The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Spy Rock

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Spy Rock, roadside marker
Spy Rock, circa 1926
A small section of the sandstone outcroppings near the Spy Rock marker

On the Midland Trail National Scenic Highway, U.S. 60 (US-60), at Lookout, WV, in Fayette County, this sandstone outcrop at an elevation of 2,510 feet was known by Native Americans as the "The Rock of Eyes." Indians used the rock as vantage point from which to watch for approaching enemies or smoke from their camp fires. The rock provides a view of Sewell Mountain to the east and south, and parts of Greenbrier County and Nicholas County to the north.

Spy Rock was the name given to a rock formation, but it was also the name of a community (map) located in Fayette County at the site of the rock outcropping.

During the Civil War, Union and Confederate soldiers alike used the rock to monitor movements along the Midland Trail, and early settlers referred to the formation as "Spy Rock." In September 1861, Gen. J. D. Cox and 5,000 Union soldiers camped near the rock. Some sources claim the community of Lookout takes its name from Spy Rock.

A wayside marker was erected along the Midland Trail (US-60) regarding Spy Rock, which has lead some to believe the small rock along the highway near the marker is Spy Rock. However, this pathetic little rock is not Spy Rock. Not all of the markers were located at, or even near, the exact sites they commemorate. Such markers were located where most travelers would see them. (2)

Spy Rock is a pillar (1), outcropping from the upper edge of the resistant Nuttall Sandstone, which also forms the towering cliffs nearby along the rim of the New River Gorge National River at nearby Beauty Mountain. Part of the Spy Rock formation may have been destroyed during the widening of adjacent U.S. 60 in the 1950s. Trees have also obscured some of the view from the rock. The rock can be scaled with moderate difficulty, though an observation area with walkway has been proposed.

See also: New River Travel Guide

Topo Map


1. Spy Rock is identified as a "pillar" by the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). GNIS contains name and locative information for almost 2 million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States and its Territories. The GNIS defines a "pillar" as being a "vertical, standing, often spire-shaped, natural rock formation (chimney, monument, pinnacle, pohaku, rock tower)."

2. West Virginia Historic and Scenic Highway Markers, a booklet published by the State Road Commission of West Virginia in 1937