face of a thousand pitons
Located within the Monongahela National Forest and overlooking the junction of the Seneca and Shawnee trail or Warriors path Seneca Rocks is composed of Tuscarora sandstone and rises about 900 feet above the North Fork of the Potomac River.
During World War II this was used as training by the U.S.Army in preparation for mountain assaults, due to that practice the rocks were also known as the face of a thousand pitons. The unit portrayed in the recent movie Hacksaw Ridge spent time training here.
The hike is easy to moderate on a well maintained and signed trail with switchbacks. It's a lovely heavily shaded trail with Oak, Poplar, Ash and other hardwoods trees. You can begin by visiting the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center maintained by the Park Service. There are artifacts from archeological digs concerning Native Americans, info on fauna and flora, topo maps, souvenirs. Or you can skip it and park behind the visitors center at the Sites homestead a restored 1840's farmhouse. Either way the hike begins by crossing the north flowing Potomac River which at this time of year is flowing heavily.
The hike is popular, if you want to avoid crowds try to start early. On the day I went about 9am with temperature at 68, I passed one other hiker and 3 volunteers at the top but on the way down about 15 to 20. This also makes the chances of seeing any wildlife better on the drive there, as deer graze next to the road, rather than on the hike.
Once you get to the viewing platform you can see the river below and the mountains of the Spruce Knob recreation area. If you try to go above the viewing platform there is signage to discourage it. To continue will require short scrambling along a narrow rock ledge which enables you reach the top of the southern section of the rocks.
After the hike you can check out Harper's General Store for some interesting shopping or sign up for horseback riding trips up to the viewing platform. It's a little off the beaten path but if you're in the area it's worth the time to hike and check out the views!
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.