Seneca Rocks, West Virginia


One of West Virginia’s most celebrated natural landmarks looks more like it belongs in Sedona, Arizona, than a state that’s known for rounded, tree-covered hills.  But here they are: a tall, narrow knife-edge of quartz, sticking out of the side of an otherwise ordinary mountain, and towering over the equally-incredible Germany Valley.

The Seneca Rocks aren’t alone.  This vein of quartz runs for miles through the River Knobs, a series of mountains that run along the edge of the Germany Valley.  Similar protrusions (technically, they are crags) shoot out of the mountainsides at places like Champe Rocks (to the north–quite beautiful, but I couldn’t find a place to stop and take a picture) and Nelson Rocks (to the south — home of NRocks’ Via Ferrata).

The best time to visit Seneca Rocks, if you just want to take a picture, would be just before sunset, when the orange sun lights up the rocks.  If you arrive earlier in the day, you can tackle a 1.3 mile trail (one way) which leads to a viewing platform at the top of the rocks.

I had already climbed the Via Ferrata at nearby Nelson Rocks, so I figured the view would be similar (not to mention, another long uphill climb didn’t sound very exciting).  I only made it as far as the footbridge — the trail continues from there.

Nearby, the old Sites Homestead has been preserved.  The home itself was originally built in 1839 by early settler Jacob Sites.  Rooms were added in the 1860’s, and the structure was renovated in 1990.  On Saturdays, the home is open for tours, and you can also arrange a tour on other days, by asking at the nearby Visitor’s Center.

Forest Service workers have tried to make the area surrounding the old homestead as authentic as possible.  They grow the same vegetables and herbs that likely grew here 150 years ago.

South of the homestead area, you’ll find the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center — a very large and fancy building that hopefully will enhance your visit.  It wasn’t much of a help to me, though.  Both times I was here (I tried to visit early and late on Day 4) the building was closed.  Apparently, it has very short operating hours, even during the summer months.  The parking area is a long distance away from the front entrance, for no apparent reason.  There’s nothing like making that long walk, only to find out that you’ve arrived too early or too late in the day.  And, while I’m complaining, I’ll also mention the confusing sidewalks on the lower side of the building, which seem more like a maze (complete with dead ends, at the locked doors of the Discovery Center).  The good news is, you can avoid this whole confusing mess, by parking near the homestead instead of at the visitor’s center.  The entrance to that parking lot is northof the US 33/WV 28/WV 55 junction, while the entrance to the Discovery Center is south of the intersection.

There are a couple of good convenience stores/souvenir shops at the junction at Seneca Rocks.  Be sure to check out the older building, which seemed to have a better selection of souvenirs.

Once you’re done at Seneca Rocks, head west on US 33.  At WV Rte. 32, turn right, headed north.  This road will take you through Canaan Valley and on to Blackwater Falls, our next stop.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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