The Mountains of West Virginia
Spruce Knob • Highpoint: State of West Virginia
• Highpoint: Pendleton County
• Highpoint: Allegheny Mountains

My 2001 visit

The view below, 2008

Approaching the top

The tower

Restaurant nearby.
Would love me some

Dates: (1) May 25, 2001; (2) May 14, 2008 • Elevation: 4,861 feet • Prominence: 2,781 feet • Distance: 0.2 miles • Time: 1 hour each time • Gain: negligible • Conditions: Rain in 2001, overcast in 2008


I have visited Spruce Knob twice, by myself in 2001 and again with βð in 2008.

May 2001: This was the final highpoint of my four-day trip through this part of the United States. I drove south through Canaan Valley State Park, then east along US-33 and south through some very steep and mountainous terrain toward Spruce Knob. I had moderate traffic, and the weather was wet but not rainy.

I left US-33 at the Spruce Knob State Park sign, then drove nine miles of mostly gravel road to the top. The clouds were hanging at 4,500 feet, so as soon as I got that high, I had 30-foot visibility in the dense fog. A steady rain was falling and it was cold. I was worried the rain would create problems with the road, but other than mudpits and puddles, my little passenger car handled it well.

I was surprised to come upon other vehicles on the road. In fact, three of us "convoyed" the final mile to the parking area. The rain was falling steadily. Two women in one vehicle didn't bother to get out at all. Another vehicle, a mini-van, consisted of a family with three kids. They were all getting dressed for a rainy walk, as was I.

I started the hike first, getting wet but figuring I wouldn't be out long. After about 5 minutes, I came upon the lookout platform and took shelther underneath it. The rain wasn't heavy but it came down in "sharp" sleet-like droplets. The fog prevented views. I stayed long enough to meet and greet the family of five as they arrived at the tower. This was deliberate so I could get one of them to snap a photo of me with my camera. The mom was kind enough to do so, in between nagging her kids to stay on the path. Once that was done, I hustled back to my car.

I descended the road back to the highway and drove west through Elkins and Buckhannon to Interstate-79, on which I went north toward Morgantown. The rain was heavy most of the way. I stayed the night in St. Clairsville, Ohio, near Wheeling, and visited a friend of mine who lives and works in Wheeling. I hadn't seen him in 14 years and got to meet his family, too. The next day I drove back to Columbus and flew home.

May 2008: We were in the area, on a long meandering drive that would eventually end in Lexington, Virginia, with the bulk of the drive being within West Virginia. I wanted to revisit Spruce Knob because when I was here last, it was rainy and I didn't see anything, except rain. For my wife, it would be her first visit.

It took us three hours to get here from Millwood via Harrisonburg and over the twisting mountain roads into West Virginia. We had been battling storms in recent days and today was cloudy and unsettled, but not rainy. We followed the road to Spruce Knob, meeting an interesting Canadian couple on their motorcycles on the way up.

We hiked to the lookout tower and highpoint area. Soon, the Canadian couple showed up. There were other cars in the parking lot but we didn't see anyone else. The wind was brisk and cold, so she went back to the car early while I walked the nature path near the tower before returning to the car. The conditions were much nicer than my first visit.

In 2001, I also visited four nearby county highpoints, centered around Morgantown. These are recounted below. I actually visited these first, then drove to the Spruce Knob area afterwards.

Chestnut Ridge
• Highpoint: Monongalia County

Date: May 24, 2001 • Elevation: 2,560 feet • Distance: drive-up • Time: 5 minutes • Gain: none • Conditions: Stormy


I had just visited Mount Davis in Pennsylvania. From there, I drove south into Maryland then west toward Morgantown, West Virginia. The day was growing old and the weather ominous, plus I was tired and filthy. However, I had time for an easy county highpoint at Chestnut Ridge in Monongalia County, West Virginia.

East of Morgantown on Interstate-68, I exited at Coopers Rock, then drove north and north again at a fork, following a steep road up a hill to a camping area at the end of the pavement. The road goes another couple miles to near the summit, but the county line is drawn below the top, so I had to gauge its location as best as I could using landmarks, plus walking around.

By now, it was dusky, and I hightailed it off the mountain and into Morgantown, where I stayed the night. The storms were quite loud and active during the night.

Carl Zinn Road
• Highpoints: Marion
& Taylor Counties

Date: May 25, 2001 • Elevation: 2,002 & 2,080 feet • Distance: 0.1 mile • Time: 30 minutes • Gain: 30 • Conditions: Wet


The following day started wet and gloomy. I was heading south, and these two were on the way. On US-119 about 10 miles south of Morgantown, I drove until I came to the Taylor County line sign. This is the Marion County highpoint. This point is actually a three-way junction of Monongalia, Taylor and Marion counties. To make it count, I parked, walked around, took a photo of a historical marker, and ticked it off my list.

Immediately opposite the highway from the sign is Carl Zinn Road. I drove in 0.4 mile through a residential area to a dirt-road on my right. A small hill south of Carl Zinn Road is the highpoint of Taylor County. I crossed the fence and hiked about 30 vertical feet to the wet, grassy, unexciting top. Actually, the top is in Monongalia County, but the county line cuts just south of the top. At some point, I crossed the magical boundary.

Backbone Mountain
• Highpoint: Preston County

Date: May 25, 2001 • Elevation: 3,400 feet • Distance: 2.5 miles • Time: 90 minutes • Gain: 400 feet • Conditions: Cloudy and generally moist


I visited Hoye Crest in Maryland first, then backtracked to highway US-219 inside West Virginia and drove two miles south to a dirt road that offers access to the forested highpoint of Preston County. This road is gated, but a sign mentions that hikers are welcome.

I hiked up the road heading northeast, then came to an old power-line clearing, an open swath of grass extending in a straight line as far as I could see. There were no poles anymore. I decided to charge directly uphill and meet the ridge this way, rather than the road.

The highpoint of Preston County is in the woods south of the clearing at the ridge where I now stood. I entered the woods and stayed close to the ridge, trying to avoid the downed trees, jumbly undergrowth and large rocks. The bushwhacking wasn't too bad, with mostly ferns and vines down low, and a 6-inch padding of leaves and moss on the ground. I had to step carefully as sometimes I would break through this mat into a hole or something.

I kept at my task, surmounting rock piles and always spotting higher land farther south. After 20 minutes, I came to a very large rocky outcrop that was significantly higher than the land around it. I climbed these rocks, and out to a pillar set off by itself that appeared to be the highest point, and scanned the area. The land to the south now visibly started to drop in elevation.

I retraced my route, and I was back to my car after a round-trip time of 90 minutes and about 2.5 miles round trip and 400 feet of gain. From here I proceeded to Spruce Knob (above).

(c) 2000-2021 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.