Seneca Creek, WV

Backcountry Backpacking in West Virginia

The Seneca Creek Backcountry in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest offers plenty of rewards for those willing to make the moderately difficult trek into the valley. Rocky, steep-sided mountains, high meadow vistas and countless waterfalls make for a great hiking destination.

Adding to its appeal, Seneca Creek is also ranked as one of America's top 1oo trout streams.

At just over 4,800 ft. Spruce Mountain is the highest point in the Allegheny Range and forms the eastern side of the Seneca Creek valley. The High Meadows and Huckleberry Trails along the Spruce Mountain ridgeline have several vista openings that allow big views of the valley to the north and south.

While hiking on the Lumberjack Trail along the ridgeline of Spruce Mountain, we spotted the shattered door to a small airplane, hung up in a tree. It was quite the anomaly in a thick, remote forest. Did it fall off in flight, or was there a crash along the ridge at some point and this part wasn't recovered?

We found a nice creekside campsite near the northern terminus of the Seneca Creek Trail. Previous hikers had built up a fire pit, rock chairs and a table. We strung a tarp in case of rain, which proved to be an excellent idea.

There are a lot of similar sites along the length of Seneca Creek, many of them near scenic waterfalls. We chose the far north end because we figured there would be less traffic, which turned out to be true. In our four days there we never saw anyone within a half mile of our camp, or during our hike in or out of the valley on the Horton Trail.

There are different modes or "philosophies" of backpacking - like fastpacking, ultra-lighting, or through-hiking, and hikers tend to lean toward one or another. My buddy Dave and I have been backpacking together since we were in our 20s, and we fall into the slackpacker category, which means we set up a base camp and day hike from there. And we aren't afraid to haul in packs loaded with food or anything else we think will make the trip more comfortable.

Dave is an Eagle Scout, so he's always more than adequately prepared and he's also very resourceful. When we're on the trail we mostly eat dry packaged foods that mix up in boiling water. Dry foods are light, their trash is easy to pack out, and we always manage to come up with a good selection of meals in spite of their "just-add-water" nature. But Dave also likes to rustle up some wild edibles, which so far have included trout, blue berries, strawberries, raspberries, and on this trip, nettles. The leaves of the nettle plant boil down into a spinach-like green that has a nice, mild flavor. Dave usually brings a little smoked meat and dry cheese to add to our meals, and one morning he made a frittata from dry egg mix, salami, cheese and nettles. It was superb.