Just got back from two days up @ Dolly Sods and while it was a great hike, weather, and scenery - I was stunned to see how busy and packed it was! Before life got in the way (moving up north, married, first kid) I used to regularly backpack up there from the early 2000’s through around 2012. I never remember seeing more than a handful of people each time we were up there for a weekend.
This past weekend, we found a great camping spot fairly isolated in the Northern part of the area on Friday night then decided to hike down to the Forks to set up camp then hike w/o packs to Lions Head. By the time we got back to our tent, within 100 yards there were at least 5 other tents and one of the tents was within 10 ft of my buddy’s tent. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I remember barely 10 years ago hiking up here and always being totally secluded when setting up camp.
While it was great to get outdoors and back up to the area, I was very disappointed that the area was completely overwhelmed with people. It might just be me but it really detracted from the experience. I’ve always thought of Dolly Sods as the ideal “get away from it all” spot within a few hours of DC and that is definitely no longer the case. I swear I pass fewer people around the trails in Reston on most days.
End of rant… (maybe I’m getting old). Is this the new normal? Am I misremembering… has Dolly Sods always been crowded? Is this byproduct of Covid and the fact anyone can download a trail map off AllTrails?
I was in Asheville last weekend helping my daughter move from one apartment to another. Drove through downtown around lunch time just to see how things were. It was packed with people walking around on the sidewalks. No masks in sight. In NC, I doubt that 100% of those people were vaccinated.
I expect all the campgrounds will be packed for the holiday weekend. I'm staying home.
Thanks for the hint!
Although it would be hard to enforce given the number of entry points to the area, some type of permit/lottery system would be great. No day hikers on weekends in the summer/fall, take out 1/2 or more of the newly established fire pits, and heavy fines for using the area without a permit. It’s unfortunate but it’s necessary.