October 12, 2013.
My friend’s dad told us about an old civil war cemetery on Cheat Mountain, so we set off to find it. Our original hiking trail was inaccessible due to a train/truck accident the night before. We headed out and took in the fall colors as we drove over Cheat Mountain. After you pass the summit sign and start going down again, you’ll see the sign for Cheat Summit Fort right before the railroad crossing bridge. We took this road and parked at the CSF (Cheat Summit Fort) parking area, next to an interpretive sign. The hike around the area is a smooth and gentle trail that leads to a few interpretive signs about the civil war history, as well as a tower in the middle of the field that you can climb. The cemetery, however, is not at the CSF area. We decided to try a few more roads to see if we could find it.
You can’t see anything from the tower, but the powerlines offer a view from the parking lot. As you can tell, the fall colors were a little past their prime on Cheat Mountain at this point. CSF has a couple of other trails that look like old roads or ATV trails that go below the fort area. We followed one of those roads, which ends in a field with a few small red spruce:The field was certainly scenic, but held no cemeteries…so we went back to the parking area and headed up the road directly across from the CSF parking area (the road that you came in on will continue past the parking area; don’t take that, take the one that goes up the mountain.) Here, we eventually found the…..former….cemetery.Well, that was a little disappointing. You can still see a couple of spots where there’s just a little bit of a depression. Another sign tells you that a lot of civil war history has been moved due to the Mower company strip mining the entire area. We decided to go to Barton Knob so we could at least get some overlooks. The entrance to Barton Knob is directly across from the Cheat Mountain Summit sign. You’ll pass an interpretive sign less than a quarter of a mile into the road. It tells you about the logging, strip mining, and recovery efforts by the forest service. You can go up this road and explore the Barton Benches, but I’d definitely recommend 4WD or just hiking up the road. You do get somewhat of a view from the top bench. We continued on toward the road to the fire tower.
You’ll see a small camping area on the right and a gated forest road on the left. This is where the fire tower is. While you can hike all the way to the tower, the bottom set of stairs has been removed, as the tower was not maintained and is falling apart. The bottom of the tower is densely wooded, so you can’t actually get a view from there. However, you’ll pass a large boulder on the right as you hike up. This offers the best viewing area on the trail, and makes for a pretty scenic photo, too. We did hike all the way to the fire tower, but it was definitely too densely wooded to get a view, even with the peak of fall already past.