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Seneca Rocks

Select Area...
Cave, The 
Lower Slabs 
North Peak - West Face 
North Peak, East Face 
South End 
South Peak - East Face 
South Peak - West Face 
Southern Pillar 
Rest Day:
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Seneca Rocks Rock Climbing 


Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Location: 38.8338, -79.3663 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 230,189
Administrators: Ladd, Chris Whisenhunt, Shawn Heath, Jake Jones, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Mark Cushman on Sep 19, 2006
Forecast:
Tonight

68°
Tuesday

83° | 65°
Wednesday

84° | 65°
Thursday

85° | 67°
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81° | 66°
Saturday

81° | 65°
You & This Area
Best climbs for YOU in this area
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BETA PHOTO: Major Seneca features to aid in locating routes

Description 

Located in the Monongahela National Forest, Seneca Rocks is best known for multi-pitch trad climbs and stiff old-school ratings. The rock is formed from white Tuscarora quartzite, which feels much like sandstone. First recorded ascent was in 1939, where the climbing party discovered an inscription on the summit with a date of 1908. In the 1940s the 10th Mountain Division training trained at Seneca Rocks in preparation for deployment in WWII to Italy. Many of the iron pitons they trained with can still be found throughout the established climbs at Seneca Rocks. More history can be found on the Wikipedia article for Seneca.

This area of West Virginia generally tends to have milder temperatures, and climbing throughout spring, summer and fall should be comfortable. The faces of Seneca Rocks face east and west, so it's possible to either follow the sun or chase the shade throughout the day by choosing your routes carefully. The rock tends to dry quickly if it rains, if the road is dry that is a good indication that the rock will also be dry. Some areas of Seneca Rocks will stay dry during a light shower (South End in particular).

Many moderate routes exist on Seneca Rocks, and the wildly exposed summit pinnacle can be obtained by almost all routes (Old Ladies Route is easiest at 5.2). Wear your helmet since some of the rock can be loose, and ledges tend to collect debris that is knocked down as people climb. Expect rockfall on popular weekends and take care climbing beneath other parties. Special care needs to be taken after a significant rainfall, as this tends to loosen blocks and debris. Lounging under a drop zone like the South End or under rappel routes is not recommended.

All routes on the South Peak or Southern Pillar start by hiking up Roy Gap Road from the visitor's center, just south on 33 from the town of Seneca Rocks. You can park at the upper or lower lots (lower is closer), hike up Roy Gap road until you see an obvious creek crossing on the left with a carefully built rock wall and stairs on the other side of the creek. This trail leads to the South End and routes on the West Face of South Peak. Southern Pillar routes start a bit further up Roy Gap road on the right. The easiest way to access South Peak East Face routes is to climb something on the South End like Skyline Traverse.

Gear and the guidebook "Seneca: The Climber's Guide, 2nd Edition" by Tony Barnes can be found at the Gendarme Climbing Shop a great little gear shop located in town attached to the Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides school. You can find the guidebook used on Amazon, but check with the Gendarme to make sure they have a copy before you go and buy it from them. A standard rack works well at Seneca with nuts, a range of cams to 3" and a lot of long slings as some of the routes wander. A few climbs will require larger gear, but only if noted in the description. A good discussion on what makes a Seneca rack can be found here: rack simulator/ seneca stanard rack.

Guide services include the Seneca Rocks Climbing School, or the Seneca Rocks Mountain Guides. These guide services often take climbers on their first climb or first multi-pitch route, and on weekends the easy routes and rappel stations will be crowded. Many parties share a rappel down, just ask and the guide service might let you ride their rope down to the base, especially if you can go first and set up a subsequent rappel.

Seneca Shadows Campground is a National Forest campground with showers that is conveniently located within walking distance to the town and climbing. From the walk-in camping sites (recommended for tent camping), head to the east end of the field near site 72, there is an old road/trail that will lead down behind the Gendarme. An alternate camping location is the Princess Snowbird campground, register at Yokum's.

Groceries and beer may be purchased at Harper's Country Store or Yokum's, both located in the town of Seneca Rocks. The Front Porch restaurant, located above Harper's Country Store serves good pizza, sandwiches and salads. The restaurant does not serve beer, but you may purchase beer in the store below and bring it upstairs to drink with your meal.

