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Seneca Rocks


Seneca Rocks is a formation of sheer towering whitish rocks located near the confluence of Seneca Creek and the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac. In the early morning mist the jagged outline of Seneca Rocks resembles the bony back of a giant dinosaur. This vast mountain of pale stone whose rocks rise 1,000 feet from the forest floor provides cliffs and lofty crags inviting exploration by birds, rock climbers, and agile visitors.

The name comes from the Seneca Indians, who once used this vast wilderness for hunting, fishing, and trade routes. Today the Seneca Rocks area is part of the Monongahela National Forest.

Seneca Rocks is composed of the Tuscarora Sandstone deposited during the Early Silurian Period approximately 425 million years ago, when the waters of an ancient sea covered what is now West Virginia. The Tuscarora Sandstone has been compacted by great pressures into an erosion-resistant rock called a quartz arenite. Now this rock, once seashore sediments, forms high mountains along the entire length of the Appalachians. Rocks near the Seneca Rocks Visitor Center are upended and rotated 90 degrees to form the west flank of the Wills Mountain Anticline, an upward fold formed more than 200 million years ago at the end of the Paleozoic Era.

A 1.3-mile trail provides access to the Seneca Rocks overlook, which has spectacular views. The trail ascends 960 feet. Signs along the trail explain geological aspects of the rocks.

Seneca Rocks is a popular wilderness recreation area offering rock climbing, hiking, swimming, and bird watching. The cliffs are home to nesting peregrine falcons, introduced in the 1980s by the West Virginia nongame wildlife program. There are many other bird species, including bluebird, several kinds of woodpeckers, orioles, and high-elevation warblers and thrushes. Wildlife includes chipmunk, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, black snake, timber rattlesnake, and fence lizard. Spring wildflowers include ginger, blue cohosh, blue phlox, and azalea.

Written by Norma Jean Kennedy-Venable


  1. Venable, Norma Jean. Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob. Morgantown: West Virginia University Extension Service, 1992.