Things to do at New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia! All of the great things you can do while visiting the 63rd US National park Site.
Things to do in New River Gorge National Park
Congress re-designated New River Gorge National River as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve on December 27, 2020.
The designation made New River Gorge the 63rd National Park Site in the United States.
Check out a full list of US National Parks.
New River Gorge National Park has ample outdoor recreational activities to offer, whether you favor thrilling outdoor activities like climbing, bicycling, hiking, or whitewater rafting, or simply enjoy a picnic, tranquil bird watching, or camping while watching the river flow past.
The park allows visitors to learn more about the area's cultural history as well as tour some of the park's historic sites. There are many possibilities for both strenuous activity and a more relaxing experience.
Locals and regular tourists agree that the New River Gorge has always been a special place.
It has a complex human history, with coal mines and railroad magnates, as well as a fascinating geological history: the New River is one of the world's oldest rivers.Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Where is the New River Gorge National Park located?
The New River Gorge National Park is located in the state's southeast corner, north of Fayetteville in Fayette County, in West Virginia.
What Is the Size of the New River Gorge?
New River Gorge National Park spans 73,000 acres, 7,000 acres dedicated as National Park, and the remaining 65,000 acres designated as the National Preserve.
National Preserves are unique for the fact that they allow hunting, unlike National Parks. Only four additional National Park and Preserves exist in the United States, and they are all in Alaska.
There is something for everyone at New River Gorge including outdoor adventure activities, American history, and even those who simply like to sit back and enjoy nature.
Whether you want to enjoy a picnic, a beautiful drive, or watching the river flow by, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has a lot to offer.
Canyon Rim Visitor Center
You'll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the New River Gorge Bridge if you opt to go down and back up the 178 stairs on the Overlook Boardwalk route.
The view of the New River Gorge Bridge is well worth the climb up the steps!
Bridge Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk Trail offers a perspective of the New River Gorge. There is an upper observation platform with a completely accessible ramp if you don't want to walk the stairs down to the lower observation deck.
The Bridge Walk in West Virginia takes guests on a guided tour of the New River Gorge Bridge's catwalk.
During the trip, guests are strapped in a harness attached to a safety rope while they traverse the 3030-foot-long bridge, which is 876 feet above the New River.
Thurmond National Historic District
Historic Thurmond, now a ghost town with only five permanent residents, is nestled deep into the canyon and helps park visitors to imagine life at the turn of the twentieth century more vividly.
The Thurmond Historic District is the park's ultimate historical sampler.
A seasonal Thurmond Visitor Center is available during the summer months in the town's old railroad passenger station, although travelers are welcome to view the town and the few historic buildings overlooking the New River throughout the year.
Thurmond is an eight-mile drive from Glen Jean on the US-19 freeway.
The trip into the gorge, which follows a twisting and somewhat narrow route, should take around 20 minutes. Larger vehicles, such as campers should approach the location with caution.
Visitors to the park may enjoy excellent views of the New River Gorge at its deepest and broadest points from the picturesque Grandview viewpoint.
Grandview is one of the most well-known attractions in the park, with a seasonal visitor center and miles of picturesque paths, including a famous flagstone walk to the main viewpoint and a winding stairway to Turkey Spur Rock's peak.
The 1.6-mile Grandview Rim Trail follows the canyon rim beside a succession of stunning vistas and is one of the park's most popular trails.
The Cliffside Amphitheatre, which hosts the historical outdoor plays is also located in Grandview.
A trip to Sandstone Falls offers a unique riverside picturesque drive, breathtaking falls, and the dramatic transition of the New River from a wide mountain stream to a wild whitewater canyon on its last drop through the Appalachian Mountains.
Sandstone Falls, the New River's tallest waterfall, stretches 1500 feet across the river. The river descends 10 to 25 feet as it passes through a succession of islands.
The New River transitions from a big torrent with extensive bottomlands to a small mountain river roaring through a deep boulder-strewn V-shaped gorge at Sandstone Falls.
The falls provide a stunning backdrop for the New River's last surge down the New River Gorge, where it joins the Gauley River to become the Kanawha River.
Your trip to see the falls will take some time, but it will take you along two of the park's most gorgeous roads: Route 20 from I-64 in Sandstone, ten miles upstream to Hinton, and then eight miles downstream on River Road, the park's sole spectacular riverside drive.
There are various viewpoints, historical sites, natural areas, trails, and riverside access locations along both of these routes.
Junior Ranger Program
The New River Gorge National Park Junior Ranger program can be picked up at the visitor center.
The booklet has sections for all the different parts of the park so you can decide which parts you want to fill out.
White Water Rafting
The New River arises in the mountains of western North Carolina, travels through Virginia, and ends in West Virginia near its southernmost point.
When the Kanawha River meets the Gauley River, it forms the Kanawha River, which flows north. It does this by spanning all of the ridges of the Alleghenies. Its name is a bit misleading, considering it might be one of the world's oldest rivers.
Beginning at Bluestone Dam and terminating at Hawks Nest Lake, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve has 53 miles of free-flowing New River. The New River is a classic example of huge West Virginia whitewater.
