Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks, near Riverton, West Virginia, is a popular destination for rock climbers. There are a number of attractions in the general area, including a nice campground on Spruce Knob and Smoke Hole Caverns. For the more adventurous, the Dolly Sods Wilderness area is a half hour drive away. I’ve not made it to the caverns yet, but I have climbed Seneca Rocks, camped on Spruce Knob, and backpacked through the Dolly Sods Wilderness. I’ve been to the area several times, but the shots below are from my most recent trip in 2014.

The most recent visit prior to that was all the way back in 2002. I camped on Spruce Knob with my girlfriend (later wife), and we climbed Seneca Rocks together our first morning there. We did not have the climbing gear to do it the hard way, so we followed a lengthy switchback trail to the top. There is nearly 1000 feet of altitude change between the base and the summit. That trail is a steep mile and a half! I felt that I was in much better physical condition in 2014 than I was in 2002, so I hoped that the climb would be less strenuous, and it was. The view from the top is worth the effort. It’s actually possible to follow the trail to its end, then go out onto the knife back ridge.

The ridge is only a few feet wide, and there is nothing but rock once you leave the trail. The sign is half correct. The view is not exactly the same, but it probably isn’t worth the risk.

Seneca Creek was a pleasant hike to end the day. There were little zen rock towers scattered along its length. I’ve grown accustomed to finding them in most natural places. I find them oddly reassuring, and they are always a welcome sight.

The next morning, I moved on to Blackbird Knob in the Dolly Sods Wilderness. Dolly Sods is geared towards backpackers rather than day hikers. There is no campground, only a parking lot at the trail head. Backpacking poses a set of challenges not faced by the base camper. Everything needed for the duration of the trip has to fit into a backpack. Food will consist mainly of freeze fried meals, trail mix, and protein bars. Fortunately, I was able to supplement those with the fresh raspberries and blackberries that grew wild along the trail. Water is always a little tricky. It weighs a lot, and every ounce counts when backpacking. I carried two half liter bottles. That was enough to keep me hydrated over the 8 to 12 miles I expected to cover each day. I made sure that my evening campsites were near a creek so that I could refill the bottles using a portable filter. I had never hiked Dolly Sods before, and the trails were a little more difficult than I anticipated. I was not able to reliably cover the daily mileage that I had planned. In the end, it was only a minor inconvenience. I just had to reroute a few sections of trail to make up the difference. I did miss out on seeing Bear Rocks, but I’m told that they are at their most spectacular in the fall. That just gives me a reason for a return trip at some point.


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