There is no cell phone reception anywhere at Seneca Rocks. Plan accordingly. If you have AT&T, you can drive south on 33 a few miles to the Church of Immaculate Reception (Google Maps Link) where you will be blessed with 4 bars of 3G voice and data. After a hot day of climbing a great way to cool down is to swim in the South Fork of the Potomac river that runs underneath Seneca Rocks. Drive or walk to the picnic area just north of town, park in the northernmost section of the parking area and take the well-worn trail towards the river to the swimming hole. (Google Maps Link). You will be able to see the swimming hole clearly from the south face or the summit of Seneca Rocks. On rest days, Elkins, WV is the closest town to Seneca Rocks with a movie theater, restaurants, hotels and big-box stores.

Getting There 

Seneca Rocks is located at the intersection of Route 33 and 55, east of Elkins, WV.

Camping 

Camping can be had at either the Seneca Shadows campground (1 mile east of Senca Rocks on RT 33), or Yokum's Princess Snowbird campground in the town of Seneca Rocks.

Climbing Season



Weather station 6.2 miles from here

280 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',32],['3 Stars',158],['2 Stars',56],['1 Star',19],['Bomb',1]
['<=5.6',73],['5.7',40],['5.8',29],['5.9',46],['5.10',56],['5.11',26],['5.12',9],['5.13',1],['>=5.14',0],['',0],['<=V1',0],['V2-3',0],['V4-5',0],['V6-7',0],['V8-9',0],['V10-11',0],['V12-13',0],['>=V14',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Seneca Rocks

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Seneca Rocks:
Old Man's Route   5.2 3 8 II 8 D 2c     Trad, 3 pitches   South Peak - West Face
Gunsight to South Peak   5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a     Trad, 2 pitches, 150'   South Peak - West Face
Conn's West   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c     Trad, 2 pitches, 200'   South Peak - West Face
Ecstasy Junior   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c     Trad, 2 pitches, 160'   South Peak - West Face
Gunsight to South Peak Direct   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c     Trad, 2 pitches, 150'   South Peak - West Face
Critter Crack   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   South Peak - West Face
Candy Corner   5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 95'   South End
Green Wall   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches   South Peak - West Face
Soler   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 2 pitches, 200'   South Peak - East Face : Upper Broadway
Pleasant Overhangs   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches   South Peak - West Face
Ecstasy   5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 3 pitches, 250'   South End
West Pole   5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b     Trad, 1 pitch, 200'   South Peak - West Face
The Burn   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 150'   South Peak - West Face
Ye Gods & Little Fishes   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 1 pitch, 85'   South End
Triple S   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 2 pitches, 90'   South Peak - West Face
Climbin' Punishment   5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 3 pitches, 180'   Southern Pillar
Back to the Front   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 100'   South Peak - West Face
High Test   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 120'   South Peak - East Face : Upper Broadway
Marshall's Madness - Crack of Dawn   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 2 pitches, 200'   South Peak - West Face
Castor   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 1 pitch, 80'   South Peak - East Face : Upper Broadway
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Seneca Rocks

Featured Route For Seneca Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: start of route w/ handsome man

Sunshine 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a PG13  WV : Seneca Rocks : South Peak - West Face
Starts on the face just left of The Burn. Climb up to a bolt and then continue on the the Ecstasy Junior belay ledge. ...[more]   Browse More Classics in WV

Photos of Seneca Rocks Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Wild flowers (weeds?) in full spring bloom.
Wild flowers (weeds?) in full spring bloom.
Rock Climbing Photo: Used car dealership on the east side of Seneca.
Used car dealership on the east side of Seneca.
Rock Climbing Photo: West Face from Seneca Shadows
West Face from Seneca Shadows
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca Creek in evening fall colors.
Seneca Creek in evening fall colors.
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca Rocks
Seneca Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: almost heaven
almost heaven
Rock Climbing Photo: Oh, over there...  Gotta love Seneca
BETA PHOTO: Oh, over there... Gotta love Seneca
Rock Climbing Photo: The town of Seneca Rocks
BETA PHOTO: The town of Seneca Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: View from behind (east of) Seneca Rocks on North F...
View from behind (east of) Seneca Rocks on North F...
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca, West Face. October '07.
Seneca, West Face. October '07.
Rock Climbing Photo: Inscription carved on the summit block:  D.B. SEPT...
Inscription carved on the summit block: D.B. SEPT...
Rock Climbing Photo: Fish eye from the summit of the South Peak
Fish eye from the summit of the South Peak
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca Rocks from the meadow at Seneca Shadows on ...
Seneca Rocks from the meadow at Seneca Shadows on ...
Rock Climbing Photo: View taken from the East side of Seneca
View taken from the East side of Seneca
Rock Climbing Photo: Great shot of the rocks from the parking lot.Photo...
Great shot of the rocks from the parking lot.Photo...
Rock Climbing Photo: Star trails over Seneca Rocks
Star trails over Seneca Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: The West Face of Seneca Rocks
BETA PHOTO: The West Face of Seneca Rocks
Rock Climbing Photo: Spectacular view from the top.
Spectacular view from the top.
Rock Climbing Photo: West side of North and South Peaks.
BETA PHOTO: West side of North and South Peaks.
Rock Climbing Photo: Urtiscay Unyanray learns the story of Pollux
Urtiscay Unyanray learns the story of Pollux
Rock Climbing Photo: Which way down?
Which way down?
Rock Climbing Photo: Seneca mist
Seneca mist
Rock Climbing Photo: View of the South End and the Cave as seen from th...
View of the South End and the Cave as seen from th...
Rock Climbing Photo: First night of the road trip. Welcome to West Virg...
First night of the road trip. Welcome to West Virg...

