Things you should know for your trip to AHSP
Rev. July 6, 2017
This page [originally part of an email] will provide some details about the routes and roads to SKMC for all types of vehicles, and last minute food, gas, and camp supplies on the way. For starters, we will provide some general guidance. This corresponds to what you will see on Google maps or other route planners. We also have prepared written directions and Google Maps.
Coming from: Head toward: E of SKMC (MD, northern VA through NE (mid-PA) Strasburg, VA From N (Pittsburg) through W (Louisville) Elkins, WV From SW (Knoxville) through S (Charlotte, NC) Blacksburg, VA then via US219 From the SE Harrisonburg, VA
You should print out the directions you need before you leave home. If your navigation system relies on true GPS, it short work all the way. If it relies on triangulation from cell towers, then it will not work in the National Radio Quiet Zone around Green Bank, which includes SKMC. Your cellphone will likely not work, either.
The AHSP Web site provides suggestions for things to do nearby, and which you might want to include in your travel plans. First and foremost, we are in the Monongahela National Forest and Spruce Knob National Recreation Area of the Shenandoah Mountains, with all the associated outdoor activities: hiking, fishing, rafting, canoeing (at nearby Gatewood), climbing (for the adventurous, at Seneca Rocks), and history (Civil War and other). The Recreation Area Visitor Center is at the town of Seneca Rocks, at the intersection of US33, WV28, and WV55. Spruce Knob itself offers a dramatic view from an observation tower on the highest peak in WV.
I can’t offer specific advice about shopping for crafts and antiques. I think you will find the former in Elkins, and the latter in more travelled areas, such as the I-81 corridor.
Need more old railroads? Durbin & Greenbrier Valley RR has other trains that depart from Elkins. The Cass railroad leaves from the town of Cass, a bit south of Green Bank. Restorers are working on the engines on alternate weekends through the summer — very interesting for train buffs. [We will try to add their schedule for this summer when posted.]
Public caverns have reopened, as visits have been found to not contribute to bat disease — white nose syndrome. Also, private limestone caverns nearby are operating. Smoke Hole Caverns has received a thumbs-up from Dave Reese: “I highly recommend visiting Smoke Hole Caverns, which is located on Rt. 28 (north of TMI) on the way to or from TMI. It is in the Seneca Rocks area and has a Seneca Rocks address. See http://www.smokehole.com/. Seneca Caverns on Germany Valley Rd. (off WV33) in Riverton http://www.senecacaverns.com/ has been improved recently; online reviews rate it higer and more authentic than Smoke Hole, while still easy to traverse with a guide. Caverns can be a cool respite on a hot summer day (~55F all year), but dress accordingly.
And something often forgotten: Spruce Knob are great places to do nothing or almost nothing during the day: sit in the shade, take a nap, read a book, play some cards or checkers — relax and enjoy the mountains, the quiet, and the clean air.
Last minute on the way. There are no resources conveniently close to SKMC. They are all “down the road a piece,” well off the mountain.
For most folks, the last restaurant on the way is Gateway Restaurant in Riverton, WV on US33/WV28 at Briery Gap Rd., north of the SKMC turnoff. Further north along that road in Seneca Rocks you will find the Front Porch Restaurant, which I also like.
Last chance for gas coming in from the east (through Seneca Rocks or Franklin) is a place in Circleville, which is also a convenience store with ice and snacks.
Harper’s Country Store (downstairs from the Front Porch) in Seneca Rocks is a fairly well stocked camp store.
Overall, you would do best to plan to get what you need on the way, before or in Elkins, Franklin, or Petersburg, WV. Moorefield now has a 24h Walmart SuperCenter. After you exit the divided highway in Moorefield, turn right (north) where you would normally continue to the left.
If you expect you might need a last-minute place to stay before arriving at AHSP, the closest towns along the route with a range of accommodations are Strasburg and Harrisonburg, VA, and Elkins, WV. If you are camping and think you might arrive on Thursday night, plan on camping in the National Recreation Area. Only setup volunteers are allowed to arrive before 10AM on Friday st SKMC. This is strictly enforced.
Detailed information on driving and routes
Latest report from the mountain is that the public road to SKMC is in good gravelled condition. Be careful of oncoming traffic, potential slipping on gravel, and sharp turns. But don’t be unduly afraid about mountain driving: school buses can navigate the road from the blacktop to SKMC, and so can you.
Scott Paisley took his 34′ Travel Trailer and “it all worked out just fine.”
