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The Best Things to do at New River Gorge National Park

    Posted Date: July 23, 2021

    Wondering whether or not it’s worth it to visit America’s newest national park in West Virginia? We visited New River Gorge National Park in May of 2021 for a weekend and it exceeded our expectations!

    With stunning vistas of the gorge, incredible hikes accessible for all levels, and fun outdoor adventures like white water rafting, this national park has a bit of everything. Whether or not you have time to visit for a weekend or a few days, we think making a trip to New River Gorge is 100% worth it.

    In this guide, we have rounded up a list of the best things to do at New River Gorge National Park. Here are our recommendations for the best hikes, the best viewpoints of the famous New River Gorge bridge, and other activities to help you plan your trip to West Virginia.

    General Info

    Open: Year-round, 24 hours a day
    Park Pass: $0
    Best time to visit: Late spring to early fall
    Visitor’s center: There are 4 visitor centers located throughout New River Gorge National Park. You can find all of the info on operating hours here.

    • Canyon Rim Visitor Center: Open year-round, 9 AM – 5 PM
    • Sandstone Visitor Center: Open mid-June to end of October, 9 AM – 5 PM
    • Thurmond Visitor Center: Open beginning of June to end of October, 9 AM – 5 PM
    • Grandview Visitor Center: Open beginning of June to end of October, 9 AM – 5 PM

    The park is 53-miles long following the tree-lined gorge and the ancient New River. Contradictory to its name, the New River is actually one of the oldest river’s in the world.

    The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the highest bridges in the U.S. and is one of the main attractions in the national park.

    The nearest airport is located in Charleston, West Virginia (~1 hour from the New River Gorge Bridge). You will need a car to access the park.

    Best things to do at New River Gorge

    Long Point Trail

    New River Gorge Bridge
    Views from Long Point Trail
    Long Point Trail Path

    Length of trail: 3 miles, out and back
    Type of activity: Hike
    Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
    Nearest visitor’s center: Canyon Rim

    If you’re looking for the best views of the New River Gorge Bridge, then this is the hike you want to do. Once you reach the end of the hike, you’ll find yourself standing at the edge of a rocky point with the most spectacular view of the bridge.

    The Long Point Trail was by far our favorite hike in the national park, and it’s one you shouldn’t miss!

    Endless Wall Trail

    Endless Wall Trail

    Length of trail: 2.7 miles loop
    Type of activity: Hike
    Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
    Nearest visitor’s center: Canyon Rim

    The Endless Wall Trail takes you along the edge of the gorge and offers stunning views of the New River. Along the way, you’ll be able to stop at a couple of lookouts along the cliff’s edge, but the best view by far is at Diamond Point.

    Endless Wall Trail Views

    We thought this hike was an out-and-back hike, but it’s actually a loop. Starting at the Fern Creek parking lot, you’ll follow the trail all the way around to the Nuttall parking lot. From here, you’ll walk along the main road back to the Fern Creek parking lot, completing the loop.

    If you want to do a shorter hike, you can just hike to Diamond Point and turn around. This is about 2 miles round trip.

    Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk

    Canyon Rim Trail View

    Length of trail: 0.6 miles out-and-back
    Type of activity: Hike
    Difficulty level: Easy
    Nearest visitor’s center: Canyon Rim

    Just off to the side of Canyon Rim Visitor Center is an incredible up-close view of the New River Gorge Bridge. Find the sign that says “viewpoint” and walk along the boardwalk until you reach the end.

    Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk

    I wouldn’t necessarily call this hike, it’s more like a short walk, but it’s definitely worth it to see the New River Gorge Bridge up close. The bridge stands at an impressive 876 feet tall and was completed in 1973 after 3 years of construction.

    Old Fayette Station Bridge

    New River Gorge Bridge Old Fayette Station

    Nearest visitor’s center: Canyon Rim
    Type of activity: Scenic drive & viewpoint

    One of the best things to do at New River Gorge is to take a short and scenic drive down to the Old Fayette Station Bridge from Canyon Rim Visitor Center.

    This bridge used to be the only way across the gorge making it a 40-minute journey from one side to the other before the New River Gorge Bridge was built. Once you reach the bridge, there is a small parking lot on the right before crossing the bridge and another one after the bridge.

    Old Fayette Station Bridge

    From the bridge, you’ll get to enjoy the New River Gorge Bridge from a new perspective and see the New River up close.

    Here is a list of a few other scenic drives at New River Gorge National Park.

