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Seneca Cattle Trail
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Seneca Cattle Trail

Seneca Cattle Trail

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: West Virginia, United States, North America

Object Title: Seneca Cattle Trail

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 24, 2009

Activities: Hiking

Season: Summer


Page By: dwhike

Created/Edited: Jul 9, 2009 / Jul 9, 2009

Object ID: 528053

Hits: 2065 

Page Score: 75.8%  - 6 Votes 

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How to Beg...

One day...one day was all I would be allotted in the mountains of West Virginia. The two places I was most interested in visiting were Spruce Knob and the Dolly Sods area to the north. I had certainly heard about Seneca Rocks...anyone who knows anything about climbing in the southeast has...and I had noticed it sat pretty much halfway between the two other areas I was out to explore. The perfect lunch stop, I figured. I also assumed that I would be able to resist climbing Seneca Rocks. I figured while beautiful, they weren't a major summit so the desire to climb might be lessened...haha, yeah right...

We arrived at the base of the rocks at around 1pm and decided to kick around the visitors center quick before heading over to the picnic area. With only another 5 hours or so until we had to hop back over the ridge to Virginia we were going to have to be quick...but the rocks were already calling me. I casually asked the ranger at the desk how long the trail was to the top, hoping she would say 3 or more miles and therefore giving me no chance to make a run at the top. "It's about 1.5 miles to the overlook..." Quickly numbers started running through my head...3 miles round trip...no stops up, running down, maybe an hour...add time for a bit of scrambling at the top...maybe an hour and a half...

"Hey, honey what would you think if I made a quick run up to the top while you and the kids have lunch?" She looked up at the rocks skeptically...lunches don't typically take an hour and a half so I could see I'd have to sweeten the deal.

"You could maybe head over to the shops across the road and see if there's anything you'd like..." That did it...I was free for a quick adventure...

A Quick Stretch of the Legs...

Seneca Rocks
Seneca Rocks

The view from the picnic area near the visitors center. It's 1.3 miles to the top from here with a vertical climb of 900'. As the 'most used trail in the Monongahela' I figured I could make good time...

10th Mountian Division Monument

This plaque near the trailhead honors the members of the 10th Mountain division who trained here in World War 2...

Crossing the Potomac
Big Bridge

Testimony to the huge numbers of people that make this hike every year are the two steel bridges that take you across the South Branch of the Potomac River...

Info and Warnings
Info Please

The standard kiosk with all the advisories and warnings you can expect of a popular trail in the mountains...

South Branch of the Potomac River
The Potomac

The South Branch of the Potomac was beautiful albeit quite low for all the rain the area had received in the previous weeks...

Hardhats Required

As the trail crosses underneath the cliff face the forest floor becomes littered with boulders of every size which long ago had fallen from the heights above...

Limited Views

Views are pretty much non-existent on the way up. This was the only one I caught shortly before reaching the top, looking west...

Keep Off the Wall
The Wall

How do you prevent people from cutting across switchbacks? Build a big 'ol wall, of course!!

Nearing the Top
Forest View

The forest cuts off any views you might otherwise have on the way up...quite typical of the southern mountains and the relatively low elevations I was still at...

Stop Sign
Stop Sign

I wasn't real impressed with the views from the observation platform...it's always prettier if you head out where you're not supposed to go in my experience...

Cliff Views
Cliff Views

The crossroads of Seneca Rocks is visible through the trees as I begin to break out in the open...

View from the Top
The Top

Now THIS is what I broke a sweat for!! The sweeping panorama to the south of the Potomac Valley was incredible. Spruce Knob, West Virginia's highest point, is somewhere along the high ridge on the distant right...

Free Climber
Free Climber

A natural free-climber enjoying the rocks near the top...

In the Crack...
The Crack

I had to make my way down a narrow crack to get farther out onto the cliffs..

Seneca Clifftops
Seneca Clifftops

This is as wide as the rocks get atop Seneca Rocks...typically they are about as wide as the outcrop to the right, the destination I was aiming for...

How High?
Hero Shot

Now normally I don't suffer from vertigo in the mountains...here however, on a four-foot wide fin of rock with nearly a thousand feet of atmosphere to each side of me I was clinging a bit tighter than normal...

Western Panorama
Western View

The panorama to the west is a bit restricted due to the higher terrain in that direction but its still quite beautiful, don't you think?

Paradise Found...

If the owner of this cabin ever decides to sell, could someone please let me know? I can't even imagine how it must feel to live on a slice of paradise like that...

Cliff Edge...
Cliff Edge

After too short a time at the top I clambered down the side a ways to get a few more shots of the cliffs...

Yet Another Picture
Waiting Again

My brother Nate hangs out patiently while big brother shoots another dozen photos...

Looking North
View North

The views to the north are quite restricted. I had to climb out on a rather steep ledge to get this shot. The Dolly Sods area, where I was headed next, sits somewhere atop the high ridges at the center-left...

Rocky Spine
Rocky Spine

The sharp spine of rock that forms the Seneca Rocks continues north in a less spectacular fashion...

Northern Panorama
Northern Panorama

Another panoramic shot of the view north from the rocks. The picnic area/campground where I was to meet my family is marked by the large field below...

Closer Look
A Look back

After an attempt at running down ended with a twisted ankle picture taking came to a halt until we reached the bottom. This shot looks back up at the cliff face I had scrambled around. The observation deck is off the shot to the extreme left...I had climbed out to the high ledge almost dead-center just to the right of the "v" shaped notch in the ridge. I could have spent hours more exploring but I was happy just to have had the chance...it's quite a wonderful place!


Seneca RocksIn the Crack...South Branch of the Potomac RiverParadise Found...Limited ViewsCliff Edge...Keep Off the Wall
Nearing the TopView from the TopCliff ViewsFree ClimberCloser LookCrossing the PotomacSeneca Clifftops
[ View Gallery - 10 More Images ]


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crussellbowdenGreat TR


Voted 9/10

Loved all the pictures; it looks like it was perfect weather for a quick leg-stretching shimmy up the trail.
Posted Dec 20, 2015 8:02 pm

Viewing: 1-1 of 1