SENECA ROCKS, W.Va. (WDVM) — Deep in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest lies Seneca Rocks, which offers the perfect place to unplug, breathe in the mountain air, and enjoy stunning views.
The climber’s paradise that lies in Pendleton County has much to offer than initially meets the eye. Jeremiah Hyslop, the Director of the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, explains that while the hiking and rock climbing is usually the main attraction of the area, it also offers recreational areas for camping as well as a gateway to the history of Seneca Rocks.
“We have the, of course, Seneca Rocks which is a big attraction. There’s a trail that goes up to a platform up there with a beautiful vantage point of the area,” Hylsop explained. “Then, of course, there’s the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center and there’s a lot of exhibits in there to check out. Then there is the Sites Historic Homestead which is a late 1800’s homestead.”
You can start your trip by visiting the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, the first of its kind within the United States Forest Service. The area was established by Congress and the USDA Forest Service in 1965 and spans around 100,000 acres.
The Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is comprised of three main units: the Spruce Knob unit, the Smoke Hole unit, and the Seneca Rocks unit. The Smoke Hole unit offers beautiful views of the area on the scenic driving route while the Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob units offer hiking and climbing for all skill levels. The Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is also home to the Spruce Knob Observation Tower which sits atop West Virginia’s highest peak.
You can either hike up the Seneca Rocks Trail for the best views or for the more adventurous, you can climb up the mountain face. The Seneca Rocks Hiking Trail is only about a mile but you will experience a 900-foot elevation gain as you make your way up the trail. However, the hike will award you with stunning views from the observation deck.
If you’re looking for a more controlled climbing environment, just a short drive away from Seneca Rocks is Nelson Rocks, where you’ll find N Rocks Outdoor Adventures. N Rocks offers a wide range of climbing experiences including the Via Ferrata, a bridge suspended 150 feet in the air that spans the two fans of Nelson Rocks.
Bryan Williams, the operations manager of N Rocks Outdoor Adventures, describes the Via Ferrata as a unique style of rock climbing that bridges the gaps between rock climbing and hiking.
“This is a very accessible beginner-friendly activity that’s still plenty exciting for those with climbing experience, and I think it’s accessible for pretty much anyone with a moderate fitness [level] and below-average fear of heights,” William said.
The average Via Ferrata tour lasts anywhere from 3-5 hours and participants must be 13 or older and weigh between 88 and 265 pounds. Aside from their flagship climbing experience, N Rocks also offers a number of other guided tours in the area. The North Fork Valley Canopy Tour consists of 12 zip lines, three swinging bridges, and ends with about a 50 foot repel. The adventure company also offers more standard top rope rock climbing, similar to the type of climbing you would find at most indoor or outdoor climbing areas.
N Rocks also partners with another local company, WILD GUYde Adventures, to offer wild caving tours. They also offer a variety of lodging accommodations from traditional tents to on-site cabins and motel-style rooms.
Seneca Rocks is off the beaten path and for the majority of your trip, you will not have cellular service, so be sure to plan accordingly. Hyslop recommends taking a more old-fashioned approach when planning navigation for your trip.
“Go online and print out a map, you know, or grab a map, an actual hardcopy map, or download whatever map you’re going to download ahead of time,” Hyslop said. “We want you to recreate responsibly as well as enjoy yourself.”
For more information and resources from the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, please visit their US Forest Service website.
For more information about N Rocks Outdoor Adventures or to book a tour, please visit the N Rocks Outdoor Adventures website.
Whether you plan on hiking, climbing, or camping around Seneca Rocks, remember to always let others know where you are going, bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and be respectful of the environment. The Forest Service as well as avid hikers stand by the saying, “Pack it in and pack it out” which means you should never leave behind any garbage or other items that you brought into the environment.