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:
Links:
Resources:
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
From:

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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Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek hike:

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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: Joe B in NC Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 16, 2017
This is an excellent length day hike that takes around 5.5 - 6 hours to the Spruce Knob summit, covering 10.4 miles (we had 10.9 with my extra walking around the summit, etc). I'd say ages 11 and up, depending on physical maturity, can do this hike. Not difficult except for the light bushwacking for the first mile and typical muddy portions of trail on Huckleberry.

Our family has made a tradition out of bagging eastern state high points over the past few years vacations. Spruce Knob was our 12th since 2014. We typically like the 6-8 mie variety with the exceptions of 10.4 on Hunt Trail at Baxter Peak/Katahdin and 2 miles for Hoye Crest in MD (this week, also). As you can imagine, the referenced 16 mile hike was a no-go for us as we typically travel a bit less than 2 mph given all of the stops and time at the summit. Fortunately for us, through a lot of online digging, we found an "unofficial" track that leads to the tight bend in the Huckleberry Trail, making a summit round trip right at 10.4 mi. I can't find the original post, but someone had provided a GPS track that started at Forest Road 274 off of FR 112. And, this is what we went with.

None of the land marks are difficut to find but it takes some mental toughness to continue when there seems to be no trail at the beginning of the trek. My mileage numbers were from US 33 E, right on Briery Gap Rd then 2.4 mi to Forest Road 112 then 2.6 miles to Forest Rd 274 on the right. This is actually not a drivable road and is gated just up from 112. We parked on the turnoff to the left, but you could also probably park at the entrance of 274, as long as you left enough space of a park service truck to enter (though it looks like that hasn't happened for some time). Anyway, we were a bit unsure as the road/trail was completely overgrown with weeds, etc. except for a thin path around the right-hand post of the gate. We were baited and started our hike. The night before, my daughter was researching this route and found some information in a post that my hours of research hadn't (yes, that's how much we like to hike to the summit instead of drive) - the exit from the forest road onto a connector trail to Huckleberry Trail was "1/4 mile past a stream crossing the road, with a white pipe, some orange flags, and big boulders." As we hiked along, not knowing how long we were supposed to be on the forest road, we saw a lot of big boulders, but none of the other landmarks. We did pass a large silver unearthed culvert at a stream, but continued on since the flags and boulders were missing. At around 1 mile we did cross a stream, and low and behold found after .12 miles orange marker tape on a tree, a possible trail in to the woods and boulders (still no white pipes). This was the victory we needed and I was now confident we would have a successful ascent. To be noted, the track up the forest road is not well trod and I was bushwacking with a stick though the track was apparent, it wasn't obvious, and could easily get overgrown. The GPS track I had printed had some switch backs on the way up to Huckleberry, but we did not hike these. The new trail was definite and clearly cut, though at times very tight due to rhododendron infringing on the trail. Less than a half mile later we were at the "point" in the Huckleberry Trail where it drops down on the trail map, then almost doubles back up. There was a "well weathered" sign pointing Trail 533 straight ahead and to the left (from where we had come from). We debated for a minute, mostly because it seemed we reached the trail too quickly) then decided to turn left and headed up. This was the correct route and we summited around 3.5 miles later.

This is not a difficult hike - no difficult uphills but just mostly roots, rocks at some points, and the typical muddy trail sections, though none long. I would recommend hiking boots just to keep your feet dry and not have to worry so much about hiking around the mud - it's the typically pine needle-infused mud that you don't sink too deep into - usually. Oh, also, FR 274 had some wet spots, too.


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: Schnitzel Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, April 28, 2017
My hiking buddy and I took the bait and seeing how it was a top 5 hike... took the drive from Richmond, Virginia early on Friday to return on Sunday leaving us time to wander and relax -- a trend of ours it seems.

