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North Fork Mountain - Seneca Rocks, WV


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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
24.7 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
Links:
Resources:
2 days - 8 hours each day
2,650 ft
Monongahela National Forest
WV Highland Conservancy Topos
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Seneca Rocks Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
Parking:
North Trail Head Parking: 38.9814, -79.2316 (County Route 28/11, Smoke Hole Road)
There is a small parking area on Smoke Hole Road on the right-hand side with room for about 5-6 cars.
South Trail Head Parking: 38.711122, -79.401978 (Route 33, Radio Tower)
There is space for about 3-4 cars on the side of the road just in front of the Radio Tower gate, do not block the gate.

Hikers describe the North Fork Mountain Trail (NFMT) as having "relentless views". They are correct, there are so many overlooks we couldn't mark them all on our hike map. If you want a view, walk no more than 25 yards to the west off the trail and you will find one! We were amazed by this trail and the different types of woodlands, many of them needing fires in order to grow, see this link from The Nature Conservancy for more information.

The lack of water on this trail has always been a concern for hikers. However, a post by Zach F. on the WV Highlands Conservancy site proved very useful in finding a spring at the trail midpoint. If you hike this trail, please post a review with an update on how much water is in the spring. This will help fellow hikers track how reliable the spring is over time.

The NFMT at 24.7 miles long, is a point to point shuttle backpack best hiked South to North. At the bottom of this write up we also list several shorter alternatives if you don't have time to do the whole trail. Plan to allow about 35 minutes each way for the car shuttle.

  • Mile 0.0 – At the South Trail Head, walk around the gate towards the back of the radio building and tower. To your left you will see a discernible trail, this is the North Fork Mountain (Trail 501) and you will very quickly see blue blazes. Eventually there will be blue diamond markers on the trees for the majority of the trail. There is a short climb to the top of the trail.
  • Mile 0.5 – Reach the first of many overlooks on your left and to the west. The majority of views on the hike will be to the west.
  • Mile 1.0 – Overlook, the next 2 miles are a gentle walk in the woods.
  • Mile 3.2 – Overlook, unique campsite just after this overlook and before the power lines.
  • Mile 3.4 – Power lines, views to the east and west.
  • Mile 3.8 – Gate, go around and continue on fire road/trail
  • Mile 4.5 – Intersection with unnamed trail/fire road
  • Mile 4.6 – Overlook
  • Mile 5.7 Overlook
  • Mile 8.4 – Spur Trail to see Seneca Rocks. Don't miss this, it's a great view of the backside of Seneca Rocks off in the distance.
  • Mile 8.7 – Overlook
  • Mile 10.4 Flat Tower on left and beginning of FR79, bear to right on fire road. From here to the first nights campsite at mile 12.4 was the least enjoyable part of the hike due to it being on a fire road.
  • Mile 10.8 – Radio Tower, road bears to the left behind tower. Reach first curve on FR79, but continue down road past pipeline crossing.
  • Mile 11.6 Gas pipeline crossing
  • Mile 12.4 Campsite for night one. To right of campsite is a grass fire road, go about 100 steps downhill, look for square stone, go left about 30 steps to spring. Spring water amount note: 1. May 10, 2014 – 12”, 2. Summer 2013 – flowing. Be prepared to carry enough water in the event the Spring is dry. You could also cache water near this intersection.
  • Day 2 - Hike begins at the brown "Trail 501" sign. There is evidence of fire from the campsite along the next 2 miles of the trail.
  • Mile 12.9 Overlook, great view to start Day 2. Fire damage
  • Mile 15.4 – Overlook, trail is well maintained
  • Mile 16.5 – Intersection of Redman Run Trail, just after the intersection is a campsite with an incredible view. As you climb you will soon walk through a Rhododendron thicket, look for cairns on the left for the overlook at mile 18.
  • Mile 18.0 – Overlook
  • Mile 18.4 – Campsite
  • Mile 18.5 Overlook
  • Mile 19.5 – Overlook
  • Mile 20.6 – Intersection of Landis Trail
  • Mile 21.0 – Overlook, Table Rock Vista
  • Mile 21.6 – Spur trail to Chimney Top, stay straight for this out and back. The NFMT turns sharply to the right but go straight on the unmarked spur trail, you can see Chimney Top from here.
  • Mile 21.8 Chimney Top, great views. There is another way back to the NFMT, a very steep spur trail to the right of a fire ring. It is very steep and we do not recommend this way, we recommend re-tracing your steps back to the original intersection and bear left back onto the NFMT
  • Mile 22.0 – Original Intersection, bear left back onto the NFMT
  • Mile 22.2 Intersection of steep spur trail to Chimney Top on left.
  • Mile 22.6 Overlook
  • Mile 22.9 Overlook
  • Mile 24.7 – North Trail Head Parking, end of hike.