Show All 46 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Seneca Rocks Add Comment
Show which comments
Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 7, 2016
By Brian Adzima
From: San Francisco
Feb 8, 2007
Steep, sandbagged, and occasionally scary. What's not to like?
By Ladd
Administrator
May 3, 2007
For folks heading down to Seneca for the first time:
Don't trust pitons-many were placed during WWII as training and they aren't great placements.
Lots of loose rock!
Wear your helmet.
Be in awe of the voluteers that built The Stairmaster!
By Mark Cushman
From: Cumming, GA
May 3, 2007
About pitons - there are a few new ones here and there, you can tell they are new because the eyes are not rusting off them and aren't completely part of the rock. For example there is a very helpful newer piton on Conn's East at the crux of the second pitch. I'm pretty sure this was a replacement for an old one that was unsafe to clip, however many people clipped it anyway.
By Mark Cushman
From: Cumming, GA
Jun 14, 2007
The 4-U Restaurant is a decent place to get breakfast when climbing at Seneca. The prices are cheap and it's only a few miles south of Seneca Rocks on Route 33.

[Update: As of 2016 the 4-U has been closed for a while, it's a shame because it was a great little place to grab a quick bite before climbing]
By Ladd
Administrator
Dec 13, 2007
To read others' stories of Seneca Rocks and to share your personl experiences, check out Seneca Rocks Stories or Tales from Seneca Rocks.
By John Kelbel
From: Eldersburg, Maryland
Feb 17, 2010
A few interesting rules from the National Forest about the Seneca Rocks area. Below is just an abbreviated list from the link at the bottom.

There is No parking on Roy Gap Road.
Bivouacking is only allowed fifty 50 above base of rocks and only on the east face.
No other camping is allowed in the Seneca area except for the established campground.
No Alcoholic, No Fires, No Horses, No Bicycles on any trails.

Just to be clear this only pertains to the small portion of the National forest land considered as the Seneca Rocks Area, see the link for more details, this is where the information came from.

Have fun it's an amazing place.

fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinter...
By Mike Anderson
From: Colorado Springs, CO
Oct 19, 2010
Gumbies swarm to this place (multi-star 5.3s are hard to come by), so bring your patience and try not to be too cynical.
By Gini Kramer
From: North Haven, CT
Sep 5, 2011
A few things of note...

The 4-U motel & restaurant is closed.
Valley View Restaurant a little further south on Rte. 33 does a decent breakfast.
Hellbender up in Davis serves burritos the size of your head.
Avoid the older section of Yokum's Motel at all costs. Appalachia Cabins, just north of Seneca Rocks, has a row of motel rooms that are much nicer (complete with micro wave, toaster, fridge, and coffee maker) and cost the same.
When they say that the ratings on Seneca Rocks climbs are stiff, they mean it!
By David Cooper
From: Annapolis, MD
Jun 9, 2012
Classic Seven Tour.
After the Hundred Club this is the next best way to spend a long day at Seneca. Best on a weekday or less crowded weekend.

My favorite tour, in order of routes... SJM, Ecstasy, Dufty's, Prune, Crispy Critter, T Jam, West Pole, Pleasant O, Green Wall, Soler, Rox Salt.

Start at sunrise and you should be walking out in time for dinner.

