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After closing all of its campgrounds March 23 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Monongahela National Forest on Wednesday announced the closure of all developed day use areas and mandated that all forest users be limited to groups of 10 people or less.

The new closure order includes the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and Cranberry Mountain Nature Center, Bickle Knob and Olson observation towers, Middle Mountain rental cabins, and all scenic overlooks along the Highland Scenic Highway.

In addition to the 20 campgrounds closed March 23, Wednesday’s order ended, until further notice, camping in dispersed roadside sites along the Cranberry and Williams rivers. Also ordered closed were the Blue Bend, Horseshoe, Lake Sherwood and Stuart recreation areas, and the Gaudineer, North Bend and Old House picnic areas. All restrooms in the forest were also ordered closed.

Dispersed roadside camping will remain available along forest roads throughout the 920,000-acre forest — the largest tract of public land in West Virginia. Fishing, hiking and backpacking remain authorized activities for forest users, although all are encouraged to maintain social distancing when on the trail and to pack out any trash they create or encounter.

Those who set out on trails found to be crowded are urged to seek alternative hiking routes on trails that are less traveled. Once on the trail, social distancing recommendation are to be heeded.

In West Virginia’s portion of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, Hardy County’s Trout Pond Recreation Area, including a campground, picnic area and Rock Cliff Lake, have also been ordered closed.

For updated information on the Monongahela National Forest, visit

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.