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Areas in Seneca Rocks

Cave, The 0 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 3
Lower Slabs 33 / 0 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 33
North Peak - West Face 24 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 24
North Peak, East Face 16 / 2 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 17
South End 29 / 1 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 30
South Peak - East Face 65 / 9 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 69
South Peak - West Face 81 / 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 / 82
Southern Pillar 30 / 3 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 / 32
Elevation: 1,878 ft
GPS: 38.834, -79.366 Google Map · Climbing Map
Page Views: 431,241 total, 3,152/month
Shared By: Mark Cushman on Sep 19, 2006 with updates
Admins: Ladd, Vicki Schwantes, Jake Jones, Shawn Heath

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>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.

290 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Seneca Rocks

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a
Gunsight to South Peak
Trad 2 pitches
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Gunsight to South Peak Direct
Trad 2 pitches
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Conn's West
Trad 2 pitches
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c
Ecstasy Junior
Trad 2 pitches
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Critter Crack
Trad
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Candy Corner
Trad
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Ecstasy
Trad 3 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Green Wall
Trad 3 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Soler
Trad 2 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Pleasant Overhangs
Trad 3 pitches
5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
West Pole
Trad
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
The Burn
Trad 2 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Ye Gods & Little Fishes
Trad
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Triple S
Trad 2 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Marshall's Madness - Crack of Dawn
Trad 2 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Gunsight to South Peak S Peak - W Face 5.3 3+ 10 III 9 VD 3a Trad 2 pitches
Gunsight to South Peak Direct S Peak - W Face 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad 2 pitches
Conn's West S Peak - W Face 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad 2 pitches
Ecstasy Junior S Peak - W Face 5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c Trad 2 pitches
Critter Crack S Peak - W Face 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad
Candy Corner S End 5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad
Ecstasy S End 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
Green Wall S Peak - W Face 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
Soler S Peak - E Face > Upper Broadway 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 2 pitches
Pleasant Overhangs S Peak - W Face 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
West Pole S Peak - W Face 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad
The Burn S Peak - W Face 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 2 pitches
Ye Gods & Little Fishes S End 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad
Triple S S Peak - W Face 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 2 pitches
Marshall's Madness - Crack… S Peak - W Face 5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 2 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Seneca Rocks »

Weather Averages

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Hi, I am looking for help finding a rock climbing spot at Seneca Rocks that would be at a beginner level. We will be there with kids ages 6-10, who have done rock climbing in the past. Where would be an easy location to access and at a level for beginners? Thanks for any recommendations! Jul 24, 2017
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
Mark Cushman   Cumming, GA
Friday, July 7th - Posted by the Gendarme shop on their Facebook page:

Closure of the rocks Officially lifted this am. We will be checking things out to see what kind of damage there is with regards to trails, and rap stations.

Fireworks shot from the observation deck caught the woods on fire above the lower slabs and bak up to the observation deck. fire burned from Saturday night until it started raining Tuesday. Spread south beneath the gun site. Jul 7, 2017
Any word on whether climbing is open this weekend? Couldn't find any info about the fire. Jul 7, 2017
Jonathan Steitzer
West Lebanon, NH
Jonathan Steitzer   West Lebanon, NH  
Question: is there a forum or website that Seneca locals use rather than Mountain Project? Something like what Supertopo is to Yosemite or NEClimbs is to North Conway? May 29, 2017
Kyle Harris
Nashville TN
Kyle Harris   Nashville TN
youtu.be/xcu4XEcX52o Nov 9, 2016
Randy Garrett
Charlottesville, Virginia
Randy Garrett   Charlottesville, Virginia
Does anyone know who was flying the drone over the rock on November 5th, 2016? I was wondering if there are any videos or photos available. It was later in the day at about 5 or 6 pm. Nov 8, 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.

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. Jun 7, 2016
Meyers0117
Nappanee, IN
Meyers0117   Nappanee, IN
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. May 25, 2016
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
Mark Cushman   Cumming, GA
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 Apr 6, 2016
ColeT Musial
Cincinnati, OH
ColeT Musial   Cincinnati, OH
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 Aug 6, 2015
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 May 20, 2014
runout  
If it rains, how long does it take to dry off? And does it dry off? May 18, 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). Apr 25, 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. Apr 24, 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. Jan 12, 2014
Ronin Gray
Smoke Hole Canyon
Ronin Gray   Smoke Hole Canyon
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! Oct 30, 2013
Benjaminadk
San Pedro, California
Benjaminadk   San Pedro, California
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. Oct 7, 2013
Jonathan Spencer
Chattanooga, TN
Jonathan Spencer   Chattanooga, TN
Seneca Rocks, WV AMGA SPI Course Dec. 1-3, 2012 from Jonathan Spencer on Vimeo.
Here's a video of a course I took at Seneca. Dec 17, 2012
Cody Bradford
Boone, NC
Cody Bradford   Boone, NC
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. Nov 13, 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. Oct 28, 2012
David Cooper
Annapolis, MD
David Cooper   Annapolis, MD
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. Jun 9, 2012
Gini Kramer
North Haven, CT
Gini Kramer   North Haven, CT
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! Sep 5, 2011
Mike Anderson
Colorado Springs, CO
Mike Anderson   Colorado Springs, CO
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. Oct 19, 2010
John Kelbel
Eldersburg, Maryland
John Kelbel   Eldersburg, Maryland
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/fsin… Feb 17, 2010
Ladd    
To read others' stories of Seneca Rocks and to share your personl experiences, check out Seneca Rocks Stories or Tales from Seneca Rocks. Dec 13, 2007
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
Mark Cushman   Cumming, GA
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] Jun 14, 2007
Mark Cushman
Cumming, GA
Mark Cushman   Cumming, GA
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. May 3, 2007
Ladd    
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! May 3, 2007
Brian Adzima
San Francisco
Brian Adzima   San Francisco
Steep, sandbagged, and occasionally scary. What's not to like? Feb 8, 2007

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