Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek
The best camping in the Monongahela
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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:
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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
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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: Be Safe Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 09, 2018
This is a serious message about hiking safety. We started at the trailhead of Seneca #515 on Friday 6/8, camped overnight at the upper falls of the Seneca. Our intention was to do some fly fishing while hiking and camping. All was good until we started to go to the un-trailed portion of Seneca Creek in an effort to get down to the lower falls of the Seneca at the end of FR 1580 and get back to the parking lot near White's Run where Allegheny Mountain Trail 532 ends. To be clear, this section of Seneca Creek between the trailed section and the lower falls is impassable, dangerous and quite possibly deadly. There were three experienced hikers in our party, about 2/3 of the way down we decided to send one ahead to notify authorities. He made it out at the lower falls at about 10 hours after leaving, we followed out about 2 hours later. If you have any ideas that this hike will be a nature walk, good adventure or "test" of your hiking skills I strongly recommend that you put your affairs in order before you leave on this hike because you may never return. My advice to anyone hiking off the USFS trails is to avoid this kind of stunt, it is a bad idea. Beyond the pure danger, the scenery is indescribably beautiful with natural wonder. Many waterfalls over 20' high, dozens of low falls 10' high, rock formations that boggle the mind, crystal-clear water...truly the very best West Virginia and the Appalachian mountains have to offer. This was beauty that I will never see in my life again! Don't be foolish and risk you life to see it...be safe!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, April 04, 2018
We did this hike over Spring Break and will write a thorough review soon. In the meantime, we thought folks might want to see our post that tells the story behind the plane wreckage featured along Lumberjack Trail: https://wp.me/p8ebJj-NT

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, March 10, 2018
Leaving a review mostly to comment on the trail conditions when we went in early March 2018. This winter has not been very snowy, and there was no snow at the base of the mountain when we turned off of WV-28 onto Briery Gap Road. We encountered snow about halfway up the mountain, on the unmaintained Forest Roads however, the road up to the top is not steep, we stuck to the tracks that previous cars had left, and had no trouble making it up the mountain even in a small front wheel drive sedan. The composting toilet at the parking lot was open and stocked with plenty of toilet paper. There was no cell reception I would recommend downloading an offline map/directions ahead of time.

We walked a few miles down the Huckleberry Trail the snow was several inches deep, but it was fairly obvious where the trail went in most places, and there are trail blazes every few hundred feet. (It didn't hurt that we were following a couple sets of earlier footprints.) We were able to walk in normal shoes/boots - no skis or snowshoes required, though it was obviously harder to walk in than the trail would be were it dry. We passed several of the campsites mentioned in the trail description, completely covered in snow - if you wanted to camp, you'd have to clear it away or camp on top of the snow. We also saw a few animal tracks - deer, and something small with paws and claws! We're definitely looking forward to going back later in the year once the trail thaws out!


By: Collin Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, October 14, 2017
Second time hiking this. I made a last-minute decision to do this whole guy in a day. Being of relative fitness with a desk job was able to do it in just shy of 7 hours. The ridge down on Huckleberry is gorgeous and has some great waterless camping. Depending on how muddy some sections of this trail is will give you a good gauge of how bad lumberjack will be. A lot of reviews say Lumberjack is terrible, but on a drier spell there are only 2 sections that will give you trouble. Last time I hiked it rained 4 inches the day before and I managed to get through this section without wet sneakers with a bit of rock hopping (pro-tip: use trekking poles to poke around for rocks where you don't initially see any).

High Meadows trail is incredible. You pass through 3 meadows with the first two being the best. I really like the second, but there is nowhere really to sit and enjoy that isn't right on the trail. The covered sections are nice as well, but there are a significant amount of angular rocks at each step.

The creek is beautiful with plenty of camping. The "best camping spot in all of WV" is always occupied, but you can check anyway. It is about 15 minutes from the first creek crossing.

When you hit the wood bridge it is a tad confusing especially if there are leaves down. Take a left to a campsite that is only 50 ft away and then look to the right and you will see the trail starting to head up. To know you are on the right track- after maybe 5-10 minutes of uphill you will come to a wooden gate that is at the start of the last meadow. Once you get back to the ridgeline however you will always have the same thought- you will enjoy it for about half the distance and then the last 2 miles you will not understand why it is so long. It is too bad that this hike overlaps the same trail for about 9 miles, but so it goes. Definitely my favorite hike in WV/VA.


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.


    View all 38 reviews for the Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek hike
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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