The combination of physical activity and beautiful views of forests, mountains and bodies of water is what attracts me to rock climbing. Definitely not a rock climber, I am more a person who loves to climb rocks on occasion and practice with less than sufficient regularity at the local climbing gym. This I don’t mean with any disrespect to this rigorous, disciplined and mindful sport. It is just how I happen to be able to include this activity in my life, together with many other interests. Since I started to explore the world of rock climbing in 2008, Seneca Rocks in West Virginia, USA, is where I go when outdoor climbing calls me.
Located in Pendleton County, the town is reached through narrow and charming country roads that cut through the Appalachians.
The area where Seneca Rocks stand 900 feet above the North Fork River was purchased by the federal government in 1969 and is under the oversight of the USDA Forest Service, as part of the Monongahela National Forest.
The Forest Service maintains the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, located right at the base of the Rocks at the intersection of Route 33 and Route 55 in West Virginia; a good place to start if you are visiting for the first time. Here is the Center looking particularly beautiful with the field in front of it covered in Queen Anne’s Lace.
One of the things that have made me come back several times to Seneca Rocks is not a thing, is a group of people. The owners and guides at the Gendarme Store and Seneca Rocks Climbing School make for a really special group of people who I have trusted over and over in my learner’s ascents. Traditional multi-pitch climbing requires extra attention and mindfulness in addition to knowledge of the crag, and I have found these qualities in abundance here.
At the end of a climbing day, nothing is better than buying some cold beer from Harper’s Old Country Store and taking it upstairs to the Front Porch Restaurant to have with what tastes like the best homemade pizza ever.
It was so good to be back to Seneca over the last Labor Day weekend. I felt at home and welcome in its foggy mornings and steep trails and I enjoyed having my coffee while watching the rock profile against the clouds. Little has changed at Seneca since I was there first, several years ago, and although you can now get wi-fi at some of the local motels and cabins, the church parking lot 5 miles away on Route 33 is still the only place where there is cell phone service.
If you go, check these out:
For rock climbing guiding and instruction: Seneca Rocks Climbing School. Detailed information on each of the 450 routes and variations for climbing Seneca Rocks can be found in Seneca, The Climber’s Guide, by Tony Barnes. For information on the several other activities in the area such as biking, camping, horseback riding, caving and hiking, you can start at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center.