Shorter Alternative Hikes:

  1. Redman Run Trail up to NFMT and over to North Trail Head parking, 9.6 miles, shuttle hike.
  2. Landis Trail Head up to NFMT and over to North Trail Head parking, 5.4 miles, shuttle hike or you could do as an out and back to Chimney Top.
  3. North Trail Head parking up to Chimney top and back, about 7 miles round trip.
  4. Fire Road 79, drive car to campsite as mentioned at mile 12.4, sketchy road, good clearance needed on this road, camp the night and do the remaining 12 or so miles on Day 2, shuttle hike.
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Hiker Reviews For The North Fork Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Kenneth Clapp Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, June 09, 2017
Fabulous hike, my second, my hiking partners first. Great weather and views. Shuttled in water to flat tower, used the jugs to refill at the spring, half a gallon for the 3rd day. Just a warning...saw a 4 and half foot rattlesnake at flat tower and it crawled back under the rock imbetween the two front tower platforms....I'm assuming it has a den there...lol...he gave us plenty of warning. Definitely will be a regular hike for me!

By: V Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, June 01, 2017
Great hike with lots of great views. I saw 4 large rattlesnakes on the trail. Also found numerous ticks on me. The well had plenty of water. I purified 10 liters of water for my party. However, the spring wasn't flowing. Someone stole an external light bar from the truck in the north parking lot. That's a big turnoff for this hike. I don't know if I can trust that someone won't cause hundreds of dollars in damage. The intersection of Landis and north fork is poorly labeled. They both have blue markers and the trail signs are a bit twisted.

By: Andrew Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 20, 2017
A friend and I day hiked the entire trail. It was a great hike! Tons of views. Took us 8 hrs of walking time and 1.5 hrs for lunch and stops. Checked the spring at the half way point and water was flowing pretty well. Definitely could have filtered some if we needed water. The above instructions were spot on and made it impossible to get lost.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 09, 2017
This is one of my favorite hikes, especially early spring. The views are spectacular! I have hiked it both directions, I spent 3 days hiking North to South several years ago and just completed a South to North which I like and enjoyed much more, but was limited to two days.  My recommendation would be, hike South to North, take three days and visit every overlook. The campsite at 12.4 was vacant with a little trash here and there. I personally steer clear of camping near roads or easy access points. There was still a little snow on the ground so the spring was flowing well. The trail is well maintained, however there are a few trees across the trail you will have to go around, but it's all good. The later in the summer and the dryer it gets, I would consider a water cache. With that said i think the trail has been accurately described in the other reviews, enjoy! Be cautious of leaving your vehicle parked at the North trail head as it is secluded and an easy target. I had a bike rack stolen from my Toyota Tacoma. Just a note to the person who allowed me work for what they have taken, you'll need the key to unlock it and I will be happy to get it to you.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, March 27, 2017
Hiked entire trail Sunday, March 26 to Tuesday the 28th, 2017. One of the top 20 backpacking trips in the South. Camped at the overlook at mile 4.6 and then the killer campsite right near the Redman trail. The hiking was fairly easy and the views get better with every mile. The spring at mile 12 was flowing fine..lot of leaf litter so we filtered it,but it was excellent water. The last last 6 miles are just magnificent! I have some great photos!! I hope to go back in October. My first trip to the mountains of West Virginia and not my last. I wish I could post a few photos on this site.

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Mid May
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