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Spruce Knob / Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

Spruce Knob - Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

Spruce Knob--Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is located in Monongahela National Forest found in east central West Virginia. Here you can enjoy spectacular scenery and outstanding outdoor recreation at the headwaters of the Potomac River.

Encompassing 100,000 acres, the scenic National Recreation Area (NRA) contains the highest peak in West Virginia, some of the best rock climbing on the east coast, outstanding views and a chance to enjoy a premier site in the Bay watershed.

From the rugged peaks, you can view grassy openings and pastures or look down on forested ridges and envision the long route to the Chesapeake. In late spring through summer, the flowers of azaleas, mountain laurel, and rhododendron appear. Use your imagination to see how the area may have looked to early settlers, as they crested the mountain ridges or moved up the river. Imagine living a self-sufficient life on a high hillside farm. Envision the Native Americans gathering food on hunting forays. You will discover not only beauty, but a sense of history at the western most point in the Bay watershed.

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Image Credit: Jim Walton / Wikimedia

Hours

The grounds of National Recreation Area is open year round.

Visitor Center hours of operation are 9am - 4:30pm

  • March 31 to May 14
    • Friday, Saturday, Sunday
  • May 17 to September 3
    • Seven days a week
  • September 6 to October 29
    • Wednesday-Sunday

The Center will close for the season on October 30.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

No fee for entrance

Fees for campground use can be found on Recreation.gov

Activities

The National Recreation Area provides opportunities for hiking, camping, picnicing, wildlife viewing, rock-climbing and other outdoor activities. Visitors can call or stop by the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center for information about all recreation area activities and facilities.

Seneca Rocks

Hiking: To hike to the top of Seneca Rocks, start at the Visitor Center. A 1.3 mile, self-guided, interpretive trail ascends the north edge of the Rocks to a viewing platform. Although steep with many steps, people of all ages have enjoyed the scenery viewed by walking this trail.

Camping: There are two developed Forest Service campgrounds with in the National Recreational Area. Seneca Shadows is on Route 33, one mile south of Seneca Rocks. Big Bend is reached by State Route 2, off of U.S. Route 220, approximately nine miles north of Upper Tract. Camping is allowed in the National Recreational Area outside of designated areas.

Fishing: Behind the Visitor Center, a 3/4 mile section on the North Fork is "Catch and Release" only. All fish must be returned to the water. Only artificial lures may be used. Possession of any bait is illegal. Special area regulations and other information on the North Fork and Seneca Creek can be found in the West Virginia fishing regulations brochure.

Picnicing: Many tables and barbecue grills are located near the river. Restroom facilities are available all year.

Spruce Knob

Observation tower: A stone and steel observation tower sits atop the Knob, providing visitors with a 360-degree view. The half-mile Whispering Spruce Trail circles the Knob. Interpretive signs along the gentle, graveled trail describe the high country vegetation, geology, and animal life. Vault toilets and vehicle parking are available at the tower.

Picnic area: The Spruce Knob Picnic Area lies 1.5 miles south of the observation tower. A well, vault toilets, picnic tables, and barbecue grills are nestled amongst a dense stand of spruce trees.

Camping: Gatewood Campground has six sites and Spruce Knob Lake campground has 43 sites. Roadside camping is permitted most areas of the recreation area. Camping is prohibited at or near Spruce Knob Lake. Off-road vehicles are prohibited on National Forest lands except on designated routes.

Fishing: Spruce Knob Lake provides a 25-acre impoundment regularly stocked with trout. A wooden pier provides level, easy access for all visitors and is close to the parking area. Anglers may also enjoy stream fishing for rainbow, brown, and brook trout in the Gandy Creek and Seneca Creek drainages west of Spruce Knob.

Hiking: Approximately 60 miles of hiking trails offer splendid panoramic views in the Spruce Knob area. Located near the lake, Gatewood Nature Trail offers a three-mile loop in a tranquil setting. Many more trails crisscross the woods and ridges nearby.

Water Flow Info:

Facilities

  • Seneca Rocks Discovery Center
  • Seneca Shadows and Big Bend campgrounds
  • Spruce Knob Tower

History

Congress established the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area in 1965. This area is unique because it was the first NRA to be designated in the USDA Forest Service.

Weather

Last updated: February 27, 2020
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