    Grandview Rim Trail

    Grandview Trail Viewpoint

    Length of trail: 3.2 miles out and back
    Type of activity: Hike
    Difficulty level: Easy
    Nearest visitor’s center: Grandview

    The trailhead for the Grandview Rim Trail is located at the Grandview Visitor Center parking lot. This trail follows along the rim of the gorge and leads to a 360-degree view atop the gorge.

    There are several lookout points along the way, but the best viewpoint is at the end.

    Views at Grandview Rim Trail

    Overall, this hike is okay. The trail is flat most of the way and many of the lookouts are partially blocked by trees. If you don’t want to hike to the main viewpoint, you can actually drive to it – the road follows along the trail most of the way.

    If you do this hike, I would recommend combining it with the Castle Rock Trail (see below).

    Castle Rock Trail

    Castle Rock Trail

    Length of trail: 0.6 miles one way
    Type of activity: Hike
    Difficulty level: Easy to moderate
    Nearest visitor’s center: Grandview

    The Castle Rock trail meets up with the Grandview Rim trail. I would recommend starting this hike at the Grandview Visitor Center and then finishing the hike on the Grandview Rim trail.

    Castle Rock Trail Path

    The Castle Rock trail takes you through a lush forest with some views of a unique rock face along the way. We thought this hike was really fun and would definitely suggest combining it with the Grandview Rim trail.

    White Water Rafting

    For those of you in search of an adventure, then I would recommend going white water rafting on the New River. Due to the chilly and rainy weather, we weren’t able to do this when we went, but it looks thrilling!

    Several companies run white water rafting tours – here is a list of companies that are licensed to run tours.

    Bridge Walk

    If driving across the New River Gorge Bridge doesn’t excite you enough, then try walking across it! The Bridge Walk is a 2-3 hour tour where you walk across a 2-foot wide catwalk 25 feet below the top of the New River Gorge Bridge.

    You’ll be fastened to a cable, so you don’t have to worry about falling. However, walking 876 feet above a river is definitely not for the faint of heart!

    Mountain Biking

    New River Gorge National Park is a popular destination for mountain bikers. There are trails all around the park, and you can learn more about the trails in the area on the NPS site.

    If you need to rent a bike, you can rent one here.

    If you have more time . . .

    Since we only had a weekend in the park, we only had time for those hikes listed above. If you have more time, here are links to a few more hikes.

    Sandstone Falls Boardwalk Trail

    Kaymoor Miner’s Trail + a few other hikes in the Fayetville area

    Glade Cleek Trail

    How long to visit?

    We only had a little less than two days at New River Gorge. To get the full experience, I would recommend spending at least 3 days at the park. That way you will have time to go on several hikes and spend an afternoon white water rafting or doing the Bridge Walk.

    Where to stay at New River Gorge?

    New River West Virginia

    Lodging is not available within New River Gorge National Park, but the park is surrounded by small towns where you can find several options for hotels.

    We had difficulty deciding where to stay since the park is so spread out, but we realized that a lot of the best things to do at New River Gorge are within a 35-minute drive from each other.

    Here are a few recommendations for the best towns to stay in:

    • Fayetteville – closest to the most popular hikes and to New River Gorge Bridge.
    • Beckley – close to Grandview Visitor Center and ~30-minute drive to New River Gorge Bridge.
    • Beaver – close to Grandview Visitor and ~35-minute drive to New River Gorge Bridge.
    • Oak Hill – close to New River Gorge bridge and ~35 minute drive to Grandview Visitor Center.

    We stayed in Beaver, which was only a 15-minute drive to the Grandview Visitor Center and about a 35-minute drive to the bridge. The hotel we stayed at is called the Sleep Inn in Beaver.

    Where to Eat

    Most of the restaurants in the area are chain restaurants, which you will find in Oak Hill and Beckley. We preferred to eat in Fayetteville before heading back to our hotel because there were more local options.

    • Pies & Pints: Pizza, pasta, salads, and drinks. The wait was about an hour at peak time, so I would recommend either getting there a bit earlier or later if you want to avoid a long wait. This seems to be THE restaurant that all of the tourists go to in Fayetteville. The pizza was okay – a bit dry- I would recommend asking for them to put red sauce on the pizza. They do have GF and vegan options, which I appreciated.
    • Wanderlust Creative Foods: Don’t let the lack of decor stop you from eating here. If you are only in the area for one night or even two nights, then eat here! The menu is a mix of inspired dishes from the chef’s travels around the world and let me tell you, everything was delicious! I highly recommend this place!

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