The summit of Spruce Knob West Virginia
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The Spruce Knob Hike: Highest Point in West Virginia

When you have traveled to all 50 states, and hiked in every single one of them, it takes a special trail to really surprise you!  And truly, the Spruce Knob hike really surprised me!  As someone who regularly hikes, and regularly hikes state high points, this humble little gem in unassuming West Virginia wowed me.  In a region packed with nearby big name neighbors like Virginia and the Appalachian Trail, Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains, or Pennsylvania and the Poconos, this enchanting spot became one of my favorite short hike destinations, one of my favorite new National Forests, and one of my favorite state high points in the US.  The Spruce Knob hike makes West Virginia worth the visit!  Get to know how to make the most of your time at the highest point in West Virginia!

 

Views from the Spruce Knob hike

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Spruce Knob West Virginia

 

For me, Spruce Knob was like walking onto the set of a fairy tale.  Inky mountain peaks draped in billowy clouds, lush greens intertwined with barren and wind blown rock, and a forest so dense that any Lord of the Rings fan would feel right at home. 

 

I was not prepared for the immense vistas and shockingly gorgeous views that can be found here at the highest point in West Virginia.  Prior to this visit, I would have come up short on reasons to want to visit this region, but now, this state high point hike is among my all time favorites of the 50 states, and Spruce Knob definitely put West Virginia on my radar!

 

The summit of Spruce Knob West Virginia

 

Location of Spruce Knob West Virginia

 

West Virginia’s highest point can be found in the state’s northeastern corner, in Monongahela National Forest.  Other nearby attractions include Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks Recreation Area and the Seneca Caverns. 

 

For those looking to extend their stay, there are two campgrounds nearby, the Spruce Knob Lake Campground, and the Gatewood Campground.

 

 

Area surrounding Spruce Knob, West Virginia

 

Guide to the Spruce Knob Hike

 

The top reason to take on the short Spruce Knob hike is to witness the highest point in West Virginia.  But even with that title aside, Spruce Knob is a mesmerizing place to witness, and one that is likely to surprise you in its depth and diversity.

 

The drive up to Spruce Knob starts by winding your way through the Monongahela National Forest at its base.  This National Forest is shrouded in rich canopy, and a beautifully scenic start to a day at the top of Spruce Knob. 

 

Once arriving at the summit of Spruce Knob, visitors will find a small parking area, bathroom facilities, benches, and a placard sign indicating the start of the trail to West Virginia’s highest point.

 

The trail to the highest point in West Virginia
The beginning of the Whispering Spruce Trail (the summit trail)

 

 

The actual summit trail on Spruce Knob is the short Whispering Spruce Trail.  Though brief, this trail is brimming with sights, and impressively weaves a variety of different ecosystems into its short trek.

 

 

Quick Facts on the Whispering Spruce Trail

 

Length: 0.5 miles roundtrip loop

Elevation: 4,863 feet

Elevation Gain: 29 feet

Spruce Knob Trail Elevation Chart
Spruce Knob Trail Elevation Chart

 

Rating: Easy

Dog Friendly: Yes

Cost: Free to park and hike

Facilities: Ample parking in trailhead parking lot, with bathroom facilities on site

Best Time of Year to Hike: Late Spring – Early Fall

Estimated Time to Complete: 10 – 20 minutes

 

Hiking the Spruce Knob Trail
Spruce Knob’s meandering forest paths

 

One of the first things you will notice after parking and beginning your hike on the Whispering Spruce Trail is the difference in vegetation at this elevation.  The dense canopy of Monongahela National Forest thins drastically, and the trees themselves morph into a stark, windblown and very alpine variety. 

 

This thinning of the canopy lends to some fantastic summit vistas and panoramas, which kind of sneak up on you unexpectedly after witnessing how dense the forest is driving up.   There are also some scattered rock fields that are a barren yet hauntingly beautiful testament to the exposed life on the top of Spruce Knob.

 

Barren rock fields at Spruce Knob West Virginia

 

This short high point hike begins in brief canopy, after which hikers emerge to pass one of the exposed rock fields littered with worn boulders.  Next visitors will be greeted by the old stone and steel observation tower, which is two stories tall and easy to climb.  From the open rooftop balcony, you can take in the 360 degree views looking out from the highest point in West Virginia.

 

Checking out the highest point in West Virginia
Checking out the highest point in West Virginia

 

 

After the observation tower, the Spruce Knob hike passes by several mountaintop vistas with views to the right overlooking the neighboring peaks and valleys, sprinkled with vibrant wildflowers, before re-emerging into a surprisingly towering section of pine tree canopy.  This portion of the trail weaves closely between shadowed tree trunks, before arriving back at the parking lot area.

 

Vistas of Spruce KnobThe panoramic vistas of Spruce Knob

 

West Virginia's wildflowers on Spruce Knob

 

Weaving through trees on Spruce Knob
Weaving through the tall trees on Spruce Knob

 

 

All in all, this short Spruce Knob hike won’t take you more than an hour with breaks and stops, but the surprise factor on this state high point hike was much higher than some of the other more popular and advertised state high point hikes and alternate trails in the area.  Spruce Knob is among one of my favorite short day hikes I have ever completed, with its surprising diversity and complexity.  And out of all the state high point hikes I have completed (only a couple left until all 50!), this still remains one of my favorites!

 

The Spruce Knob hike

 

 

Curious about other state high point hikes in the US?  Familiar with your own state’s high point? 

 

Check out all 50 highest points in the U.S. with this FREE download!

 

 

Get to know a few of Spruce Knob’s nearby neighbor high points:

 

 

 

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Tower at Spruce Knob West Virginia

 

Trails at the highest point in West Virginia

 

 

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One Comment

  1. West Virginia’s Spruce Knob is one of my favorite high points. The half mile trail takes you past gnarly trees, patches of flat stones, random wildflowers, a two story tower, and breathtaking vistas of beautiful, luscious green mountains! Definitely worth the trip!