Elevation: 4,863 feet
Location: Spruce Knob
Visited: November 2021
Spruce Knob is the highest point in West Virginia. It’s located on the summit of Spruce Mountain, which is the highest ridge in the Allegheny Mountains. Getting to the peak is relatively easy, but it requires a lengthy drive up the mountain along a narrow road with lots of twists, turns and switchbacks.
We arrived at Spruce Knob in the mid-afternoon. While there are various scenic lookouts along the drive to the summit, we drove straight to the main attraction. From the parking lot, there’s a sign to point you in the right direction. It’s a short hike along the Whispering Spruce Trail (0.5 miles / 0.8km loop) to get to the observation tower.
Along the way there are a few interpretive signs that provide more information about Spruce Mountain and the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, which was the first National Recreation Area established in the United States.
Spruce Mountain is thought to have formed during the collision of the African and North American tectonic plates 250 million years ago. This collision caused the edges of the plates to uplight and fold over themselves. Over time, finer material eroded and left stronger more resilient material above, which resulted in the mountains we see today.
The stone and steel observation tower consists of a few steps up to a wide viewing platform. The views weren’t the greatest as they were mostly obstructed by the towering spruce trees below.
From the observation tower, there’s a short loop that leads to three scenic viewpoints, which provide a much nicer view into the valley below compared to from the top of the observation tower. The vegetation along this part of the trail looked stunted and deformed from the wind and elements.
We then followed the signs through the spruce forest and back to the parking lot. Spruce trees are commonly found on Spruce Knob due to the colder climate and high elevation. Most of the spruce trees are red spruce. This used to be the dominant species in many east coast forests, however, due to logging, wildfire, pollution and invasive species, these spruce forests have diminished.
It was then time to make the descent down the winding mountain.