There are great views to the west from the Gaudineer picnic area.
Federal officials say the entire 140-acre tract contains at least 1.5 million board feet of timber, but a surveyor omitted the 1,000-acre triangular tract because he failed to correct between true north and magnetic north.
The area around Gaudineer was thoroughly clear-cut between 1900 and 1930. Major wildfires followed. The giant trees survived, although there is extensive evidence of those fires on charred trunks.
The tract was eventually purchased by the Forest Service at the insistence of former Monongahela Forest Supervisor Arthur A. Wood, who believed that future generations should know what an Appalachian spruce forest was like. It was named after a federal ranger, Don Gaudineer, who died in 1936 trying to rescue his children from a house fire.
West Virginia once had about 469,000 acres of red spruce. Those forests produced 100,000 board feet per acre. Most have been logged. Only about 50,000 acres have produced second-growth red spruce forests.
The Gaudineer Scenic Area is part of a larger primitive backcountry that is popular with backpackers, hikers and cross-country skiers. Gaudineer Knob is well known to birders because of the warblers and thrushes that can be found in its boreal woods.
A 1940 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that Gaudineer had the highest concentration of birds per acre in the United States. The birds are at their best from May to July.
You can also access the yellow-blazed cross-West Virginia Allegheny Trail in the scenic area. It will eventually stretch 330 miles from Preston County on the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border south to Monroe County on the West Virginia-Virginia border. About 20 miles are yet to be completed. For information, visit www.wvscenictrails.org/alleghenytrailoverview.aspx.
To get to Gaudineer Scenic Area, take U.S. 250 west from Durbin for 4 miles. Turn right and head north on Forest Service Road No. 27 for 2 miles. The road will fork. The left fork goes to a picnic area; the right fork to the big trees. It's another mile.
Not far away is the site of Summit Cheat Fort, built atop Cheat Mountain by federal troops in 1861 to control the historic Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. The fort is no longer there, but interpretive signs tell the story of the fort, also called Fort Milroy.
For more information, contact the Greenbrier Ranger District at 304-456-3335 or www.fs.usda.gov/mnf.
One of the biggest tourist attractions near Gaudineer Knob is the Cheat Mountain Salamander. The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad offers rides on the historic train, a self-propelled John Deere-powered railcar. The Salamander's 2013 season ended in October when a logging truck crashed into the train.
The Salamander, named for a local amphibian, runs on a onetime lumber and coal route that parallels Shaver's Fork of the Cheat River.
The railroad offers nine-hour, 128-mile trips from the Elkins Depot. The train goes to the old logging town of Spruce on Cheat Mountain with its red spruce forests. Trips are offered from July to October. Tickets are $79 for adults, $68 for children 4-11, $77 for senior citizens and $76 for military. You can also board at Cheat Bridge for a three-hour, 30-mile round trip: $42 for adults, $40 for seniors, $34 for children 4-11 and $39 for military.
The railroad has several other train options too. For reservations and more information, call 304-636-9477 or 877-686-7245 or http://mountainrailwv.com.