Within the park, there are two distinct personalities. Long pools and reasonably simple rapids up to Class III characterize the upper (southern) section of the river. It's a large, strong river, but it's also quite pretty, always runnable, and great for fishing and camping.
There are a variety of river access spots, and expeditions can last anything from a few hours to many days.
Whether you want an adrenaline-pumping rafting adventure or a relaxing float trip, rafting New River Gorge WV offers the right experience for you. The Lower New River has Class V rapids that will set your pulse racing. The Upper New, on the other hand, handles family-friendly Class I-III rapids.
"The Lower Gorge" is the name given to the river's lower (northern) segment. The Lower Gorge, in a state known for massive rapids, features some of the largest of the huge, with rapids ranging in severity from Class III to Class V.
The rapids are imposing and violent, with big boulders obstructing several of them, requiring navigating in extremely powerful currents, crosscurrents, and hydraulics. Undercut rocks can be dangerous in some rivers.
Glade Creek / Hamlet
Glade Creek is a popular hiking, camping, fishing, and boating destination today. A basic campsite with five drive-in sites and many walk-in sites, as well as river access for beginning or terminating a river excursion, is located here.
The Glade Creek Trail's campsite and trailhead are connected by a tiny footbridge that spans Glade Creek.
A ½-mile off-trail hike leads to the ruins of Hamlet after crossing this bridge. Please keep in mind that all historical artifacts are protected and should be left where they are discovered while visiting any historic site in the park.
There is a couple of opportunities to take a scenic drive in the New River Gorge.
The first scenic drive leaves directly behind the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and crosses the New River on the Fayette Station Bridge.
For me personally, this was one of the highlights of the park as you drive down a one-way winding road down towards the river.
This is not a road for any oversized vehicle as my truck even had one wheel off the pavement in one section!
There are several pullouts with interpretative panels and excellent photo opportunities to view the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the most photographed locations in West Virginia!
Why the most photographed? The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest steel span in the Western Hemisphere and the third highest in the U.S.
Once you reach the bottom, you cross the Fayette Station Bridge then take a beautiful drive through the woods before joining back up to the interstate.
The second drive (map below) is an 83-mile loop around the park that takes you to some of the highlights of the park while giving you some incredible views of the New River Gorge.
New River Gorge Bridge Walk
Are you ready for an adrenaline rush? Did you know you can sign up to take a guided New River Gorge Bridge Walk tour?
This tour is not let by the park service. A private company offers these tours.
During the tour you walk on the catwalk 25 feet beneath the bridge. The tours last 2-3 hours and include walking on the 24-inch wide catwalk under the bridge.
There is a railing! Visitors are securely fastened to a safety cable making it impossible to fall from the bridge during the tour.
On the tour you want the entire 3,030 foot length of the New River Gorge Bridge and then you take a shuttle back.
The New River has a variety of hiking trails that blend nature, spectacular views from the rim, waterfalls, and historical artifacts from the area's ancient coal mines. A few of the most popular trails include:
The Sandstone Falls Boardwalk Trail is an easy 0.4-mile roundtrip ADA Accessible trail that takes you to an excellent view of Sandstone Falls, the largest waterfall on the New River at 1500 feet wide and averages 10 to 25 feet deep.
The Endless Wall Trail is perhaps the most popular hike in the New River Gorge Area. It is 2.4 miles, moderate, and has incredible views along the cliff edge of the New Canyon.
The Kenmore Miners Trail is a 1.6 mile out and back trail that is rated difficult. Perhaps it's the 821 steps down this otherwise steep trail? At the bottom of the trail are the remains of the Kenmore mining site including coke ovens and a processing plant.
Trails range in length from ¼ mile to 7 miles. Several can be linked together to create longer hikes. The difficulty ranges from flat, easy strolling to steep, difficult terrain.
At the Canyon Rim, Grandview, Sandstone, and Thurmond visitor centers, you may get trail recommendations and maps. Much of the area inside the national park and preserve designated borders is still privately owned; please respect the rights of the landowners.
The New River Gorge is one of the most popular mountain biking destinations in the eastern United States, thanks to its gorgeous scenery and diversity of severe to less strenuous biking trails.
Mountain bikers that come to New River Gorge have a lot to be thankful for. One of the largest youth service projects in the history of the National Park Service took place here in 2011.
Over 1,000 members of the Order of the Arrow, an honor society in the Boy Scouts of America volunteered over 78,500 hours of volunteer work to create a stacked loop trails system known as the Arrowhead Trails.
If you have completed this route, swing over to some of the other 15+ trails in the area! Just remember that the trails can also be used for hiking.
Traditional bicycles are presently permitted on the following paths inside New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Only e-bikes are allowed on the Stonecliff Trail.
The Bluestone Turnpike Trail at Bluestone National Scenic River also allows bicycles. In the future, the park trail system may be expanded to include more cycling routes.
Summersville Lake and Little Beaver State Park both include mountain riding paths.
Over 1,400 recognized rock climbing routes can be found inside New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
New River Gorge has become one of the country's most popular climbing sites. Its cliffs are built of a highly durable sandstone and range in height from 30 to 120 feet.
