If you’re looking for an excuse to visit the newest National Park in West Virginia, there are so many reasons to visit!
First off, entry to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia is FREE!
I’m sharing more about the top things to do during your visit.
My visit was part of the SATW Freelance Council meeting. This article contains affiliate links.
The New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is Very Accessible
Did you know that roughly 40% of the US population is located within a day’s drive of the New River Gorge National Park?
If you fall into that 40% of the population, it’s a great time to plan a road trip.
If you need to fly in, Charleston, West Virginia is only 70 miles northwest of the National Park.
When Did New River Gorge Become a National Park?
New River Gorge became a National Park on December 27, 2020. The New River Gorge is the 63rd National Park and the 20th Preserve in the United States.
There is a 52-mile section of New River that was named a National River in 1978 by the National Park Service. New River also happens to be one of the world’s oldest rivers.
As a National Park, the New River Gorge will continue to be preserved and protected for years to come.
How Large is the New River Gorge National Park?
There are over 70,000 acres of land in the New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. This area covers the land between the towns of Fayetteville and Hinton, West Virginia.
Visit a New River Gorge National Park Visitor Center
There are four Visitor Centers within the New River Gorge National Park. Make sure that you check their hours of operation prior to visiting.
- Canyon Rim Visitor Center
- Sandstone Visitor Center
- Thurmond Depot Visitor Center
- Grandview Visitor Center
During my visit to the area, I stopped by two of the four visitor centers.
Visit Canyon Rim Visitor Center
162 Visitor Center Rd, Lansing, WV
When you visit a National Park for the first time, the Visitor Center is the BEST place to start.
The Park Rangers offer a wealth of information and can help you make the most of your time during your visit. They can give you advice on what to do and see in the park along with hiking recommendations.
You can learn about the local area including the mining history from the exhibits on display.
Make sure that you also take a park map and stamp your National Park passport book while you’re there.
Scenic Views From the Canyon Rim Visitor Center
The Canyon Rim Visitor Center has a nice view of the New River that can be enjoyed on the back deck with views of the area up to 2 miles back into the park.
Inside the Visitor Center, there are plenty of windows on the same side as the back deck for observing the beauty of the Gorge from the comforts of the indoors.
Take the Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk Trail
The Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk Trail is a .6 mile out and back trail located near the Visitor Center.
Take the Stairs on the Canyon Rim Lower Overlook Boardwalk Trail
If you choose to walk down and back up the 178 stairs on the Overlook Boardwalk trail, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the New River Gorge Bridge.
The stairs are definitely worth it for this view of the New River Gorge Bridge!
If you don’t want to take the stairs down to the lower observation deck there is an upper observation deck with a fully accessible ramp.
Bridge Walk Across the New River Gorge Bridge
Would you walk this catwalk?
Bridge Walk in West Virginia takes you on a guided tour across the catwalk of the New River Gorge Bridge.
Guests are secured in a harness latched onto a safety cable during the tour that takes you across the 3030 ft long bridge, 876 feet above the New River.
Along the way, you’ll learn interesting facts about the bridge from your guide and enjoy incredible views of the New River below.
If you are feeling extra daring, there is even a moment during the tour where you can sit down on the catwalk.
Bridge Walk is a one-of-a-kind adventure that’s definitely worth adding to your bucket list!
The check-in area for the Bridge Walk is only a 2-minute drive from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.
Fun Facts About the New River Gorge Bridge
The New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977 and has lots of bragging rights.
- The longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere
- 3rd longest single-arch bridge in the world
- 2nd highest vehicle-carrying bridge in the United States
- 5th highest vehicle-carrying bridge in the world
- 3rd highest bridge in the United States
- 13th highest bridge in the world
- Featured on the West Virginia State quarter
- Featured on a United States postal stamp
- A National Landmark in engineering
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant historic resource
- Site of Bridge Day™ that’s celebrated on the 3rd Saturday every October
Stop By Sandstone Falls Visitor Center
330 Meadow Creek Rd, Meadow Bridge, WV
The Sandstone Visitor Center is a green-design building with a focus on energy efficiency and resource conservation.