Dave Reese reports: There is a gas station with convenience store past Circleville as you go south on Rt. 28, coming from Seneca Rocks or Franklin. This is the last gas station/convenience store that you have before turning onto Sawmill Run Road after Cherry Grove. This is where I always stop to tank up with gas and goodies before heading up the mountain. They also have ice, as I recall. This is the closest gas station to SKMC.
From the Northeast and East
Most AHSP travellers prefer to avoid US 33 west from Harrisonburg with its steeper grades and tight turns, which has been recommended int he past. If you come from Harrisonburg, Franklin, WV is your last full-service town.
Here are the “northern route” detailed directions, from the north and east on I-66 or I-81, courtesy of Eric Vondra:
– West on I-66 to I-81 south
– I-81 south; take the second exit to VA55/US48 west toward WV (about 3 miles on I-81).
– Take 55/48 across the WV line, through the town of Wardensville (speed trap!), and at the other end of town it becomes the Corridor H superhighway (still 55/48). Take that to the Moorefield exit. [Google suggests continuing on the US48/Corridor H highway on to WV5, which leads south to Petersburg. This is usually a little faster (2 min.) but somewhat longer (8 mi.). You may want to try it for a change. Generally, the Moorefield exit works better for most, and gives more options for food and supplies.] – There is a long exit ramp at Moorefield ending at a T controlled by a light. Turn left and just stay on WV28 through Moorefield and Petersburg (you’ll make a right turn in “downtown” Petersburg, then go up the hill past a Dairy Queen and on out of town). [The hospital on the left is the closest medical facility to SKMC.] – Continue on 28 through Seneca Rocks.
– When you get to Judy Gap (you’re getting fairly close when you see the “SKSRT” building), turn right on 28 (it’s 28/33 until then, where the route numbers split).
– You’ll go about 8.5 miles through Circleville, then Cherry Grove, then around Hunting Ground Mt. (no sign for it, but it’s a mountain) in a right curve and then you’ll see Sawmill Run Rd. on the right, just before a sweeping left bend. Turn off there on Sawmill Run. Rd. There are brown signs for SKMC and Spruce Knob Lake. Be careful — the road has few guardrails and takes some wicked hairpin turns. There are signs at a couple of key intersections.
– After about 5.5 miles on Sawmill Run Rd. there is a big red mailbox on the right at the SKMC gate, and also a SKMC sign. When you enter, continue straight up the hill (don’t go down to the right). It’s a little less than a mile to the observing fields. If your car has low clearance or you are pulling a trailer, take the last mile dead slow.
Notes on the route:
Wardensville, and possibly some other towns on this route, are old-fashioned southern speed traps. “Let’s be careful out there.” You might also consider spending your tourist dollars in more enlightened locations.
The cheapest gas will usually be found a little past Lebanon Church at the Shell station and a little further on the Sunoco station on the right. These are the last gas stations in VA on route 55. Gas is more expensive in WV.
From the North and West
After you pass Elkins, WV (your last full-service town on this route), Google often directs you to turn south from US33 at Job, WV onto County Rte. 29. This is about 20 mi. shorter, and a predicted 2 min. faster, than the route via Seneca Rocks, but much of it is on gravel roads. If you are fine with that driving and have a good map, it can be a pleasant dive through the Shenandoah via Whitmer and Spruce Knob Lake. If not, take the longer route through Seneca Rocks.
Other resources on the way, close to AHSP
- Gateway Restaurant, Riverton, WV (on US33/WV28 n. of TMI turnoff) at Briery Gap Rd.
Homestyle restaurant. Recommended. Tripadvisor. Facebook.
Hours: Mon – Thu 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Fri & Sat 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sun 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Phone (304) 567-2810 http://www.pendletoncounty.net/AKpages/page-gate.htm
- Front Porch Restaurant, Seneca Rocks, upstairs from the general store
Also recommended. Outdoor dining porch overlooks the climbers on Seneca Rocks. Over Harper’s Old Country Store at the junction in Seneca Rocks.
Hours: Sat 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.• Sun – Friday 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Phone (304) 567-2555.
- Harper’s General Store, Seneca Rocks, is just that: a country general store. http://www.pendletoncounty.net/AKpages/page-harpstore.htm
Other resources, unreviewed:
- Yokum’s in Seneca Rocks has minimal gas, food, general store
- Yokum’s Restaurant at the motel. http://www.yokum.com/
- Asbury’s Family Restaurant, Germany Valley Rd. (off 33) in Riverton, at Seneca Caverns Tripadvisor
Hours 11-6 (M-F) 9-7 (Sa-Su) http://www.senecacaverns.com/things.cfm?view=restaurant