Have you been to the newest US National Park (#63)? Visit New River Gorge within the next few years and you’ll be one of the first visitors to the official National Park! The government made this a National Park in 2021 and for great reason. It has unparalleled rock climbing, thrilling white water rafting, and sweeping views.
Visit New River Gorge National Park in the Appalachian mountains of Southern West Virginia. Because it is so new, it still seems like a well kept secret. I have been to over 30 national parks and this was one of the least crowded I have been to so far. On our visit, we found ourselves alone on many of the trails. Below you will find my guide to New River Gorge National Park and I hope you enjoy!
Table of Contents
Complete Guide to New River Gorge
What is New River Gorge?
Despite the name, New River Gorge is one of the oldest rivers in the entire world, with some areas that are more than 300 million years old. The park features the whitewater river which runs through steep sandstone canyon walls and provides ample opportunities for rock climbing, hiking, and whitewater rafting.
The park itself is over 70,000 acres and there are plenty of things to see and do in the area. You will want to have a plan before you go, so that you can see all of the highlights in the park!
When should I go?
The park is lovely at all times of year, so the best time to go depends on what you want to see. If you want to go whitewater rafting or spend time on the water, then you’ll want to go in the late spring or summer when the temperatures warm up. We went in the early spring, which was great. We saw some green in the trees and very few people on the trails. Summer is the most crowded time of year, because tourists love to get on the river.
If you’d rather see the leaves change colors, then you’ll want to go in September or October. The leaves turn to bright oranges and reds, which creates a stunning kaleidoscope! However, the third weekend of October is Bridge Day so the area gets very crowded around that time.
How do I get there?
Getting to the park can be tricky, because this area is incredibly remote. The closest airport in Charleston, West Virginia is 72 miles away. It is also a very small airport, so flights can be expensive to get there.
Driving is the best way to get to the park, so you’ll have to rent a car if you are flying in. The gorge can be accessed off of I-64 or Route 19. The drive is about 5 hours from DC, 7 hours from NYC, and 4 hours from Pittsburgh.
Where should I stay?
There are a few small towns in the area where you can stay and choose from Airbnbs, hotels, or camping in the area. Most of the towns in the surrounding area are small, but they have great cabins or homes to stay in. There are six camping areas within the park, but they are all dispersed camping. This means that you have to pack in and pack out everything you bring.
Hico and Fayetteville are both right outside the park, so they are great places to stay and we loved our time at a cabin in Hico. Fayetteville has a small town with some restaurants and hotels to stay at. You can also go further south or north and find plenty of other cute lodging options.
What can I do in New River Gorge?
Take in Views
Visitors who don’t have a long time can still see a lot of the gorge simply driving around. Spots you should definitely stop by include the Fayette Station Road (1-2 hour drive), African American Heritage Auto Tour, New River Gorge Bridge Overlook, Sandstone Falls, and the Grandview Main Overlook. You’ll get a great sense of the park and see beautiful vistas.
New River Gorge is well known for its rock climbing scene. Within the park there are over 1400 established climbing routes! Make sure to follow signs and read maps to find the best routes and make sure to stay off of any private property. You can read more about the best routes to take here.
Boat down the River
If you’re the type that loves to get on the water, then this is the perfect park for you. You can choose your own adventure on a jet boat, kayak, or try your hand at whitewater rafting. There are options for all skill levels and plenty of outfits to try. I can’t wait to go back in the warmer months to go myself!
Go on a hike
Want to get to some wonderful views or explore deeper into the canyon? Then, hiking is the way to go. Some of the best hikes include the Long Point Trail (3 miles), Endless Wall (2.2 miles), and Glade Creek Canyon trail (12 miles). Most of the trails are easy to moderate level, so you won’t need to worry about your hiking abilities.
What do I do with more time?
The New River Gorge area has plenty of scenic parks around it. If you have more time you should explore Gauley National Recreation Area, Babcock State Park, and Hawk’s Nest State Park. Each of these spots have their own trails and overlooks to see.
Was this guide to New River Gorge helpful? Let me know in the comments and feel free to pin it!