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New River Gorge is West Virginia’s newest National Park! In this guide, we’re sharing the best thing to do in New River Gorge National Park and how to plan an awesome trip to the park!
New River Gorge is one of the best places to visiting West Virginia because it features a range of activities, including hiking, sightseeing, rafting, camping, and more! New River Gorge is a wonderful National Park to visit if you’re interested in both the outdoors and history.
New River Gorge National Park is 70,000+ acres and spread out along 52 miles of New River, so this park is a large space to explore! Most of the activities and things to do in the park are located within four major areas spanning from north to south: Canyon Rim, Thurmond, Grandview, and Sandstone. Each of these areas has a visitor’s center.
New River Gorge National Park Information
Why is New River Gorge Famous?
New River Gorge is famous for a number of reasons.
1. It was once one of the largest producers of coal in the United States. It’s hard to believe this new beautiful and scenic National Park was once full of smoke from 80 coal towns along the river. Dozens of passenger trains passed through the gorge daily, making this area bustling. Today, New River Gorge National Park preserves both the natural and cultural history of West Virginia.
2. The New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years. Today, it is the longest single-span steel arch bridge and the third highest bridge in the United States.
Is New River Gorge worth visiting?
Absolutely! New River Gorge is worth visiting whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush from it’s premier whitewater rafting, or if you’re looking to experience West Virginia’s scenic beauty.
When was New River Gorge National Park established?
New River Gorge was established as a National Park in 2021. Prior to being a National Park, it was managed by the National Park Service as a National River.
Map of New River Gorge National Park
Must Do Things at New River Gorge National Park
Things to Do in the Canyon Rim Area
Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center and Bridge Overlook
The Canyon Rim’s visitor’s center is a great place to start if you want to see one of the best views of the New River Gorge Bridge. Start at the visitors center and get your National Park Passport Book stamped if you have one. Then, make your way to the Bridge Overlook Trail. This trail is mostly a boardwalk along 0.6 miles round trip. The view at the bottom of the boardwalk is an up-close view of the gorge and bridge!
What is the National Park Passport Program?
The National Park passport program allows you to get dated stamps anytime you visit a National Park! This collector’s item is a great way to remember and commemorate your trip. We love getting our National Park Passport Book stamped anytime we visit a park!
Drive Fayette Station Road
Before the construction of the New River Gorge Bridge, drivers would have to take Fayette Station road to cross the river and pass through the gorge. This winding narrow road is still there! You can drive one way along this 100-year-old road and see what the drive used to be like to pass New River! A self-guided audio tour is available.
Endless Wall Trail and Diamond Point Overlook
The Endless Wall Trail is one of the most popular trails at New River Gorge National Park because of its views of the gorge and river. It is 2.4 miles one-way and considered a moderate hike. You’ll see the cliffs that give this trail its name along the way! The overlook at Diamond Point is a good turnaround spot if you don’t want to hike to the end of the trail.
Kaymoor Miner’s Trail
If you’re interested in seeing the ruins of a coal mine in New River Gorge National Park, consider the Kaymoor Miner’s Trail. This trail is considered strenuous, requiring hiking down the gorge and 821 steps down the boardwalk. The trail is 2 miles long out and back. At 0.5 miles into the trail, you’ll see the remains of the mining site. If you continue to the bottom of the trail, you’ll see the coal processing plant, conveyor, coke ovens, and town site.
Long Point Trail and Overlook
Long Point Trail and overlook is one of the best views of the New River Gorge bridge. This easy 3-mile trail takes you along the south rim of the canyon. At the end of the trail, you’ll get an awesome view of the bridge!
Things to do in the Thurmond Area
Thurmond is one of West Virginia’s coolest ghost towns. With a current population of only 5 people, it’s hard to believe this town used to hustle and bustle during the peak of the West Virginia coal industry. It’s hard to believe 15 passenger trains carrying 75,000 people would pass through Thurmond daily in the early 1900s.
