Spruce Knob, at 4,863 feet, is the highest point in the state of West Virginia, and the summit of Spruce Mountain is the tallest mountain in the Alleghenies. Spruce Knob is within the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, which in turn is part of Monongahela National Forest. Established in 1965, it is the very first National Recreation Area designated by the U.S. Forest Service and consists of over 100,000 acres. Its summit has a definite alpine feel, much more so than other mountains of the Southern Appalachians. The upper few hundred feet of the mountain are covered in a dense spruce forest, a relict boreal forest environment similar to forests found in northern New England and Canada. The summit is accessible via a long 12 miles gravel road, and is crowned with a stone lookout tower while a mixture of boulder fields, meadows and trees are on the summit as well. There are often high west winds near the summit, and as a result the spruce trees have limbs on only one side, pointing eastward. As is typical of the southern Appalachians, the highest point on a ridge is frequently referred to as a knob or dome. Spruce Knob is the highest point along this ridge better known as the Allegheny Front. The ridge drops steeply to the east with views of the Germany Valley available on clear days, while the view west (see panorama below) is of the Allegheny Plateau.
While spruce is the most common tree species on the summit, the lower altitudes are populated by oak, hickory, birch, beech and maple. Bald eagles, hawks and peregrine falcons have been seen on the mountain. Mammals such as Black Bear, White-tailed Deer, weasel, porcupine, skunk and rabbit are also found. There are over 75 miles of hiking trails around the mountain and a small 25 acre lake well stocked with trout on the west side of the mountain.
Fortunately there are 2 routes for accessing the summit, since within the last few years they closed the main northern route for more than a season. Either northern or southern route is greater then 8 miles of dirt road and not necessarily bus friendly. Best access is from Interstate 81 heading west on U.S. Route 33 from Harrisonburg, Virginia for approximately 50 miles. Briery Gap Road is 2 miles south of Riverton, West Virginia off US 33. Follow for 2.5 miles to Forest Road 112 and follow the signs to Spruce Knob. Forest Road 112 is a narrow but well graded unpaved access road and continues to the mountain top. Expect winter conditions and possible road closures anytime from mid October to mid April.
Since Spruce Knob also sits in the shadow of the Greenbank National Observatory the entire area has been declared to be a “radio quiet zone”. The Delmarva VHF and Microwave Society has acquired permission from the National Park Service to operate from this unique radio location up to three times a year. In turn we are obligated to formally notify the observatory of our operating efforts prior to contest weekends, to ensure we aren’t mistaken for extraterrestrial life The trip to the top is well worth the effort. Radio noise is low to non-existent. Radio propagation can be fantastic. Daytime views are unforgettable. Nights are dark and when its clear the Milky Way can be seen spanning the sky. On several occasions our group outing has been frequented by numerous amateur astronomers, also congregating on the hill with their wares to view the night sky. To see the scenic views of the knob, please click here for pictures and videos taken by some of our team members during their stay on the mountain.
Follow the links off the Spruce menu above to see interactive panoramic views taken from atop the mountain, as well as an animated satellite view from space.