Tent Camping Heaven

Bear Heaven Campground

Bear Heaven lies on a spur ridge high on Shavers Mountain outside Elkins. It can be pretty cool on summer nights. I can only imagine what the year-round campground is like around dark in mid-January. Most tent campers will head up this way during the warmer months to enjoy a small, quiet campground tucked away on the back side of the Otter Creek Wilderness.

The Otter Creek drainage forms the centerpiece of this preserved national forest land. Mountain ridges are the borders, where spruce stands and bogs hold strong. Lower in the wilderness are tangles of rhododendron over which grow northern hardwood species such as cherry and yellow birch. This area was once logged-any trails follow old railroad grades. In other areas, apple trees mark homesites long since abandoned. On the edge of the wilderness, Bear Heaven campground awaits your arrival.

What does this mean for you? It means a great place to get into the heart of natural West Virginia, where the woods are king once again. Then, you can return to your ridgetop camp and reflect on the day's observations. One of those observations will be what a fitting campground to be adjacent to the Otter Creek Wilderness. Another observation might literally be an obser-vation-from atop the jumbled rock outcrop near the campground picnic area where you can look south over a sea of wooded ridges.

Leave the spur road off Stuart Memorial Drive and enter Bear Heaven Recreation Area. To your right is the picnic area and rock outcrop. This spur ridge is level by mountain standards and covered in a northern hardwood forest dominated by beech and cherry trees. The canopy thickens in summer, with an understory of sugar maple and striped maple. Come winter, you can better see the numerous gray boulders strewn about the campground like childrens' toy blocks tossed around a room.

Three sites occupy the main road. Wood log borders keep campers where they ought to be. The campsites are very dispersed and large, even though this spur ridge is narrow. There are winter views into the woods below. Some less-than-level sites have tent pads.

Enter a five-campsite loop. Campsites #4 and #5, the two prettiest and most used, are integrated into the boulder-dominated landscape. Swing around the loop and pass the final few campsites. This small campground has only eight units, offering the good and bad of small campgrounds: intimate, yet possibly packed with campers, as well. Bear Heaven fills during mid-summer weekends and traditional summer holidays. Other than that you should have no problem getting a campsite.


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