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 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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Reviews For The Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek Hike (5 Most Recent)
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.
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 14, 2017
We came out to this trail on the 14th of January, it was cold and rainy. The first impression for both of us was that the parking area is very large, I'm assuming it gets busier in the warmer months but our entire time on the trail (2 days) we only ran into a handful of other people. The first 5 miles of the trail is gorgeous, thick conifer trees on either side of the rocky trail and hanging fog made us feel like we were somewhere on the West Coast (or a fairy tale), we also saw coyote and deer tracks and scat in this area. I would say that the plant life on this portion of the trail is very unique to this area and although we did not set up camp at one of the sites- we definitely wished that we had been able to but, wanted to hike further. Once we descended out of the conifers we emerged into a deciduous mountain-scape very similar to nearby portions of the AT, this is where we turned onto the old fire road. There wasn't anything really unique about this area other than that old fire road was extremely muddy, we're talking ankle deep mud mixed with large rocks, downed limbs and duff- an absolute mess! The meadows were beautiful, we crossed several feeder streams, and when we were faced with the decision, crossing a waist-deep creek (100 yards or so from a beautiful waterfall by the way) or turning back and leaving the way we came in. Eventually we landed on a mutual agreement that crossing might equate to us flirting with death and ended up camping in one of the aforementioned meadows. This is where the "wish we coulda camped up on the first 5 miles of this trail" comes in- the campsites on the first 5 miles of the trail are the sites that deserve 5 stars, beyond that portion the sites are on par with every other trail we've ever been on. All in all a great hike, be prepared for rocky portions- no scrambling but some possible ankle rolls. From the photos I've seen online, the creek seems to be more manageable in the spring and summer.
Date of Hike: Monday, October 17, 2016
Absolutely gorgeous. I echo what other reviewers note about the fascinating environmental changes. Deep, mossy, evergreen forest that looks like something out of Tolkien. Rocky scrub on the ridges. Deciduous canopy in full autumn color change. Lush meadows, also bursting with fall color. This was my first backpacking outing since the Scouting days of my long ago youth. After building up to it with day hikes and car camping, the Spruce Knob trek has me excited to load up the pack some more.
This trip consisted of two adult humans and two adult canines carrying their food and water. We got delayed on the first leg due to some locals herding 82 (!?!) head of cattle up the Lumberjack Trail where it intersects with Huckleberry. They got off before the plane wreck so we decided to stay the course instead of cutting the hike short. There hasn't been much rain lately but Lumberjack was really boggy. I can't imagine how bad it would be in wetter conditions. Worst part of the hike, but didn't dampen spirits. The dogs got pretty filthy but they cleaned up by splashing through the Seneca Creek crossings later on, as it was warm enough for them to frolic in the water.
Due to the earlier cow delay, we didn't make it to the prettiest campsite in the Monongahela on the first day, but the one we did choose right on the water was lovely. It's really hard to choose a bad one, especially mid-week when the area isn't crowded. We only saw five other backpackers (one pair at the very beginning we never saw again), a trio of mountain bike riders, and about five anglers fishing and camping right before Judy Springs.
The climb up Judy Springs was actually more enjoyable than the steep descents earlier in the hike. At least for me, descending on rocks is more difficult than a steep climb on firm ground. And the views were panoramic.
We could have done this one in two days as directed but we extended to three so we could camp under the spruce toward the end, with a short hike out the next morning. The ground is so soft under the spruce trees that it made a notable difference in sleep quality. The only tough part of camping in the spruce is finding a suitable place to hang a bear bag, but other than avian species, the only other wildlife we saw were a deer and a tiny snake. Lovely all around and would hike it again. I wish some folks were more conscientious about packing out trash. That made us sad. We only really saw it on a couple of campsites but it stands out in an area that is so starkly beautiful.
Ross Baker and Dewey
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 25, 2016
i could go on and on about this hike. short and to the point, make this a priority on your "must hike" list. it wont disapoint
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 03, 2016
Hiked this with a group as an overnight backpacking trip this Labor Day Weekend and absolutely loved it. We arrived at Spruce Knob a little late on Saturday (2PM) and found the parking lot mostly full. By the time we got to the intersection of the Huckleberry and Lumberjack trails we were concerned about the availability of campsites along Seneca Creek since we'd seen many other groups on the trail. We decided to take the Horton trail down to Seneca Creek and skip the high meadow area along the Lumberjack trail to save time. Our concerns were warranted, as we saw probably 30-40 (or more) people in various groups camped along the creek when we arrived at the bottom of the hill. The campsites here are numerous, all with relatively close access to water, and there are MANY more than HU advertises on the hike maps here and the two other sister hikes they have listed. After some searching, we managed to find a campsite about two hundred feet off the trail, tucked behind some spruce trees. Our site even had leftover gathered wood from a previous occupant and stone chairs (thanks fellow hikers!). Despite being so close to the water, the insects (including ticks, surprisingly) weren't a problem. I heard fox and barred owl calling in the night, but didn't see any animals during our hike in or out the next day. Judy Springs trail was tough, that ascent through the meadow is beautiful but with the sun beating down on you it gets hot quickly. That footbridge is the last time you'll see water, so take advantage of it if you're running low when you're heading back up the hill. Overall a great hike and gorgeous camp sites, easily a new favorite.