Tucked away in eastern West Virginia, Seneca Rocks soar 900 feet above the tranquil waters of the North Fork South Branch Potomac River. This iconic landmark lies cradled within the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a gem of the Monongahela National Forest.
Long before the echo of European footsteps resounded in these lands, Native American tribes—among them the Algonquian, Tuscarora, and Seneca—found solace here, setting up camp by the calming embrace of Seneca Creek. These indigenous people treaded the Great Indian Warpath, often referred to as the Seneca Trail, that meandered alongside the Potomac River, forging connections between these ancient nations. By 1746, European explorers charted their course through this enchanting terrain, with the first settlers laying claim to it by 1761. The sheer beauty and magnificence of Seneca Rocks captivated the imagination of David Hunter Strother, an acclaimed writer and illustrator. In 1853, he sketched this stunning formation, which later found its way into the pages of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1872, as a resplendent wood engraving.
The allure of these rocks wasn’t confined to just artists and settlers. The adventurous spirit of Paul Bradt and Florence Perry led them to make the first documented climb of the monument in 1935. However, it wasn’t until the late 1930s and 1940s that brave climbers, primarily from Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, dared to face the challenges of the crag. Between 1943-44, the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division found in these rocks an ideal training ground, prepping mountain troops for daunting climbs in Italy’s Apennines.
In a nod to its invaluable heritage and beauty, the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area found its rightful place within the Monongahela National Forest in September 1965. Later, in a significant act of preservation, the federal government acquired the rocks from the heirs of D. C. Harper in 1969, ensuring they would remain untouched for future generations.
Today, Seneca Rocks beckons adventurers and dreamers alike. Hikers ascend their paths, seeking the panoramic embrace of the Potomac River valley, while avid rock climbers, armed with over 375 distinct routes, challenge the very essence of the crag, all in pursuit of that next great vista.