A fantastic way to shake it up a bit if you've been looking for a new Seneca adventure.
By Ted Bjorklund
Oct 28, 2012
Left a pair of la sportiva miuras near the cave entrance...pretty new, size 40. Please send me a message if you found them, or are going there soon.
By Cody Bradford
From: Boone, NC
Nov 13, 2012
Cell phones do not work at Seneca. Might as well keep it at home.
Not the best place to come if you are just beginning in the traditional game. Hard sandbags, tenuous rock, difficult route finding, the list goes on. Hire a guide.
That being said, Seneca is a delightful slice of humble pie and a great alpine training ground during winter months.
By Jonathan Spencer
From: Chattanooga, TN
Dec 17, 2012
Seneca Rocks, WV AMGA SPI Course Dec. 1-3, 2012
.
Here's a video of a course I took at Seneca.
By Benjaminadk
From: San Pedro, California
Oct 7, 2013
Did a week long climbing trip to Seneca last month. We camped at Seneca Shadows. I recommend staying in the field portion of the campground. Its cheap ($15/night), there is a fresh water spigot nearby, clean bathrooms with hot showers and its across the street from the climbing. I strongly suggest not buying their firewood. When we were there it was too moist to burn. Yokum's General Store sells dry wood for half the price. For eating out we liked the Front Porch, located above Harper's General Store and right next to the climbing shop. There is also a 5min hiking trail from the camping to the general stores and climbing shop. The Front Porch has great sandwiches, pizza and rocking desserts. There prices are dirt cheap compared to NY. Ten to fifteen bucks to get completely stuffed. There is also WiFi here and pay phones to contact the real world.
By Ronin
From: Smoke Hole Canyon
Oct 30, 2013
Just a reminder to our many out-of-state visitors- Hiking in both Germany Valley (near Seneca Rocks) and Pendleton Valley (near Franklin Gorge) this past week and encountered both rattlesnakes and copperheads in both locations, despite two frosts and a freeze in the last week or two.

Just a reminder, especially for those exploring some of the fun little spots "off the map" where there might be climbs but not a lot of traffic- the biters are still out there, and still active. Thick piles of leaves in sunny corners at the base of cliffs, thick vegetation in which the rodents that they hunt might still be active, and almost any trail running near or through talus should all be viewed with caution and traveled with care.


Cheers!
By John Groh
Jan 12, 2014
Not sure if it's an established problem, but we found a traverse problem in the V5/V6 range on the back left wall of the cave at the South End that's pretty much the only thing at Seneca that stays dry on cold rainy days when the rock is sweating.
By ChrisClimber
Apr 24, 2014
So I am planning a visit this summer. I will only be spending a few days there so I dont want to waste my time trying to figure out how different the ratings are. Is there anyone who can comment on what the conversion would be between muir valley, Red River gorge to seneca rocks? Im really looking at all grades (up to mid 12's at muir) This would really be helpful/save a lot of time.
By Brendan Mulhern
Apr 25, 2014
Chris, you can climb Triple S (5.8+) to get an idea of the grades at Seneca. Even if you are climbing much harder you will enjoy this climb and have something to compare the grades to. Climbing steep 5.12's at the Red? Try Chris Tolin's route-- The Predator (5.12).
By runout
May 18, 2014
If it rains, how long does it take to dry off? And does it dry off?
By Tom Draper
May 20, 2014
Hey,

I am about to embark on a leisurely drive from CT to CO and was hoping to stop at Seneca Rocks to camp, stretch my legs, and get a day of climbing in. Is anyone going to be in the area that could take on another climber, needs a partner, etc? I'm a very competent climber comfortable up through the mid .12's on bolts and throughout the .11 grade on gear. I'm easy going and simply looking to soak up some of the country's great climbing on my way westward. Should be passing through Thursday so let me know.

Thanks folks,
Tom
By ColeT
From: Cincinnati, OH
Aug 6, 2015
So here is some info in regards to logistics that I would have appreciated finding out easier before the trip.

Lodging: We stayed at Seneca Shadows like everyone else for $15 a night. They have walk up sites so no need to reserve a site. If you come in late (after 10pm) just find a spot and the park manager will find you in the morning when they open near 10am

Guidebook: Get the The Climber's Guide by Tony Barnes (2nd Edition) not the Eric Horst MD/VA/WV if you plan on ever coming back. The gear shop (Gendarme) opens early (8-9am) on Saturday if you need a guidebook still

Food: As everyone else says, the Front Porch is awesome food with a great view of Seneca

Odds and Ends: Cell phones do not work at ALL. You can get wifi at the gear shop if you need it. Also the rock here dries extremely quick. It rained on us when we woke up and by lunch everything was dry. Lastly, there is a swimming hole that was great for a post day swim before dinner.

