There is a very good newspaper article in the Charleston (WV) Gazette, written by Jennifer Ginsberg, about hiking (not driving) up Spruce Knob, which was posted on the trip reports on Nov 5, 2005. Having recently followed this account to hike up to Spruce Knob, I would like to point out 2 errors in the account. One of these errors also appears on the US Forest Service map of the Seneca Creek recreation area. This map can be found on-line (www.wvhome.net/wvhome/FunHouse/images/SpruceKnob/map.htm). An enlarged version of this map is also posted at several of the trailheads that eventually lead to Spruce Knob.
Brief hike summary: to hike to Spruce Knob (4863 ft), you have to first hike up, over and down Allegheny Mountain (4100 ft), cross Seneca Creek, then hike up to the crest of Spruce Mountain and then along the ridgeline for 4 ˝ miles to get to the Spruce Knob highpoint. This hike is 11 miles one-way: 22 miles roundtrip. This is a VERY LONG day of hiking which you should not do unless you are doing it when the days are long and you are in good hiking shape. The round-trip hike can easily take 12 or more hours including breaks.
The Ginsberg account says to follow the Spring Ridge Trail to the top of Allegheny Mtn. This part of the account is accurate but the account then says “the trail then dips 1000 feet...” The US Forest Service trail map also shows the trail descending down from this point to Seneca Creek, as “Huckleberry Trail”. In fact, Spring Ridge Trail dead-ends at Allegheny Trail at the crest of Allegheny Mtn. To descend down to Seneca Creek from this point, you have to take a “hard” left turn onto Allegheny Trail (Spring Ridge bends to the right just before joining with Allegheny Trail), then hike a short distance (descending in elevation) to where Horton Trail has come up Allegheny Mtn from the left. At this point you turn right off of Allegheny Trail and onto Horton Trail which then descends down the other side of Allegheny Mtn to Seneca Creek.
Your best bet is to start your hike from the Horton Trail trailhead (the first trailhead you come to when driving south on Whitmer Rd (Rte 29). You will follow Horton trail up to the crest of Allegheny Mtn, cross over Allegheny Trail, then continue following Horton Trail down the other side of Allegheny Mtn which, as the Ginsberg article states, gets narrow and steep at this point (but not necessarily rocky).
Also note: there are at least a dozen trails in this part of the Seneca Creek recreation area and ALL of them are marked by Blue Diamond markers. So, coming upon a blue marker tells you that you are on a trail but does not tell you which trail. There are named trail signs at the trailheads and at trail junctions, but the second part of Horton Trail (not “Huckleberry Trail” as it is indicated on the Forest Service map) is not well marked as you descend down to Seneca Creek (but its not too hard to keep on the trail despite the lack of markers).
Follow Horton Trail down to Seneca Creek. Crossing Seneca Creek will very likely be a wet crossing (as indicated by the Ginsberg article) if you are hiking in the Spring or after a heavy rain (which we were on November 9, 2006). It is easy to get off-trail as the trails are not well marked in this area. Just do not stray too far to the right or left along Seneca Creek when looking for a good spot to cross. Huckleberry Trail officially starts AFTER you cross Seneca Creek. Huckleberry trail is well marked (once you get on it) all the way to Spruce Knob.
There is one other error in the Ginsberg report. If coming from the city of Elkins, you take Rt 33 EAST (not west). Keep a sharp eye out for the right turn onto Whitmer Rd (Route 29) as it is easy to miss.