Smoke Hole Canyon


Smokehole Canyon

About 185 million years ago, a seven-mile thick sheet of sedimentary rocks began to buckle and fold. Wind and water wore away the softer layers, wearing down the mountains, and creating a region of rolling plains. Then the plains themselves were violently uplifted and broken. The rivers that had previously rolled gently over the plains turned into raging torrents that cut deep gorges and canyons. One such gorge is the Smoke Hole, where the South Branch of the Potomac River squeezes between North Mountain and Cave Mountain. For over 20 miles the river has carved a half-mile deep canyon, with nearly vertical walls.

The misty fog that often lies along the river as it runs through the "hole" makes the name appropriate. Where the name really came from is uncertain. Some old timers call the canyon "Smoke Holes" and claim Native Americans used the caves for smoking meat. Others say it was the moonshiner's stills that gave the gorge its name. Regardless, the canyon is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful areas in West Virginia. The remote, rugged landscape provides a unique recreation experience, whether you are fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing or camping. The roads into the area are narrow and winding: take your time and enjoy the scenery.

At a Glance

Information Center: For more information contact the Potomac District Office at (304) 257-4488 or you can contact the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center during the summer months at (304) 567-2827.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Other Activities

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Water Activities

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