Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek - MNF
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Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek - Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
16.5 mls
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
2 Days. 6 hours 1st day, 3 hours 2nd day
2,310 ft
Monongahela National Forest
FS Seneca Creek Backcountry (PDF)
Printable Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Seneca Rocks Weather Forecast
Garmin (GDB), GPS eXchange (GPX) (What's this?)
3D View of Route

Parking area at the Spruce Knob. 38.70230, -79.53105

Easily in the top 5 backpacking routes in the mid-Atlantic. The Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek circuit has beautiful meadows, mountain vistas, waterfalls, and the best camping to be found. Starting at Spruce Knob, the tallest peak in West Virginia, the hike also has a short 1/2 mile circuit at the summit with beautiful panoramic and views of the valley.

The best time of year to enjoy this hike is July-September when the temps are almost spring like at these 5K foot altitudes. If you hike this circuit in September, you'll also get to enjoy the fields of blackberries on the High Meadows Trail.

  • Mile 0.0 – Start at the Spruce Knob parking area heading down the Huckleberry Trail TR533. In the first 2.0 miles, the trail passes a number of nice campsites located under canopies of Spruce. The trail will then open up passing through several small meadows before descending to another campsite where the trail makes a sharp right. Follow the trail for another 0.2 miles and turn left, followed shortly by another left. At this point the Huckleberry Trail crosses through one more small meadow then begins a steep descent to the intersection of the four way intersection with the Lumberjack Trail.
  • Mile 4.7 - Turn right on the Lumberjack Trail TR534. The Lumberjack Trail is an old forestry road with poor drainage, very muddy, and can take some time to navigate depending on the conditions. At 1.0 miles on the Lumberjack Trail is the wreckage of a Piper PA-23 that crashed in 1973 with the loss of 2 souls. The wreck site (video) is located 75 yards below the trail at N38.76409 W79.49852. If you decide to visit the site please do not disturb any of the wreckage out of respect for the lives lost here. Continue on the trail for another mile reaching the intersection of the High Meadows Trail. The unmaintained portion of the Lumberjack Trail veers right uphill, and the High Meadows Trail veers left.
  • Mile 6.7 - Veer left onto the High Meadows Trail TR564. The trail will soon make a left and descend towards the meadows. Be careful as the High Meadows Trail is inundated with stinging nettles. After entering the first meadow look for the trail marker directly on the opposite side of the meadow. Here you will pass through the thickest blackberry section. Re-enter the forest before once again passing through the last of the mountain meadows on the trail. At the end of the second large meadow cross a small creek and arrive a the intersection of the Huckleberry Trail and end of the High Meadows Trail.
  • Mile 8.6 - Turn right downhill on the Huckleberry Trail TR533 for 0.5 miles where the Huckleberry Trail ends at the Seneca Creek Trail TR515.
  • Mile 9.1 - Turn right downstream on the Seneca Creek Trail for 75 yards to view Seneca Falls (video). Now return up up the Seneca Creek Trail passing the Huckleberry Trail you just descended, then cross Seneca Creek for the first time. Pass the first of many wonderful campsites (video). Follow the Seneca Creek Trail crossing Seneca Creek two more times, pass the Bear Hunter Trail, and reach the meadow at Judy Springs. Note: 0.2 miles before reaching Judy Springs is the prettiest campsite in the Monongahela. This campsite is on the banks of Seneca Creek with a waterfall directly across from it. Don't worry if it's occupied, every campsite on Seneca Creek is excellent!
  • Mile 10.9 - At Judy Springs turn left crossing a wooden footbridge over Seneca Creek onto the Judy Springs Trail TR512, then begin the steepest section of the hike climbing back up Spruce Mountain. After 0.3 the Judy Springs Trail passes through the largest of the mountain meadows with a panoramic view back towards Seneca Creek. The trail will then renter the forest at the top of the meadow ending at the intersection of the Huckleberry Trail.
  • Mile 11.6 - Turn right uphill on the Huckleberry Trail TR533. Soon pass a vista through a gap in the trees, and continue for another 0.2 mile where the Huckleberry Trail reaches the intersection of the Lumberjack Trail you took earlier.
  • Mile 11.8 - Continue uphill on the Huckleberry Trail retracing your steps the 4.7 miles back to the hike start point.
  • Mile 16.5 - Arrive back at the parking area on Spruce Knob.
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Hiker Reviews For The Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Jen M Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 19, 2017
Just did this hike over Friday/Saturday... here are my contributions

Tip #1 - Wear high boots or skip the Lumberjack trail portion... the views there aren't anything special (other than the plane crash) and the muck seems Artax-Neverending Story-level bad.

Tip #2 - Bring bugspray, the gnats wear you down over time

Tip #3 - (others have said this too)... the names/intersections are much clearer on the ranger map, so either grab one from the ranger station or print it here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5433335.pdf

With that in mind the trail is wonderful. The beginning is a gentle roll with carpets of moss and pine needles broken up by rocky mountain tops. The lower portion is beautiful lush forest and creek. Be prepared to take off your shoes to wade, but the water is crisp, cool, and totally worth it!