The rock has a lot of character, and there are a lot of crack and face routes to choose from. The majority of the gorge's routes are designed for experienced and expert climbers.
Most sport routes are in the 5.10 - 5.12 category, while the bulk of routes is 5.9 or tougher. Local climbing stores can provide information and particular recommendations, and a guidebook is a useful tool for identifying routes.
If you are planning to go climbing, you will find the following information useful:
Season: While climbing is possible year-round, the ideal months are late April to mid-June and mid-September to late October.
Water and Food: At the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, there is water. In adjacent towns, there are several marketplaces and dining businesses.
Showers: Showers are available for purchase at several of the area's private campsites.
Camping: Many private campsites are located near the climbing areas and are easily accessible by car. On park grounds, primitive camping is permitted. Within 100 feet of parking spaces, water supplies, historic sites, or the cliff's upper rim, camping is forbidden.
On the New River, fishing is one of the most popular pastimes. The New River is a great warm-water fishery because of the variety of species that live there.
Anglers may have a great fishing experience if they respect the river and its resources and take a few safety precautions.
Tug Creek Beach, Brooks Falls, Hellems Beach, and Sandstone Falls via River Road at Hinton; Meadow Creek; McCreery, Grandview Sandbar, Mill Creek, and Glade Creek off Hwy. 41 near Prince; Dunglen and Stone Cliff near Thurmond; Cunard; and Fayette Station are all public river access points within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
To cross private property and reach the New River, you must first obtain permission from the landowner.
Visitors fishing in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve must adhere to the rules and regulations of the state of West Virginia regarding fishing licenses. A West Virginia fishing license is necessary for anybody fishing in the park. Tourist permits for a year and three days are available at local sports goods and bait shops.
The Trump-Lily Farm area was first inhabited by white man around 1810-1815. The property was sold numerous times throughout its life until the National Park Service purchased it in 1989.
Today you can see what it would have been like growing up in the West Virginia hills. Farmers got by raising what they needed to survive and trade.
Today you can tour what remains on the farm and reminisce on what life was like early in American history.
Only primitive camping is available in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Along the river, there are camping spots. There is no running water, no connections, and just a few restrooms in these rustic camping locations.
Camping is free of charge. Stays in the same location are restricted to 14 days. In the nearby region, there are developed campsites in state parks and private campgrounds.
Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
All but one of the campgrounds are located along the river, and all but one (War Ridge Campground) have direct access to the water. Swimming is not recommended since the New River has fast currents and is rocky.
For a fun adventure check out Escape Campervans. These campervans have built in beds, kitchen area with refrigerators, and more. You can have them fully set up with kitchen supplies, bedding, and other fun extras. They are painted with epic designs you can't miss!
Escape Campervans has offices in Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Orlando
On federally owned territory, hunting is authorized throughout the preserve. However, before you go hunting in this protected area, make sure you know the local hunting rules and restrictions.
To the majority of people in Southern Appalachia, hunting is much more than a sport. It's a family custom that's been passed down from generation to generation.
Hunting is becoming more popular as a family pastime. Not only do good hunters teach the fundamentals of hunting and shooting, but they also instill a love and respect for the land, the species, and the experience.
New hunters must also be informed of the rules and regulations, as well as safety considerations.
The New River Gorge National Park has a lot to offer. The only limitation is the amount of time you have to spend in this "Almost Heaven" West Virginia park. The New River offers some of the best whitewater rafting in the country, as well as excellent climbing and hiking opportunities.
Whether you want to embark on an adventure or just enjoy a picnic, a beautiful drive, or watching the river flow by, New River Gorge National Park has a lot to offer.
Lodging near New River Gorge NP
Sleep Inn Beaver - Beckley - 8 miles from the park. All guestrooms at Sleep Inn Beaver - Beckley have comforts such as air conditioning, in addition to amenities like free Wi-Fi and safes.
Comfort Inn New River - 10 miles from the park. Look forward to a terrace, laundry facilities, and a business center at Comfort Inn New River. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi.
Holiday Lodge Hotel - 8.5 miles from the park. Look forward to a free breakfast buffet, a garden, and an arcade/game room. For some rest and relaxation, visit the hot tub. Stay connected with free in-room Wi-Fi, and guests can find other amenities such as laundry facilities and a fireplace in the lobby.
Best Western Plus Beckley Inn - 10 miles from the park. Free breakfast, laundry facilities, and a fireplace in the lobby are just a few of the amenities provided at Best Western Plus Beckley Inn. In addition to a gym and a business center, guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi.
Courtyard by Marriott Beckley - 9.5 miles from the park. Look forward to shopping on site, a firepit, and a coffee shop/café at Courtyard by Marriott Beckley. The onsite restaurant, The Bistro, features American cuisine. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with dry cleaning/laundry services and a bar.
Click on the map below to see the current rates for hotels and vacation rentals near New River Gorge NP.
Parks near New River Gorge NP
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Bluestone National Scenic River
Blue Ridge Parkway
Mill Springs Battlefield National Monument
Check out all of the National Parks in West Virginia along with neighboring National Parks in Kentucky, National Parks in Maryland, National Parks in Ohio, Pennsylvania National Parks, and Virginia National Parks