Roaming West Virginia: Seneca Rocks

Roaming West Virginia

SENECA ROCKS, W.Va. – Roaming West Virginia takes us to Pendleton and Grant counties, which are known for their heights and depths.

Formed in 1788, Pendleton County has an altitude range of more than 3,500 feet, and part of it runs along the Eastern Continental Divide. Here, you will find several stops for a day or weekend trip.

Three places of note are Seneca Rocks, Spruce Knob and Smoke Hole Caverns. The first stop on the trip was Seneca Rocks and its Discovery Center.

“We have thousands of visitors that come here and look at Seneca Rocks, hike the trail and the Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, which was formed 54 years ago, said Kevin Duncan, Discovery Center director.

“People who aren’t climbers are always amazed that people can climb on this. The people that do climb generally know what they’re doing, and for the most part are successful at it.”

Seneca Rocks saw Native Americans settle here long before pioneers who settled in the 1830s. Seneca Rocks is made of tuscarora sandstone, which is a very hard form of quartzite.

Duncan said if people are looking for something to do, the Discovery Center’s motto is, “we’ll tell you where to go, and you’ll like it.”

“I just being able to help folks that don’t know very much about this area, and all my staff, I try to make sure they’re all extremely knowledgeable about the area. In all actuality, they probably know more about it than I do,” Duncan said.

Seneca Rocks Discovery Center has a gift shop and exhibits hall. 

Just in the prime viewing area of Seneca Rocks is a store that’s been in operation since 1902. Harper’s Old Country Store is the oldest continuously-operated business in the state.

The inside is much the same as in 1902, with many old features and antiques.

“Well, we say that it’s a step back in time because the building is an antique. The counters and all are still the original counters, the original floor, the original ceiling,” said store owner Joe Harper.

The Harpers have been in this area for 10 generations and were farmers. Joe Harper and his family operate more than 4,000 acres that include owned and rented land. The store also has a restaurant above called the Front Porch Restaurant, which has great views of Seneca Rocks.

Harper said the store was built by his great grandfather, J.M. Harper. Harper’s grandfather then later turned the store into a Ford dealership and sold Model-T’s. Harper’s dad purchased the store in the mid ’60s and ran it until 1974. The store is still running and operated by the Harper family.

“The store, we have a little sign that says, ‘If you don’t see it, ask for it, we probably got it.’ We still sell a pretty full line of hardware and farm supplies,” Harper said. 

Harper said people like coming here, and they don’t realize they are 160 or 170 miles from Washington, D.C. Harper said the water is very pristine, and a person can drink the water out of Seneca Creek. 

Last but not least, over the past 30 years, Smoke Hole Caverns and Log Cabin Resort has become a destination resort that keeps growing.

For anyone who has never been into a cavern, Smoke Hole Caverns is a must visit. Its bizarre looking formations of minerals look like a scene from a lost world of an old science fiction movie. If you want to experience TD, or total darkness, experience it for yourself.

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