Hiking, train rides, scenic, landmarks and more! Beautiful countryside.
We booked the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower two months in advance, it is pretty popular, so if you want to stay there you will have to book it in advance. It is $75 a night, which is pricey, but is well worth it.
To get to the fire tower you will want to take the Loop Road, it is gravel and there are pot holes on the edges of the road so you will want to be careful of those. The fire tower is secluded, so you will not have to worry about neighbors or noise while staying there. At the base of the tower there is a fire pit, picnic table, and a pit toilet. The toilet is part of a small shed that has already split wood on the other side for you to use. But no electrical hookups at the base or in the tower. They do have a shower house behind the rangers station, it is very nice and clean. The website says the tower can house up to four people, however, there are only two cots, so you will want to bring sleeping mats if you plan on having more than two people. The 360 degree views are breathtaking. One night we had two different storm systems blow through the mountains and the lightning show was amazing to watch. You will definitely want to watch a sunrise as well, absolutely stunning.
Seneca State Forest is one of the oldest forest in West Virginia, it has a small pond/lake you can fish at and even take small boats onto. They have plenty of hiking trails, which also allow mountain biking on most. They have cabins on the lake for rent as well and have plenty of tent camping spots.
We spent several days in Seneca State Forest. I want to highlight the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower for this review.
Renting and staying in the Thorny Mountain Fire Tower is a special opportunity…and I believe everyone should enjoy its uniqueness and solitude…for several reasons. One selfish reason is so that perhaps other State and National Forests would do the same thing…refurbish, but leave rustic remaining fire towers and rent them out like a campsite or cabin. There is much history and lore that is behind every fire tower.
The Thorny Mountain Fire Tower was built by the CCC sometime around 1935…and is erected at an elevation of 3458 ft. Nearly 70 steps up the structure brings you to 3507 ft (by my gps). From that height, you get to enjoy long mountain views in both West Virginia and Virginia. The tower cabin structure has 360 views…11 windows and a windowed door…so you don't miss any of the show! It is not insulated, but then again it is not available during the winter months. There are no, I repeat, no amenities in the tower…but that's half the allure..only two spring cots/mattresses…four folding wooden chairs…and two tiny nightstands. Four can stay…but only two have the beds. My back preferred the floor. At the base of the tower there is a lockable structure that houses a pit latrine on one end and plenty of dry firewood on the other end. You do have a picnic table and fire ring on a gravel pad north of the tower base. No running water…period. So all water must be acquired 15-20 minutes down the mountain at the Park Headquarters (which also has the only showers/bathrooms(2)…and laundry room…super clean!). The State Park employees that operate the headquarters there are the most kind, gracious and hospitable folks you will find. You will need to reserve a spot far in advance…so don't leave it to the last minute.
Our stay was memorable and pleasurable. While some might balk at the expense per night…it is the rare opportunity you are paying for. And…I will do it again in the future!
Watching storms roll in across the mountain tops…fog settling into the valleys like white foaming rivers…being perched beside rainbows…moonlight piercing the night through your curtainless windows…and reveling in the surreal sunrises and sunsets did it for me! Your closest neighbor is waaay down the mountain.
Note: Do not make my mistake and not listen closely to directions up to the tower. I took the first gravel road right…well…dirt road. It happens to be an unmaintained alternate service road to the tower…not good. Ordinary vehicles will be damaged…and two-wheel drive probably won't make it. My SUV survived, but I was questioning my sanity at times. The roads are gravel most the way up Thorny Mountain…and the last bit up to the tower had experienced recent washout from storms, so the going was rough but very doable.
I think eight of the windows still open, and they provide slide screens to insert so the cross breeze is amazing day and night. But they must be removed and the windows shut when the rain rolls in or you will get wet. The roof does not have enough overhang to keep the rain out…nor does it amply cover the walk-around deck…so it'll drip on your noggin'. But hey, your camping…you're gonna get wet.
Can't recommend the experience enough…who knows how long this type of opportunity will exist. Just Do It!
We splurged and rented the Thorny Mountain fire tower. Reserve well in advance. You can drive up the mountain (any vehicle in summer if the weather's good. You will need 4WD in mud or snow) or hike. Bring all your standard backpacking/camping gear, cots are provided. Maximum 4 people. There are also tent, RV, and cabin options for much less in the area, but this is absolutely worth it.
We splurged and rented the Thorny Mountain fire tower. Reserve well in advance. You can drive up the mountain (any vehicle in summer, might need 4WD in mud or snow) or hike. Bring all your standard backpacking/camping gear, cots are provided. Maximum 4 people. There are also tent, RV, and cabin options for much less in the area, but this is absolutely worth it.
I spent a 3-night backpacking trip in Seneca State Forest, and it was a blast! Water is crystal clear (COLD), and the landscape is breathtaking!