Seneca Rocks [rock(trad)]

Seneca Rocks is considered one of the Mountaineering Sections 'Home Crags'. Our Section have a long and distinguished history there. Many of the routes bear the names of former Section members who first put them up.

Seneca Rock served as a training area for the 10th Mountain Division during WWII. See Training at Seneca Rocks West Virginia for some interesting history.


Seneca Rocks is a sedimentary sandstone formation that the earth has tipped up vertically for us to play on. Most of the rock has great friction but some routes contain sections with smooth rock. The dramatic South Peak is the only peak east of Devil’s Tower, WY that requires fifth class climbing to summit.


From the DC area take 66 west, then 81 south for two exits. At the second exit take 55 west into West Virginia. Once through Wardensville, WV 55 turns into a big highway. Continue on 55 until Moorefield where the highway ends. From this point follow 55 south through Moorefield and Petersburg and finally on to Seneca Rocks which is at the junction of 55 and 33.

Meeting Place

There are two parking areas that climbers use: Northern lot - You'll hit this first if coming from DC. It's on the left just before Princess Snobird camping area and the 33/55 junction. Park at the bottom and take a trail across a bridge toward the rocks. Southern lot - Heading south on 33 from the Seneca Rocks intersection go ¼ mile and take the first left into the visitor center area. The road splits right after the turnoff, take the right split down to the lower parking area which will be below the visitor center and its parking area. There is a vault toilet at this parking area. If you go down the road too far you’ll hit helicopter landing pad and a low water bridge.


On the drive down there are two gas stations on 55 a few miles after you get off 81. No good stations in Wardensville. Moorefield and Petersburg both have Sheetz stations.  

Places to Stay/Camp
In Seneca Rocks there are two campgrounds.   
  • Seneca Shadows : Forest Service campground which tends to be quieter. The access for this is about one mile south of the 55/33 intersection at the top of a hill (easy to miss). They have drive in sites for $15 per night and walk in sites for $12 a night. They have showers but no temp control and you have to push a stupid button every 20 seconds to keep the water coming.
  • Princess Snowbird and Yokums Vacationland : Princess Snowbird is right by the river and 33 (downshifting trucks can keep you up at night coming down 33 to the stop sign) Cost is $6 per person per night and paid at Yokum’s store. Includes showers.

Fine Dining

Dream on! Climber’s favorite is the Front Porch Restaurant. Buy a 6 pack below the restaurant at Harper’s general store and take it with you up the stairs. Pizza, beer, meeting other climbers, and a great view of Seneca Rocks…what more do you need? Yokum’s also has a diner a ¼ mile north on 55 and my favorite breakfast place is the 4U restaurant (currently closed as of fall 09, really hope it reopens) which is a ½ mile south of the Seneca Shadows entrance on 33. Macksville Mart (in between Seneca Shadows and the 4U) also does good breakfast sandwiches to go and has a variety of other stuff to buy. The latest breakfast and coffee place to open is the Ground Up Coffee House located at the Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides HQ. Good food and drink, tables overlooking the creek, and free wifi = good start to the day!

Swimming Hole

Need to cool off at the end of the day? There’s a swimming hole in the river at the base of Seneca Rocks so bring a towel and a change if you want to partake in this pleasure. Use the northern parking area and bear left as you go in, go to the end, park and follow a trail toward the water. Enjoy!

What to Bring

Bring warmer clothes than you think you’ll need. In spring and fall it can get down to the 20’s even when the forecast is for the 60’s the next day. Cool mornings are the norm and a cloudy breezy day on the rocks can be not much fun if you’re freezing. As far as climbing equipment bring a standard trad rack, rope(s), helmet, harness, shoes, belay device. (If you forget anything you might be able to rent or buy from the Gendarme climbing shop). Bring TP and a couple of ziplocks. Two liters of water is the norm. Suntan lotion and bug repellant may be needed depending on the conditions and season. A small pack to carry stuff is also helpful.

What to Expect

Once leaving the parking area there are no more toilet facilities for the day. There’s woods at the base of the climbs, so dig a hole, but to leave no trace please pack out TP (ziplocks). The approach to the climbs for both the west face and east face involves about a half hour of steep to very steep hiking and scrambling. If you bring a medium size pack you can fit your stuff and your harness. If you have a small pack you can just wear your harness for the approach and drape the rope over the pack. A Camelback also works well if you have enough pockets to carry your lunch and other necessities. Most multipitch climbs that end at the summit will take several hours so we will typically end up eating lunch up there so it’s best to take most of your stuff with you. Many times you can leave your approach shoes at the base of the climb along with anything else not needed for the next few hours (leave no valuables). Taking everything with you frees up more options so think light!  

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