New River Gorge National Park: The Complete Guide for 2021

Nicole Jordan

California, USA

With 53 miles of free-flowing white water cutting through sandstone cliffs as high as 1000 feet tall, New River Gorge National Park is the adventure hub of West Virginia—but not everyone knows that yet. Recently added to the U.S’s prestigious list of national parks, this spot is bound to see a huge spike in popularity within the next few years.

For the adrenaline junkie, head out for whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, or mountain biking. For the historians, experience the culture and history of the land and communities that mined here prior to federal protection. Spend your day fishing, horseback riding, paddle-boarding, or swimming; the opportunities here are countless. Located in the center of the Appalachian Mountains, you will not be disappointed by the picturesque riverscapes and the densely forested mountains that span as far as the eye can see.

Where is New River Gorge National Park?

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is located in Southern West Virginia in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. The national park stretches about 7,000 acres following the 53 miles of river starting up near the town of Fayetteville and ending near the town of Bellepoint. Surrounding the national park is the national preserve spanning about 65,000 acres.  

New River Gorge National Park Facts

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.
  • New River Gorge is the newest U.S. National Park as of December 2020; previously it was protected as a national river since 1978.
  • As one of the oldest rivers on Earth, estimated between 3-360 million years old, the New River has carved out the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains.
  • Prior to becoming protected land in the 1870s, the New River Gorge was a coal-rich industry with mining towns popping up along the river. You can see the remains of coal mining in many places including the train tracks, buildings, and mills.
  • The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is one of five national park and preserve combos in the U.S. with the other four being in Alaska. As both a park and preserve, hunting and resource extraction is permitted under specific national park regulations.

Getting to New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

Charleston, West Virginia, is located just over an hour northwest of New River Gorge National Park. From Charleston, take I-64 E to the town of Mossy. Take exit 60 onto WV-612 E and continue on this until you reach US-19 N heading toward Fayetteville.

If you’re planning an extravagant East Coast National Park road trip, make stops at nearby Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

New River Gorge National Park Weather

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

Each of the four seasons offer spectacular experiences in the Gorge. Spring through fall is the best time for activities on the water, rock climbing, and hiking. Expect a hotter, humid climate in the summer and more moderate temperatures in the spring and fall. In the spring, you’ll catch the beautiful wildflowers. In the fall, the changing leaf colors are a site to see. In contrast, the winter offers romantic river views as the gorge becomes coated in snow, but be sure to check road conditions before you head out.

New River Gorge National Park Hours

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

The New River Gorge is open year round, 24 hours a day. Visitor center hours vary throughout the year. Check online for seasonal weather closures.

The park is currently under limited operations due to COVID-19. For recent COVID status and frequent updates, check out New River Gorge’s alerts and conditions.

New River Gorge National Park Entrance Fee

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

There are no entrance fees for New River Gorge National Park. 

Hiking in New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia U.S.

If you’re ready to stretch your legs (but not sure where to start), here’s a list of some of our favorite hiking trails in New River Gorge National Park:

Easy, suitable for families

  1. Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk (0.6 mile out-and-back)
  2. Concho Overlook Trail (0.6 mile out-and-back)
  3. Tunnel Trail (0.5 mile loop)
  4. Sandstone Falls Boardwalk (0.3 mile out and back)
  5. Timber Ridge Trail (1.7 mile out-and-back)

Moderate, fairly strenuous:

  1. Endless Wall Trail (2.3 mi point-to-point)
  2. Long Point Trail (2.9 mile out-and-back)
  3. Grandview Rim Trail (3.3 mile out-and-back)
  4. Headhouse Trail (1.3 mile out-and-back)
  5. Big Branch Trail (2 mile loop)

Hard, experience recommended:

  1. Kaymoor Miners Trail (1.6 mile out-and-back)
  2. Bridge Trail to Feyette Trail (3.1 mile out-and-back )
  3. Fayetteville Trail (4 mile point-to-point)
  4. Little Laurel Trail (2.7 mile point-to-point)
  5. Glade Creek Trail (10 mile point-to-point)

New River Gorge National Park Lodging

New River Gorge National Park Camping

Babcock State Park Campground, West Virginia, U.S.

Within park limits, the New River Gorge only offers primitive camping. These sites lie along the river and do not have clean drinking water, restroom facilities, or hookups. The sites are first-come, first-served and there are no fees or reservations. Developed campgrounds exist at nearby state parks and on private property.

