss and mullein that threaten native species
  • Studying the historic and ecological roles of fire
  • Providing conservation and ecological management expertise to private land owners and public land managers
  • Protecting land through acquisitions and conservation easements

Preserve Visitation Guidelines

The following activities are NOT permitted at Pike Knob Preserve:

- Biking
- Camping
- Driving an ATV or off-road vehicle
- Cooking or camp fires
- Horseback riding
- Removing any part of the landscape
- Geocaching

Fit hikers looking for seclusion will enjoy the out-of-the-way destination of Pike Knob and its mountaintop pasture, Nelson Sods. Visitors up for the four to five hour round-trip hike will be rewarded not only with stunning views, but also with unusual plant communities and wide-ranging wildlife that travel this remote mountain. 

The Nature Conservancy’s Pike Knob Preserve is open to the public for hiking and nature study. Visitors should carry the appropriate USGS topographic map. Topographic maps and additional information about adjoining federal lands can be obtained from: 

Monongahela National Forest
Potomac Ranger District
HC 59, Box 240
Petersburg, WV 26847
Phone:  (304) 257-4488

Directions

From Franklin:

  • Take US 33 west for 4.5 miles.
  • After Friends Run Church of the Brethren, take first road to left
  • At 0.2 mile, take first road to right.  (This is the old Franklin-Circleville Pike.)  The road conditions slowly deteriorate as you climb the mountain; after about two miles it becomes too rough for a passenger car. We recommend pulling off (without blocking the road or a private side road) and hike on up the road.  A high clearance vehicle can go about another half mile; we recommend against driving beyond that distance.  At this point, the preserve boundary is on the right.  As you hike uphill, the old road goes onto national forest land. 
  • Hiking the road, you will reach the top of the mountain in a gap.  Take the old Jeep trail to the right, which continues to climb uphill, leading to the summit of Pike Knob, where there is a small clearing in which a fire tower once stood.  The ruins of the watchman's cabin remain.
  • To reach Nelson Sods, walk north from the knob along a path that will first lead into a small mountain top meadow with red pines and nice views to the northeast.  Follow the path through the meadow and to the Sods, a much larger meadow with nearly 360-degree views.
Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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