The drive in from Harrisonburg and I-81 was a good test of the brakes and car cooling system. Took a wrong turn on the drive in, had we followed the signs we wouldn't have, yet was directed back to the correct road by a friendly fella still living his rock-n-roll days according to his sleeping shirt. The drive up the mountain once in the National Forest was amazing - signage did note that they don't plow the road in the Winter months. It seems West Virginia has found some money to create some excellent park features that make one wonder why every state hasn't done the same.

The views along the road to the top and parking lot (yes, it is indeed huge) were incredible and even though much of Spring had already passed in Virginia, the leaves at the end of April at Seneca Creek were just beginning to make their appearance.

We parked and quickly took to the trail finding that this higher elevation and the clouds that must often brush across the top of the mountain have left enough moisture to leave the initial trail's surroundings covered in moss -- an environment I'd never seen. The trail does become quite rocky once you leave the initial wooded area where plenty of campsites exist for those arriving late and looking for a camping spot early on. We intended to do the reverse route leaving us the option to return back up the mountain on Saturday to tackle the Lumberjack Trail. Pennzoil and I followed the maps from this site and came across a few other hikers who have found this hike using the same site. As we descended and came to the intersection with the Lumberjack Trail we took the wrong trail, we believe, because it eventually led to Seneca Creek further downstream than we expected -- missing the Judy Springs Trail (going left according to the map) and instead followed the dotted Huckleberry Trail which was less of trail and more of trickle of a stream that we were following. Perhaps a GPS unit would have helped us find the trail, but we never encountered a Judy Springs Trail Sign so be aware for those doing a reverse route. I would be interested if others have had the same experience or if the old fellas had instead gone partially blind from exertion. Seneca Creek proved as beautiful as described by others and offers plenty of spots for dipping should the weather be hotter than it was when we went. Crossing the creek to the campsites (near the largest waterfall) was almost up to our hips so it took some careful crossing - hiking sticks & water shoes are recommended. It made the weekend's adventure that much better. Friday night's campsite found us under a tarp (an attempt at shedding tent weight) and awoken by flashes of lightening. The storms and downpour rolled in around 1 am with some of the loudest thunder I've experienced. Lesson learned -- stake that tarp down when storms are in the forecast. Note: there is no cell signal anywhere on this hike using Verizon so plan ahead. Also worth sharing is that there are additional camping locations downstream of the waterfall icon (and last tent icon) and along the dotted blue line on the map. Saturday found us hiking back up along the High Meadow Trail where it was quite steep at several places and buggy as well (I expect that's indicative of April) and eventually finding Lumberjack Trail being muddy as advertised. So muddy in fact that it became a concentrated hop from one submerged rock to the other.. There are a few small streams as you head up to this trail from which to get water but once on Lumberjack and above, water sources are slight if none at all so plan to bring your water should you plan on camping another night as we did. Saturday night's camp was close to the trail along the upper and wooded part of the Huckleberry Trail shortly after passing the small meadows that are immediately above the intersection with the Lumberjack and Huckleberry. Camping among the Spruce with no underbrush and a forest floor of Spruce needles was atypical in my experience and worthy of stopping to experience for a night. It was quite the site with a fantastic fire circle and even some paracord left between the trees useful for drying out some gear - camouflaged in green so we didn't even notice until settled. Sunday found us hiking back out toward the parking lot. As noted earlier, there is no water for the remaining part of the trail. The rocky portion of the trail seemed to continue without end until the gravel on the trail hinted that we were finally at the trail's head. In summary, a beautiful setting with Spruce forests I hadn't experienced. Also, while the leaves hadn't completely formed, the views were lacking and no where as good as at the top and the parking lot. I expect to be back in the area and experience some of the other Seneca Creek hikes hoping for the same variation in plant-life. I suggest acquiring the Seneca Creek Backcountry also linked on this site to eliminate any missed trails. Definitely worth checking out for those of you unfamiliar with West Virginia and the hiking it offers.


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Early August
Videos
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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