During a visit to Thurmond, go on a self-guided walking tour of the town. You’ll see the remnants of businesses like the bank and post office. You can continue your tour by walking up Hill Street, a loop that will take you through Thurmond’s past and present residential area. Please, be respectful of the people who still live here!
If you’re lucky, you may get to see a CSX or Amtrak train go by during your visit!
Concho Rim Overlook
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of Thurmond, visit the Concho Rim Overlook. This view of the horseshoe bend, including Thurmond, is one of the most picturesque in New River! Here you can view Thurmond and watch the train pass through.
It’s hard to choose whether Nuttallburg or Thurmond is the coolest historical site at New River Gorge. Nuttallburg is another ghost town that used to be a booming coal mining town. Here, you can see the remains of the Henry Ford Coal Tipple, train tracks, buildings, and other mining equipment. Its remote location will make you wonder what it was like to live here decades ago! Nuttalburg is considered one of the best-preserved coal mining complexes in West Virginia.
Take the Seldom Seen and Tipple trails and walk through what would have been businesses, homes, and more. Today, you’ll find artifacts among the trees, so please leave them behind to preserve history.
If you want to see the top of the coal conveyor, take the Headhouse Trail from the top of the gorge. From there, you can continue down the gorge to the bottom to see the Nuttalburg site. This trail is very strenuous though!
Caution: The drive to the bottom of Nuttallburg is a narrow winding road down the gorge. In many areas, it is one lane or gravel. Drive slowly and prepare enough time in your planning for this drive! As of August 2022, the road is closed. So Nuttalburg is only accessible via the step Conveyor Trail from the top of the gorge.
Things to Do in the Grandview Area
The Grandview Overlook is one of New River Gorge National Park’s most popular overlooks. It offers a dramatic view of one of the horseshoe bends in the River. You see an active railroad and the town of Quinnimont, where the first coal was shipped out of the gorge in 1873.
Grandview Rim Trail
After a stop at the Grandview Overlook, hike along the Grandview Rim Trail. Along this hike, you’ll get more views of the river and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Castle Rock Trail
As you walk along the Grandview Rim Trail, you’ll get views of the river, but underneath this trail, you can explore the cliffs below via the Castle Rock Trail. Here, you’ll see the exposed layers of sandstone and coal seams forming large walls and cliffs.
This trail is accessible via the Grandview Rim Trail or from the main overlooks.
Turkey Spur Overlook
If you hike the entire length of the Grandview Rim Trail, you’ll come upon the Turkey Spur Overlook. You can also drive to this overlook by taking Turkey Spur Road to the end. To get to this overlook you will have to climb the massive rock formation. But don’t worry, there are plenty of stairs to take you to the top! Once at the top, you’ll get an awesome panoramic view of the gorge.
Things to Do in the Sandstone Area
Sandstone Falls is one of the top waterfalls in West Virginia. Spanning the entire width of New River, this waterfall is an awesome sight to see. Getting to Sandstone requires some driving if you’re coming from the park’s North end, and there are a few ways to get there. Either way, have the Sandstone Falls Boardwalk Trail in your GPS. You’ll pass through Hinton, WV, along the way, which makes for a great stop if you want to explore another small town.
Once at the Sandstone Falls Area, take the boardwalk. This short 0.2-mile trail will walk you to the falls. If you want to get a closer view of the falls or from a different view, you can do some rock scrambling at the end of the boardwalk to get closer. However, be very careful with water levels and loose rocks. Swimming is not allowed at Sandstone Falls.
Activities in New River Gorge
If you’re not afraid of heights and are in search of a thrill, consider walking along a catwalk 25 feet below the bridge. The Bridge Walk is one of New River’s coolest adventures. On these 2-3 hour tours, you’ll be securely harnessed to the bridge and walk along the full 3,030-foot length of the bridge. Along the way, your guide will share with you facts about New River and the Bridge. All tours include a shuttle to and from the meetup area in Lansing.
