West Virginia - Spruce Knob

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Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia. At 4,863 feet, the crown sits atop the summit of Spruce Mountain in the Allegheny Mountains. From Bear Rocks Trailhead—the start/end point of my Dolly Sods backpacking trip—it’s a short 25-mile drive to reach Seneca Rocks: a teeny, unincorporated town where theSeneca Rocks Discovery Center is located, where visitors can get information and maps on the Seneca Creek Backcountry area—where Spruce Knob is located—and access the Seneca Rocks climbing area.

From the center, visitors need to drive another 45 minutes on a super windy, pretty-much-single-lane—though, paved—mountain road to reach Spruce Knob’s observation tower and 360-degree views. Warning: do not miss the sign for road 33/4! I found myself at a gas station 40 minutes away in Franklin before I realized I’d breezed right past the turnoff. The road—also called Briery Gap—isonly 10 miles (about a 12-minute drive) south of the town of Seneca Rocks. Once you turn (right), you’ll eventually reach the East Overlook. Stop there for a great photo opportunity, then continue and when you reach a fork in the road, veer right to reach the observation tower. From the parking area, it’s a short half-mile stroll to the vista point.

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The panorama was spectacular, but if I did this trip again, I would not drive to the lookout just for the lookout. Preferably, I’d arrange my trip so that I absolutely spent one night backpacking in the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, which includes nearly 60 miles of forested trails that create a web through maple, birch and cherry trees.Here’s a Seneca Creek Backcountry map. When I stopped by the visitor’s center, I learned about several popular day hikes, as well:

  • High Meadows Trail (TR 564), which has big, open meadows
  • Lumberjack Trail (TR 534), known for its historic plane crash ruins
  • Judy Springs Trail (TR 512): popular for its waterfall and swimming hole
  • Huckleberry Trail (TR 533), that can be descended straight from the observation tower
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