Primitive campgrounds inside the park:

  1. Stone Cliff Beach
  2. Army Camp
  3. Grandview Sandbar
  4. Glade Creek
  5. War Ridge/Backus Mountain
  6. Brooklyn
  7. Thayer
  8. Meadow Creek
  9. Gauley Tailwaters

Campgrounds outside the park:

  1. New River Gorge Campground
  2. Chestnut Creek Campground
  3. Rifrafters Campground
  4. Rays Campground
  5. Eagle’s Nest Campground 
  6. Babcock State Park Campground

New River Gorge National Park Hotels

The Resort at Glade Springs, West Virginia, U.S. Credit: The Resort at Glade Springs

If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of resorts, hotels, hostels, inns, cabins and B&Bs within a quick drive of the Gorge. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. The Historic Morris Harvey House Bed & Breakfast
  2. The Resort at Glade Springs
  3. ACE Adventure Resort
  4. Mill Creek Cabins
  5. Hemlock Haven Luxury Cabins
  6. Cabin by the Creek
  7. New River Gorge Cabins
  8. The Confluence Resort
  9. The Ponderosa Lodge
  10. Country River Inn

New River Gorge National Park Tours

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

There are numerous commercial outfitters that offer a variety of activities to explore the gorge. Whitewater rafting, horseback riding, stand up paddle-boarding, kayaking, fishing, zip-lining, bridge walks, rock climbing, mountain biking, the list goes on. Check out ACE Adventure Resort, Adventures on the Gorge, or New Gauley River Adventures to book these excursions. The national park also offers ranger led activities, talks, and hikes free of charge and at the beginner level. Check the visitor center for the most up to date details.

Best Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park

Walk the New River Bridge Catwalk

New River Gorge Bridge, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Spanning 3,030 feet in length and rising 876 feet above the river, this heart-racing Bridge Walk across the longest, single-arch bridge in the U.S. offers breathtaking views while making your palms sweat.

Get Tossed Around the Roaring Rapids

Whitewater rafting, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Whitewater rafting is one of the most popular commercial activities and therefore, offered by multiple outfitters. A day spent floating down, or bopping around, the river is a must do. With river stretches reaching Class V rapids to calm stretches for a nice relaxing float, there’s surely a way for everyone to enjoy.

Celebrate West Virginia’s Largest Single Day Festival: Bridge Day

Bridge Day, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S. Credit: @bridgeday

Bridge Day is held the third Saturday of every October. Watch in awe as BASE jumpers fly off the bridge and others rappel and highline over the New River. 

Go Rock Climbing

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Best known for its advanced climbing, averaging between 5.10-5.12 grades, the gorge has over 1,600 climbing routes across its sandstone cliffs. It’s known as one of the most diverse, largest, and highest quality climbing areas in the Eastern U.S. 

Go Whitewater Kayaking

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Whether you’re an accomplished kayaker, a seasoned paddler, or a rookie, rent a kayak or join a tour. If you’re a very experienced whitewater kayaker, the Class IV-V rapids in the lower gorge might be up your alley.

SUP with Mountain Surf Paddle Sports

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Mountain Surf Paddle Sports rents boards for both independent use and offers classes.

Take the Aerial Tram in Hawks Nest State Park

Hawk’s Nest Aerial Tramway, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Hawk’s Nest Aerial Tramway offers unreal view of the surrounding New River Gorge National Park. When back on the ground, grab a pole and try your hand at the river’s most fruitful activity: fishing. The New River has a variety of fish, but some of the most common are smallmouth bass, walleye, and trout.

Mountain Bike the Arrowhead Trails

Aarowhead Trails, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

It’s no surprise that West Virginia is named one of the top five spots for mountain biking with the striking views you see while riding near the gorge. The National Park System and Boy Scouts recently completed a 12.8 mile trail winding through the protected forest, AKA, Arrowhead Trails.

Drive the New River Gorge Scenic Drive

New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

As you zigzag up and down the windy roads, you’ll catch views of both the abundant, diverse forest and some vistas of the river below the gorge’s sandstone walls.

Grab a coffee at Cathedral Cafe

Cathedral Cafe, Fayetteville, West Virginia, U.S.

An old, quaint church with stained glass windows and cathedral ceilings was turned into a unique cafe. Cathedral Cafe is one of the most popular spots in the area and is located in the center of Fayetteville.

Hike the Endless Wall Trail

Endless Wall, New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia, U.S.

Endless Wall is a moderate trail that offers impressive views of the New River, the high gorge walls, and abundant plant life.

Follow the African American Heritage Auto Tour

Historic Talcott Tunnel, Talcott, West Virginia, U.S.

This self-guided tour takes you through the seventeen historic sites telling the stories of many black coal miners, railroad workers, and community members and their role in shaping the region.

Head to Summersville Lake for a Dip

Summersville Lake, West Virginia, U.S.

If you need a break from the hot summer temperatures, Summersville Lake is the best spot to swim in calm, flat water.

Go Horseback Riding

Horseshoe Creek Riding Stable, Victor, West Virginia, U.S.

Horseshoe Creek Riding Stable‘s tours vary between three hours to overnight and take you through the beautiful and historic trails surrounding the park.

End your day at Pies & Pints in Fayetteville

Pies & Pints, Fayetteville, West Virginia, U.S.

Enjoy some of the best pizza and craft beer after a long day of adventuring. Pies & Pints is located in the historic downtown of Fayetteville with shopping and more!