Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seneca Creek Backcountry - Judy Springs Trail

This hike was day two of my adventure with the young engineer from Salt Lake City - the first day being a hike to Lion's Head in the Dolly Sods Wilderness.

From Dolly Sods in was south on Rt. 28 past Seneca Rocks, then up the mountain to Spruce Knob. Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia at 4,863 feet and the road to the top was recently paved.

Just below the spur road to Spruce Knob is an overlook that looks up the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac Valley and North Fork Mountain. It is quite a view!

We met up with our partner for the next day at the Spruce Knob Lake campground, where we would spend the night.

The three of us got up before daylight hoping to catch the sunrise on top of Spruce Knob, but all we got was a heavy fog.

From Spruce Knob it was on to the Judy Springs trailhead, with plans to hike to the upper falls of Seneca - approximately ten miles round trip.

It's about three miles to Judy Springs and another two to the upper falls. It's downhill the entire length but the grade is only slight, to the degree you hardly notice you are walking downhill - or uphill on the way out.

It was a quick three miles to the springs, one of the main sources for Seneca Creek proper. The water was already very low for this time of the year but the spring was still flowing strong.

The spring area is also the junction of several Seneca Backcountry trails. The trails are well worn...and so are the trail markers.

From Judy Springs it is another short two miles to the junction of Huckleberry trail, Horton trail, and the upper falls with a couple of creek crossings mixed in. Our state flower, the rhododendron, was out in full bloom making the crossings and the falls even more amazing.

There are wild rainbows and brook trout in nearly every pool.

I've made the hike to the upper falls many times, but typically via the Horton trail, and mainly because this is one of my favorite places in the entire state. It's easy to see why the upper falls holds a place near and dear to my heart.

The water was particularly low on this trip.

This is what it looks like during normal flows.

The other nice thing about Seneca Creek and the backcountry is the number of plunge pools and small feeder streams.

It was an easy uphill five-mile hike back out and a wonderful day in the backcountry. I will add other reports on the backcountry for Horton trail and the lower Seneca Creek trail.