The Mountaineer State's two finest summits are the high point and the Seneca Rocks. Although I couldn't do an epic ascent of the rocks, the hike to the viewpoint sufficed.
The profile of Seneca Rocks
"Mountaineers are always free"
Day: 9
Miles: 1,400

West Virginia has captured my attention and imagination for years before this road trip. Viewing a topographic map of the state should illustrate why. The state is egregiously missed out by the Appalachian Trail in lieu of more populous areas to the southeast. Oh, there's the 4 miles of Harper's Ferry, but some of the best scenery in the 2,500 miles of the range is completely missed out by AT thru hikers. How unfortunate.

I haven't the time to hike the entire AT and it is likely that I never will. This actually does not bother me in the slightest way; my other passions in addiction and family medicine in working as a nurse practitioner have become something that I love just as much. This precludes me from ever having months off to hike the AT but that is why I'm going on this great road trip. Along the way, I'm seeing some of the highlights of the trail as well as the things that it misses out.
Not on the Appalachian Trail
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, if the AT passed by everything worth seeing in the mountain range, it would be a 10,000 mile trail (would this be a bad thing?). If I had to design a trail, it would cross the Shenandoah mountains and then dog leg back 1,000 miles and cross the less explored mountains of West Virginia and Virginia before coming back up the better parts of Pennsylvania and New York. Oh well.

Three great places missed by the AT start with Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob and the Seneca Rocks. I didn't spend too much time as I should have in Caanan Valley but I did note some things to return to. Winding along, I finally made it to Seneca Rocks. This sharp ridgeline of exposed rock is the most well known climbing destination in the state. Beautiful and imposing pinnacles towered over me and I wished I had brought gear and rock climbing buddies with me. A visitors sign noted hundreds of fine multipitch climbs. Today, a hike would have to do. There's about a 1.5 mile trail which climbs to an observation platform and serves as an access route for climbers. If you're feeling gutsy, you can walk and scramble further along the knife's edge ridgeline.
The ridgeline of rock
Wall climbs are everywhere!
The highest summit of West Virginia is clearly visible from Seneca Rocks

I did a little bit of scrambling and bouldering at the upper heights. My rock climbing shoes did help! It would not be advisable to scramble around the top in hiking boots. The valley below looked so close, as did Spruce Knob. The state's highest mountain loomed over the range and I couldn't wait to be on top of it. It is a short distance away by car.

It was only after I had driven a significant portion of the mountain and hiked a short distance to the top that I realized that there was an extensive network of trails on the Northwestern side of the mountain. I felt like such a loser driving most of the way to the summit especially since I hated when people did the same on Mt Washington. I did hike for a few miles around the summit trails and other connectors that were in the area, but I couldn't shake feeling like a stupid tourist driving my way up mountains. More reasons to return!

Regardless of my questionable methods for attaining the summit, the views were phenomenal-
Spruce Knob
Sunset from the summit
I suppose I just need to buy a better map next time. This would not be my final experience in the state though, I'll be headed back over to New River Gorge soon.

Read. Plan. Get Out There!