The towering parallel blades of sandstone known as Nelson Rocks are among the spectacular of geologic formations in the South Branch Valley region of West Virginia. Like nearby Seneca Rocks, Nelson Rocks have attracted climbers to the region for more than 100 years. Though public-access climbing is temporarily prohibited, the rocks are open to climbers through the Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center.
More than 200 single- and multi-pitch routes, both sport and traditional, ascend the cliffs at Nelson Rocks, which rise to nearly 300 feet. Now being managed as part of the 145-acre Nelson Rock Outdoor Center, formerly the Nelson Rocks Preserve, the climbing area will open to the public again after a management plan has been finalized. Access is limited to climbers who are registered with the outdoor center and to visitors who are touring the center's other attractions, which include hiking trails, zip-line tours, and via ferrata excursions.
The Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center may be best known for the high-tension footbridge that has been suspended between the twin blades of sandstone and is part of its via ferrata climbing area. Via ferratas are climbing routes that are equipped with steps, ladders, and fixed cables. Like Seneca Rocks, Nelson Rocks were used as a training ground for the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division in the early 1940s and an estimated 75,000 pitons are still to be found hammered into the rock.
Nelson Rocks Climbing Access: Access to the Nelson Rocks climbing area is private. Access to hiking trails, the via ferrata, and canopy tours at Nelson Rocks is provided through the Nelson Rocks Outdoor Center.
Content sponsored by New River Climbing School