By: Paul Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 19, 2017
We hiked in on 5/19 and hiked out on 5/21.  In fact, we met Jen, the prior reviewer!  At least, my buddy and I met someone named Jen!  We skipped the Lumberjack portion and just headed directly down to Seneca Creek.  The waterfall is even more beautiful than the picture and the pool at its base makes for some great swimming.  Although only two campsites are pictured here, there must be at least a dozen up and down Seneca Creek.  All are near pleasantly noisy stream sections.  We really enjoyed this hike, but a few things to emphasize:  like other reviewers noted, bring bug repellent.  It's not overwhelming, but some areas have black flies or mosquitoes.  The Picaridin based repellents made it a breeze.  Also, the trail from Spruce Knob is very rocky from start to finish.  Not only do you have to constantly watch your footing, but stepping on the smallish rocks can make you very foot-sore by the end of the hike.  Also, about 3/4 of a mile after leaving Seneca Creek, there are no more decent water sources on the way to the summit.  If the weather is warm, pack a little more water than you think you need.  Prior reviewers were also right about trail marking discrepancies.  We did a day hike from Seneca Creek Trail to Bear Hunter Trail to Allegheny Mountain Trail and returning on Horton Trail.  The intersection of Allegheny Mt. Trail and Horton Trail (headed SE) was unmarked at the junction.  Also, the trail itself does not exactly track with where it is indicated on the trail maps.  It ultimately arrives at the same place, though.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 14, 2017
Great hike! Easily one of my new favorites. My cousin and I are beginner backpackers and were able to do it in two days. It has elevation changes, a variety of environments, an abundance of campsites, and is surprising secluded for how nice the falls and river are. The hiking upward map is excellent because it lays out where more of the established sites are which is useful for gauging how far you are on some of the trails. It should be noted that the names of the trails on this map are not 100% the same as what the intersection signs state - I'm sure you can figure it out but a map from the local ranger station was much more useful in this regard. The ranger map also has alternative trail options if you want to deviate from the HU plan. There is a waterfall at 8:00p and 10:00p of the lollipop and we had to ford the river 3x between them. It never got to knee high despite it having rained for 2-3 days prior to our drip. The water is cold and the rocks mostly have good grip and are smooth (cousin did it barefoot). This section is a highlight so I would not skip it. The 2x meadows were a real treat. Unfortunately you will only see the plane crash and the High Meadows trail if you choose to tackle the lumberjack trail (1:00p-5:00p). We were not particular fans of this trail since it was very water logged. Thankfully there are rocks aplenty for traversing, but playing "Hot Lava Monster" for a couple of hours grew a bit tiresome. The crash was interesting and a bit sobering. When I do this trail again I will probably 1) take the shortcut from 12-6 and cut out High Meadow and Lumberjack and 2) go in the summertime and hope that the water will be warm enough for swimming! I would also recommend ankle high boots vs. low cut.

By: Brian Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 14, 2017
Great hike. One of the more difficult ones I've done. The top route along Huckleberry is an ankle-breaker. All rocks, the whole way. Hard to appreciate the view when you are watching every step.

The crash site can be seen from the trail. Somebody has even left a cairn marking the spot.

The trail is crossed by many streams leaving it muddy and wet. You won't escape without soaking your shoes so make sure they are water-proof and ankle-high.

Seneca Creek is the payoff. Several great falls and springs. All the campgrounds are great. The only downside is having to cross the creek multiple times. I think it was ultimately five times total. It was painfully cold and the rocks are slippery. Too deep to leave your shoes on, so take water shoes or prepare to hike across without shoes.

We walked out on Seneca Creek trail instead of going back up Judy Springs/Lumberjack to Huckleberry and back. It is also a beautiful trail with more falls, a beaver dam and a great tunnel of spruce. Once we reached the Seneca Creek trail head, we dropped our packs and then walked the 5-6 miles up the road back to the Spruce Knob.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, February 19, 2017
I did this as a long day hike and it was wonderful! It was pretty mild weather for February, upper 40s. Started the hike with the top of the mountain inside of a cloud -- this made the first 4 miles even better! The dense spruce forest and moss seemed that much more magical shrouded in mist, with water droplets hanging on everything. --------

By the time I got down to the intersection with the Lumberjack trail, I was below the fog. That section of the hike was pretty average, with nothing noteworthy but a bunch of mud, and the plane crash, which was sobering. Then you get to the High Meadows trails and the views are great again. It's much easier to explore the clearings in winter when there aren't waste-high grass and brambles. -------

The hike along Seneca Creek was very pretty even this time of year - the rhododendron everywhere keep it green year round. I had to take my shoes off and wade across the creek three times, and that was some of the coldest water I've ever been in, even though the air was warm. My feet were stinging from the cold after each brief crossing! The campsites along the stream were some of the pretties I've seen anywhere, and there were a TON of them. I only saw two groups camped out the whole time I was hiking, so if you go this time of year you definitely have your pick of the spots! -------

The camp spot at the intersection of Seneca Creek and Judy Spring was just great -- wide open spot with green grass (even in winter) and pretty trees. The spring itself (across the footbridge over the stream and up the hill to the right about 50 yards) is one of the largest-flowing springs I've ever seen. Tons of crystal clear water pouring right out of the side of a hill. It was a good thing I got a drink there, because the ascent up the Judy Springs trail through the big meadow was very steep. The clouds had lifted by this time and there was actually some good sunlight. -------

The Judy Springs trail ends at the Horton trail rather abruptly, and the intersection is NOT marked. If you were hiking this in the opposite direction you might pass by the trail entirely if you didn't know where you were supposed to go. Also, the directions here are misleading. This section of the trail is NOT the Huckleberry Trail any more, that ends at the Lumberjack trail. From there, past Judy Springs and continuing onward, it is called the Horton Trial, #530. -------

The remaining ~4.5 miles retracing my steps to the car were just as pretty as on the way in, but this time the sun was actually shining. Made it back to my car in a fairly punishing 6 hours round-trip, after jogging some of the level / downhill sections, then got to watch a nice sunset from the observation tower as the last tattered bits of clouds blew away. -------

This was an amazing hike, and I can't wait to come back when there are more leaves on the trees in the lower section, and actually do some camping.

    View all 32 reviews for the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek hike
Early August
High Meadows Panorama's
Judy Springs Panorama's
Spruce Knob Panorama's
Plane Crash site of N5141Y Oct 1973 on Spruce Mountain
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