Bridge Day is one of West Virginia’s most unique events. Here, you can see people parachute and skydive off of the New River Gorge Bridge. Watch dozens of daredevils jump off the bridge during this day of thrills! Bridge Day is hosted every third Saturday in October.
Things to Do Nearby New River Gorge
Hawk’s Nest State Park
Hawk’s Nest State Park is another great space to enjoy if you want more horseshoe river views. Hawk’s Nest features a nature museum, an aerial tramway, jetboat rides, and plenty of hiking trails.
If you want to see one of West Virginia’s tallest waterfalls, continue passed Hawks Nest State Park to see Cathedral Falls. This 60-foot waterfall is just off the main road, so it’s very easy to get to!
Babcock State Park
Babcock State Park is another state park near New River Gorge National Park. This park is home to the Glade Creek Grist Mill, a fully functional replica of the original Cooper’s Mill, which once stood at the Park. The Grist Mill is the park’s focal point and makes for beautiful photos during any season. You can also camp, hike, and fish at the park.
Fayetteville has been voted one of the coolest small towns in the United States because of its small-town charm, local shopping, and local cuisine. Fayetteville is a great place to enjoy if you’re looking for something to do off the trails.
Plan Your Trip to New River Gorge
When should I visit New River Gorge?
New River Gorge is busiest in the summer and fall. During the summer, people are attracted to the park for rafting, hiking, camping, and more! While in the fall, visitors are leaf-peeping or visiting for Bridge Day. Both of these times of year are going to be the busiest, but they’re also the most scenic times to visit.
If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting in the late spring or late fall. It will be less green, but there will be fewer crowds and more availability of places to stay.
Is there a fee to enter New River Gorge?
No! New River Gorge is 100% free to visit and park!
How many days should I spend in New River Gorge?
We think if you want to see and do everything in New River Gorge, you’ll want to spend about 4-5 days. Especially if you’re planning on doing an excursion like rafting.
Seeing the sights in New River Gorge also requires a lot of driving time since destinations are spread out through the park on winding country roads. So when planning your trip to New River Gorge, we recommend mapping out your activities on Google Maps so you aren’t backtracking or wasting time driving. But don’t worry, the drives are beautiful, so they’re worth it.
How do I get to New River Gorge?
New River Gorge National Park is located in south-central West Virginia and is accessible via US Route 19.
Pittsburgh, PA: 3.5-hour drive Via I-79S and US-19S
Washington DC: 5- hour drive via I-81W and US-64W
Charleston, WV: 1-hour drive
Roanoke, VA: 2.5- hour drive
Charlotte, NC: 3.5-hour drive
Airport Access: Clarksburg, WV, Charleston, WV, Pittsburgh, PA
When is New River Gorge Open?
New River Gorge is open 365 days a year, 24/7! However, the visitor centers operate on seasonal hours.
Recommended Reading for New River Gorge National Park
Check out our book recommendations (plus a map!) from Bookshop.org, which supports local bookstores!
Where to Stay in New River Gorge
Since New River Gorge is a National Park, free camping is available as a range of campsites on a first-come-first-serve basis.
If you’re planning on visiting New River Gorge during the peak seasons, consider booking well in advance, such as 6 months to a year, if you want to get the best prices and availability on cabins and lodging.
Adventures on the Gorge is the largest resort area near New River Gorge National Park. This resort offers premier lodging and is a great option if you’re traveling with a family or planning to book one of New River’s many adventures. Adventures on the Gorge offers rafting tours, guided climbing, ziplines, and more! In terms of lodging, you can camp, book a cabin, or glamp on site.
Both Beckley and Fayetteville are the closest major towns and communities to New River Gorge National Park. Both offer a range of hotels, cabins, and nearby camping. Consider booking a Vrbo if you want to support local hosts.