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While the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve in West Virginia has been a favourite outdoor spot for visitors over centuries, it has recently been named the USA’s newest National Park. Offering an abundance of natural beauty, breathtaking views, outdoor activities, and uncrowded mountain towns, the park is home to more than 70,000 acres of land.
The park sits along the New River, the second oldest river globally. Here, you will also witness the iconic steel arch bridge, which is a structural masterpiece as the longest steel span in the western hemisphere. As one of the most photographed places in West Virginia, the New River Gorge Bridge offers a stunning gateway to this slice of heaven. Read on to hear our roundup of top activities to check out during a trip to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve:
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve includes 85 km of free-flowing river. There are two sections to choose from for your whitewater rafting adventure, each offering excursions ranging from mild to wild. The Upper New River section consists of relatively easy rapids up to Class III, making it perfect for families and a great way to introduce young children (6yo and up) to whitewater rafting. The Lower New River section has bigger rapids ranging between Class III and V. This section is perfect for children 9+, first-time rafters, or those with more experience on the river.
There are tours available which provide all equipment, experienced guides, transportation to and from the river, and meals with a scenic backdrop. The New River Gorge National Park & Preserve is open year-round, and the river never stops running, with rafting season peaking from April to October.
There are plenty of hiking options available in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Trails range from 0.5km to 11km in length, with some of them easy to connect if you are looking for longer excursions. There are six different areas of trails: Grandview, Glade Creek, Sandstone Brooks, Fayetteville, Thurmond-Stone Cliff-Cunard, and Nuttalburg.
Each of the trails have something unique to offer, from spectacular views and scenic walks along cascading waterfalls to exploring the remains of an old coal-mining town. If you have limited time to explore, we recommend you look for trails in the Grandview and Sandstone Brooks areas. The trails of Grandview also provide excellent opportunities to view wildlife; deer, fox, bats, skinks, box turtles, and a great variety of birds, including wild turkey, several species of raptors, songbirds and ravens. The Sandstone Brooks trails allow you to overlook the beautiful Sandstone Falls, the largest waterfall on the New River spanning 457 meters across.
If you prefer to enjoy the natural beauty from your car, you have the option to experience the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve and its breathtaking views through a three-hour scenic road trip. Spanning 2,655 miles across the nation, the historic U.S. Route 60 passes through West Virginia and provides endless opportunity for exploration of the Mountain State along its path. You can start at different points but make sure you don’t miss some of the most beautiful stops, such as the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, Babcock Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, Sandstone Falls, and the Endless Wall Trail.
Located close to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Fayetteville is a mountain town that offers endless adventure. While you’ll find whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing and mountain biking here, this charming small town also has delicious local eateries and speciality shopping, if that’s more your style!
Just a short drive from the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Lewisburg is a charming, historic town set at the Midland Trail's crossroads. Downtown Lewisburg is one of the state’s most walkable cities, with many boutique shops, art galleries, and antique stores along its picturesque main street. No visit to Lewisburg is complete without a luxurious stay at The Greenbrier, a world-class resort that has been welcoming guests since 1778 and today features a new era of elegance.
Where to eat:
There are great eatery options available in the nearby towns of Beckley, Fayetteville, Lewisburg, and Hinton. Our favourite spots include Pies & Pints and Wood Iron Eatery in Fayetteville, The Market on Courthouse Square in Hinton, and The Humble Tomato in Lewisburg.
Where to stay:
No matter where you set up your home base at the park, a cozy getaway awaits. From resorts in uncrowded mountain towns to hidden cabins, boutique rentals, and treehouse escapes, lodging comes easy here. Check out Ace Adventure Resort, Country Road Cabins, Adventures on the Gorge Resort and The Greenbrier.