Seneca Creek

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Sierra Club MWROP Photography Backpacking Trip:
Seneca Creek & Spruce Knob, WV

Firm Dates:
July 1 - 4, 2005, Friday night to Monday afternoon

Monongahela National Forest in the central highlands of West Virginia

Motel for first night:
The Hermitage
203 Virginia Avenue
Petersburg, WV 26847

Carpool meeting time & place:
To be determined, depending on how many people go and where they live we may meet in Virginia and carpool from there or drive separately

Estimated motel cost:
$35.00/person double occupancy
$65.00/person single occupancy

Suggested carpool fee:

Trip Description:

Non-photographers are welcome on this trip. Over the Memorial Day weekend I was on a MWROP backpacking trip here led by Glenn Gillis. I've done many backpacking and backcountry skiing trips to the central highlands of West Virginia but had never been to these two locations. Spruce Knob is a beautiful area reminiscent of Dolly Sods, and Seneca Creek is among the most beautiful creeks I've ever seen. Portions of Seneca Creek are loaded with Rhododendrons and I knew it would be a great site for photography so I've attempted to plan this trip to coincide with the Rhododendron blooms but of course there are no guarantees. I discussed it with the local Rangers and they estimated this weekend could be in the middle of the bloom.

Spruce Knob & Seneca Creek are located in the Potomac Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest in the central highlands of West Virginia. This lush, green, cool setting is ideal for summer backpacking trips. It's also one of the premier backpacking and backcountry ski destinations in the east. Many of the plants growing on Spruce Knob are arctic remnants from the ice age. There is an excellent article in Backpacker Magazine, Oct 96, titled "Sky Islands". Its about high alpine mountains or plateaus that were once covered with glaciers. When they receded, they left tundra like flora behind. Dolly Sods, Spruce Knob, and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire are the only examples in the East. The article is mostly about the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona but the result is similar here.

We will cover approximately 20 miles in three days with an approximate 2500' gain in total elevation. This is a strenuous trip suitable for experienced, fit backpackers, and strong dayhikers only. 

Each participant is required to provide their own gear and food. Plan on carrying food for Saturday lunch to Monday lunch, plus snacks. Assume that fires are not permitted and that all cooking will be done on backpacking stoves. People who do not have the necessary equipment can rent the large items (tent, backpack, sleeping bag, stove) from some of the local outdoor stores. We will carpool to and from WV, I will provide a list of participants. Trip size is limited to ten people. Saturday breakfast and Monday dinner will be in a restaurant.

Expect daytime temperatures in the 70's and 80's with nighttime temperatures dropping into the 50's at higher elevations, probably the 60's at lower elevations. Spruce Knob is the highest point in WV so bring good raingear and a tent.


Some Necessary Items

  • sturdy, broken in hiking boots
  • Teva's (river sandals) or aqua socks for stream crossings & swimming holes
  • tent
  • sleeping bag plus pad
  • rain gear
  • some extra clothes
  • wool sweater or fleece jacket
  • light but warm knit hat
  • sunscreen, sunglasses, baseball hat or hat with brim
  • flashlight, extra bulb and batteries
  • compass readable to 1 or 2 degrees - declination correction strongly preferred
  • topographic map (I have printed out a map for each person)
  • toilet paper + trowel
  • matches in waterproof container
  • pocket knife
  • biodegradable soap, wash cloth, towel
  • backpack
  • stove
  • food
  • water, water filter
  • necessary personal first aid items
  • bug repellent
  • swim suit


Common Items

If people want to share tents, water filters, first aid kits, stoves, or meals, you can work that out for yourselves from the participant list which will be emailed. We really only need one stove, first aid kit, and water purifier for every two or three people. I will try to coordinate this somewhat.

Guidebook & Maps

Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide, Allen de Hart & Bruce Sundquist, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, 7th Edition 

REI sells the Hiking Guide, and their own custom topographic maps of the region, everyone should have a set of maps. You can copy smaller topographic maps from the guidebook.

I will provide a list of trails and if I have time I will provide a set of topographic maps.

Potomac Ranger District
HC59, Box 240
Petersburg, WV 26847

Health Problems

If anyone has a health problem that I should know about, please tell me before you pass out. Anyone who is susceptible to anaphylactic shock from bee stings must provide their own epi pen, I DO NOT carry one in my first aid kit.


Bring more food than you would normally eat. As a backpacker, you will appreciate the concept of food as fuel. Bring things that are lightweight, tasty, and nutritious but also easy to prepare, cook, and clean up after. Also bring foods that will not spoil in the heat. Plan a menu from Saturday lunch to Monday lunch plus snacks.


There is plenty of water here. We will try to hit a swimming hole at the end of each day if it's warm enough.

Leave No Trace

We will practice "Leave No Trace" backcountry ethics. This means that we pack out all of our trash and garbage. It also means that we do not use soap or shampoo to wash in mountain lakes or streams. Just swimming in the water without using soap works pretty well all by itself for getting clean. Use a folding basin and/or wash cloth and soap/shampoo a reasonable distance away from lakes or streams to wash more thoroughly. It's okay to use a tiny amount of biodegradable soap in the lake or stream just to wash your hands and face.


The cost is $35.00 (double) or $65.00 (single) per participant. This is for a single nights lodging in the motel the first night. People must pay in advance to register for the trip. If you haven't paid, your not signed up.  You will also need money for gas for the drivers ($15 per rider), the first morning's breakfast, the last evening's dinner, and a voluntary $1 contribution to MWROP.

Please make the check (for lodging only) payable to Sierra Club MWROP and mail it to me.

Trip Leader:

Ted Fryberger
6259 Deep River Canyon
Columbia, MD 21045
Phone: 443-917-2902W/H

Driving Directions:

To Oakton Center (we may or may not meet here for carpooling - I will contact everyone about this)
From 495 beltway take Rt. 66 West
take second exit Rt. 123 North
left at fifth traffic light into Oakton Center
meet at front of parking lot, in front of McDonald's, near Rt. 123

To Petersburg, WV
From the Oakton Center take Rt. 123 South to Rt. 66
Rt. 66 West for 60 miles
Rt. 81 West or South for 4 miles
Rt. 55 West for 48 miles
Rt. 220 South for 12 miles to Petersburg, WV (220/28/55 run coincident for a while)
The Hermitage is on the main street of Petersburg
125 miles total, 2 hr 47 minutes (optimistic) estimated travel time from Oakton Center in VA

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