Seneca was amazing climbing and can't wait to go back
By Mark Cushman
From: Cumming, GA
Apr 6, 2016
Last time I was there I was able to get mobile phone service at the Church of Immaculate Reception, just down the road on 33 from Seneca Rocks.

Google Maps Link
By Meyers0117
From: Nappanee, IN
May 25, 2016
Wondering what percentage of the routes here are crack climbs and what the best crack routes are. Also like to here more opinions as to which guidebook to buy. Thanks.
By anotherclimber
Jun 7, 2016
Just got back from a trip to Seneca Rocks. We used the Tony Barnes second edition Seneca guide book and we had a good time. Camped at the Seneca Shadows campground in the walk to tenting section. Keep in mind that pit toilets are what is close to the walk to area and can stink if you are close by. For flush toilets, hand washing sink, mirror, and showers, you have to walk to the next two camping sections E and D if I remember correctly. And they only have one shower per gender in each building. So kind of constricted on busy camping days. The campground tap water is highly chlorinated, much more so than city tap water systems. Like drinking pool water. It's not that pleasant to drink. Maybe you want to bring your own drinking water.

There is no public wifi at the Gendarme, Harper's, and Yokum's wifi didn't work. The pay phones don't work. You won't get cell phone coverage on top of the mountain, although you might briefly get some coverage on the west side part way up. My understanding is that this is an intentional dead zone due to the Green Bank radio telescope for astronomy nearby.

The Front Porch Restaurant is open again, and their pizza is surprisingly good. Don't eat the hot food at Yokum's. It's really mediocre to bad and the place is covered in flies. The Hersey's hard ice cream is good though.

Driving to Elkins for a movie on a rain day was worthwhile. It's about 45 to 50 minutes drive.

Avoid the north peak unless you are looking for really difficult climbs or like exploring. Most of those climbs you have to rappel in from the top, so you really need to know where you are going, which we didn't. We wasted half a day looking for the climbs we wanted to do there. We ended up going to the Lower slabs nearby which was quite enjoyable. Don't let the name fool you. The Lower Slabs are near vertical to vertical single pitch climbs and quite interesting and fun.

The first day we started on a route that was in hind sight way too easy as we had heard that the routes are sand bagged here. Old Ladies Route 5.2. It was like scrambling with rock protection. Not worth it. Although it did get us to the summit ledge where we then scrambled to the top of the south peak. In hindsight I wouldn't start at anything less than 5.4 to actually get some real climbing in.

One rappel route on the west face of the south peak is not in the guide book. Both pitches have bolted rappel rings. It requires at least two 60 meter or longer ropes and is highly recommended as the second rappel is quite exhilarating. Use one rope and rappel down "Arrested Mental Development", probably about 40 to 50 feet. Then tie your two ropes together for the last rappel which is probably close to 200 feet long. Be prepared to catch your breath on the way down when you pass the overhang above the Pleasant Overhang climb and are hanging completely by the ropes with no rock touching you. :)

It was hot during the day! Definitely chase the shade. Climb the west face in the morning, east face in the afternoon. The evenings and mornings though were surprisingly cool for early June as we understood it. We both brought long sleeve shirts and jackets, and pants just in case and didn't regret it.

One last thing... We found that the climbing standard there seemed to be that you are expected to scramble without protection on low grade stuff like 5.0 to 5.2 to get to climbs, rappel stations, base of climbs, and summit ridge. It looks intimidating, but is not bad in terms of difficulty. It's just that the consequences of accidentally slipping and falling are high. Getting to the Conn's West #2 and Traffic Jam rappel stations are like this. As is getting to the south peak summit ridge from the summit ledge and across the summit ridge to rappel stations. I also found that PG rated routes tended to be really sparse in their protection. A lot less than I'm normally comfortable with. So choose carefully.

Keep your guide book out of the rain. Whatever they chose to print it with runs. And try and have a water proof covering for your pack to keep things dry if you get caught in the rain. I'm told the storm clouds typically come in from the west and southwest.

One other piece of advice... While you can rappel down with a single rope in select areas, you have a more options with two ropes and of course it does go a bit quicker.

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