Spruce Knob - Seneca Rocks NRA, WV
Seneca Rocks, one of West Virginia’s most outstanding landmarks, consists of a group of rock outcroppings rising high above the valley floor—the massive sandstone fins tower over the North Fork of the South Branch Potomac River like a natural cathedral. ”
To reach the lofty heights of Seneca Rocks, hikers can follow the well-marked Seneca Rocks Trail to an observation platform close to North Tower that provides sprawling views of the river valley 900 feet below—even better views await the adventurous visitors who climb the sandstone fin above the platform.
The hike begins behind the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center or from the lower parking area adjacent to the Sites Homestead—from the Discovery Center, descend a set of steps and head toward the bridge and emerge in the Seneca Rocks Picnic Area/Sites Homestead, cross the lower parking lot and enter the woods along a wide gravel path and hike to yet another bridge. The bridge, a beautifully designed piece of architecture, spans the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River—watch for people fly-fishing for trout and small-mouthed bass.
When you reach the opposite bank, continue following the trail as it switchbacks through the towering hardwoods—maple, shagbark hickory, redbud, and oak dominate the forest.
As you climb towards the observation platform, notice the informative signs along the way that detail the geology of the area—you can help protect the surrounding geology and vegetation by staying on the marked path, do not take shortcuts.
After hiking 1.3-miles, you reach the viewing platform—while you can’t actually see Seneca Rocks, the view to the west of the Potomac River Valley, the Fore Knobs, Spruce Mountain, and the distant Dolly Sods make the climb completely worthwhile. Indeed, the views from the platform would make any hiker happy, but for even better vistas, climb the rock promontory beyond the platform—be very careful if you climb the sandstone fin, the drop-offs are sheer and the route can be narrow in places.
Pick, Banana and I opted to brave the precarious route, while Dar was happy with the view from the observation area—the three of us made our way along the narrow route, braving sections that were a mere 10-15 feet wide with several hundred feet drops on each side. Once at the top, we enjoyed views in all directions—definitely worth the climb if you are brave enough.