Explore West Virginia's Seneca Rocks
In the tiny community of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, near the confluence of Seneca Creek and the North Fork River, an imposing crag rises nearly 900' from the forest floor. The towering wall of Tuscarora sandstone is impossible to miss. Beloved by all who call the Mountain State home, Seneca Rocks offers up massive views to those willing to bypass the "Since 1971, 15 people have died at Seneca Rocks from falls" sign and scramble to its summit. It's one of the best sunrise and sunset spots in the state taking a backseat only to neighboring North Fork Mountain & Chimney Top. We've done this one about a half dozen times, once twice in one day, and it never gets old.
Trailhead elevation 1,545'
Water North Fork South Branch Potomac River
Don't miss Scrambling to the ridge
Hiking to Seneca Rocks
If you use AllTrails for directions you'll end up about a quarter mile from the trailhead, so instead just search for the Seneca Rocks Trailhead in Google Maps and start from there. Within 100 yards from the trailhead you'll cross a bridge over the North Fork River, enter a forest of mixed hardwoods, and begin a series of switchbacks all the way to an overlook. The hike up is pretty uneventful and comes with zero views, but there's more to come...for some.
Those with a fear of heights can call it a day and enjoy the view from the overlook, but the real magic with this one lies in what lies ahead. A few feet above the overlook you'll find a warning sign advising of the dangers of traveling any higher. Jackpot.
Here, an unofficial yet well-defined path leads up the rocky slope before reaching a semi exposed area to the right. From here you can carefully walk along the top of the crag as far as you like. The drops on either side are likely unsurvivable, but there's a decent amount of room to safely navigate the ridge. The image below was taken with one of our drones to show what you're working with. If I were to have accidentally fallen forward from where I was sitting I'd have likely fallen onto a small ledge about five feet below, but a fall backwards or if I hadn't caught the ledge in front of me it would have been no bueno.
If you want any hint of solitude up here we recommend getting up top before or during sunrise. After that the crowds really pack it tight. The photo below was taken about fifteen minutes after sunrise in mid-October. I'm sitting in the same position below as above, just shot from a different angle. If you zoom in you'll find me along the top of the ridge and that's about as far as we recommend going. After that you'd need climbing gear for the downclimb.
Speaking of climbing. During WWII the US Army set up climbing routes on Seneca Rocks to prepare soldiers for climbing in the Swiss Alps and today there are more than 340 established routes up the crag, ranging from 5.0 to 5.13. That being said, do your best not to kick anything off the crag when you're up there. When you've taken in all the views that you can handle simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead
If you have time to spare after your hike, the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center is near the base of the crag and worth a visit. Yokum's Vacationland is across the street and has a decent hot grill, groceries, cold drinks, beer, ice, and pretty much anything you'd need for camping. This is also where you'd check in and pay for your stay if you're camping at nearby Yokum's Campground. The campground is actually pretty solid and the night skies here are incredible. Just don't get duped into one of the concrete floor teepees. If you're interested in another hike you have some pretty awesome options nearby. The North Fork Mountain to Chimney Top Trail might be the best hike in the entire state and its trailhead is only twenty north, just off WV-55. Killer hammock camping along the ridge and bonkers views.
Spruce Knob, the highest peak in West Virginia, is about thirty minutes from Seneca Rocks and a great spot to catch sunset from. There's also a really great backpacking route up there that utilizes the Huckleberry, Lumberjack, High Meadows, Horton, and Seneca Creek Trails to form a seventeen mile loop with some incredible backcountry camping options. NROCKS via ferrata is one of the best via ferrata rock climbing routes east of the Mississippi and about a half an hour away as well. That should be plenty to keep you busy over the course of a weekend.
Have a blast, be safe, and make a ton of memories out there!