There are shorter routes to West Virginia’s highest peak, but this 11.5-mile point-to-point is the ultimate scenic route. Located within Monongahela National Forest, the route crests the ridge of Allegheny Mountain, dips into Seneca Creek, and shoots 1,400 feet to the summit. Plus: Pass Seneca Rocks, one of the East’s premier trad-climbing areas on the drive. Feeling ambitious? Hike this in a long day. Or extend it to an overnighter; there are well established campsites along Seneca Creek in addition to Judy Springs Campground.
From Spring Ridge trailhead, head east, climbing three miles to the Allegheny Mountain Trail. Take it east along a ridge .2 mile to the Horton Trail, leading one mile to Seneca Creek Trail. Take it 1.4 miles to the backcountry campsites at the Judy Springs Campground. Next day, continue .5 mile to the Horton Trail. Take it 500 feet south to link the Lumberjack and Huckleberry Trails to the ridge of Spruce Mountain, hitting the summit in 4.5 miles.
Note: For an alternate route, start on the Horton Trail, which is located approximately one mile past the Spring Ridge trailhead on CR 29. This route avoids the tricky turn and ultimately joins the original route at the intersection of Allegheny Mountain and Horton Trails. The Horton Trail also appears to be more specifically suited to hikers, whereas Spring Ridge is a wide grass lane that is popular with horseback riders.
GUIDEBOOK: Hiking West Virginia, by Steven Carroll and Mark Miller ($16, falcon.com)
CONTACT: (304) 257-4488, fs.usda.gov
-Mapped by Wesley Stien
TO TRAILHEAD: Shuttle car: From D.C., take I-66 west 75 miles to I-81 and head south four miles to VA 55. Go 89 miles to a right on CR 33 south of Seneca Rocks. In 2.5 miles, turn right on FR 112 and drive 7.5 miles to FR 104, which leads to parking atop Spruce Mountain.
Trailhead: Take FR 104 to FR 112. Turn right and go six miles to FR 1. Take it 11.5 miles (becomes CR 29) to Spring Ridge trailhead.
- Distance: 18.4
Location: 38.789282, -79.554105
From Spring Ridge trailhead, head east and climb to the crest of Spring Ridge. Be prepared to ascend more than 1,250 feet. Ahead, pass an interesting rock outcropping and several meadows.
Location: 38.784599, -79.530888
Hike through a meadow.
Location: 38.779832, -79.514408
Turn left onto Allegheny Mountain Trail. Note: There is no sign marking this junction. Turn 270 degrees and descend through an overgrown meadow, staying to the left to reconnect with the trail. From here, the trail drops to Seneca Creek, a renowned wild trout stream.
Location: 38.780568, -79.511919
Turn right on Horton Trail.
Location: 38.769945, -79.508507
Cross creek to stay on Horton Trail. You will cross the creek no fewer than four times in the next 1.5 miles. Caution: High water could make these crossings difficult to impossible and extremely dangerous. Check water levels before you go, especially in the spring.
Location: 38.768238, -79.508357
Pass Upper Seneca Falls, which drops 30 feet into a small pool.
Location: 38.767519, -79.508207
Turn right on Seneca Creek Trail, and cross creek.
Location: 38.751824, -79.518421
Allegheny Mountain Trail joins Seneca Creek.
Location: 38.75067, -79.517198
Turn left onto Judy Springs Trail after the crossing wooden bridge.
Location: 38.750857, -79.517353
Judy Springs Campsite
Location: 38.754318, -79.508121
Turn right on Huckleberry Trail.
Location: 38.750818, -79.507492
Cross Lumberjack Trail and continue on Huckleberry.
Location: 38.701738, -79.531081
Spruce Knob (4,863 ft.): Take in views from West Virginia's highest peak. Pick up shuttle car in lot and drive back to the trailhead.
View from Spruce Mountain
Location: 38.724325, -79.5193
Spring Ridge Trailhead
Location: 38.789299, -79.553869
Rock Outcropping on Spring Ridge
Location: 38.791707, -79.54623
Meadows along Spring Ridge
Location: 38.784632, -79.530416
Spring Ridge and Allegheny Junction
Location: 38.779915, -79.514129
Looking back toward Spring Ridge Trail.
Location: 38.780016, -79.513872
This is looking up Allegheny Mountain Trail in the wrong direction. The little girl is looking in the right direction.
Location: 38.775482, -79.511189
It was a surprise to find mountain laurel still in bloom in mid-July.
Location: 38.768255, -79.5081
Crossing Seneca Creek
Location: 38.767536, -79.507971
Potentially dangerous river crossing.
Horses at Judy Spring Campground
Location: 38.750891, -79.517273
Climbing Judy Spring Trail
Location: 38.751121, -79.514837
Judy Spring Trail Vista
Location: 38.753481, -79.510117
Location: 38.742904, -79.499774
Location: 38.743842, -79.502735
Location: 38.734636, -79.513078
Location: 38.709056, -79.527454
Huckleberry Trailhead on Spruce Knob
Location: 38.702425, -79.531124
Location: 38.701856, -79.531317
Spruce Knob Observation Tower
Location: 38.700198, -79.532433