My favorite part of the visitor center was learning more about the river systems with a scaled map that you can walk on the floor.
There are several interactive exhibits on display that will help you connect to the history of the area and the importance of conservation for the future.
Scenic Views of Sandstone Falls
You’ll want to allow extra time for the scenic drive to the falls. It’s recommended that you start at the Sandstone Visitor Center first.
You can experience many vantage points of the falls and the surrounding area on a .4 mile accessible boardwalk.
Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall on the New River. The waterfall is located in a section of the New River that spans 1500 feet wide with water dropping in sections of 10 to 25 feet.
Try Rock Climbing and Rappelling
There are over 1400 established rock climbs within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve with heights ranging from 30-120 feet.
The sandstone cliffs are very popular among rock climbers of all levels and skillsets.
If you are newer to sport, you can challenge yourself with a guided rock climb and rappel inside New River Gorge National Park.
Our group tried three different climbing routes on “Small Wall” which is a great introduction to rock climbing for beginners.
Our guide supplied all of the equipment, including climbing shoes, and transportation for this adventure.
Otherwise, the climb would be considered for intermediate climbers who don’t hire a guide.
The difficulty level for this specific climb ranged from 5.3-5.6.
Go White Water Rafting at New River Gorge
West Virginia is known for being one of the top destinations for white water rafting.
There is an assortment of white water rafting options for all comfort levels with Adventure on the Gorge. My previous white water rafting experience was at Rafting in the Smokies in North Carolina.
This time I wanted to try one of the milder/family-friendly white water rafting trips.
We experienced a relaxing ride with some rapids on the Upper New River with Class 1-3 rapids (2 were Class 3) during our ride.
This is the perfect introduction to white water rafting for ages 6 and up.
If you want a more extreme ride, go white water rafting on the Lower New River in the spring/summer or the Gauley River during the 22 days it runs in the fall.
Take a Hike
There are more than 100 miles of hiking trails at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. If you are feeling extra ambitious, there is even a 100 Mile Challenge .
- Grandview Area Trails
- Glade Creek Area Trails
- Sandstone Brooks Area Trails
- Fayetteville Area Trails–
- Thurmond, Stone Cliff, and Cunard Area Trails
- Nuttallburg Trails
Drive the African American Heritage Auto Tour
You want to learn more about the African American history in the area on the African American Heritage Auto Tour.
The African American Heritage Trail takes you through Summers, Raleigh, Fayette, and Nicholas counties and has 17 historic sites.
This tour can take between 10-12 hours and is best explored over several days to take it all in.
You can get a map with directions that comes with a free narrated CD at the Visitor Center.
Additional Attractions Within An Hour of New River Gorge
There are several attractions within an hour or less of the New River Gorge National Park that are worth checking out.
Take a Tour of a Former Top Secret Bunker at the Greenbriar Hotel
101 W Main St, White Sulphur Springs, WV
History buffs will definitely want to schedule a 90-minute bunker tour at the Greenbriar Hotel.
It’s a fascinating story of a secret bunker that was built during the Eisenhower era that was previously hidden in plain sight at the Greenbriar Hotel.
The top-secret bunker was supposed to protect the 535 members of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack.
The tour takes you to several areas within the bunker where you can learn more about the systems that were in place for life underground.
Take a Mine Car Tour at Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine
513 Ewart Ave, Beckley, WV
The mine car tour at Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine is an unforgettable experience.
You will gain a new appreciation for the HARD WORK and difficult working conditions that coal miners have endured for decades.
This tour is led by retired coal miners who share the history of coal mining inside a former mine.
Learn and Play at the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia
409 S Kanawha St. Beckley, WV
The Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia is located steps from the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine.
This is a great stop if you are traveling with younger kids who need to burn off some extra energy.
The museum has special rotating exhibits in addition to a Planetarium, Mountain Homestead, and exhibits that encourage hands-on play and learning.
Looking for a Place to Stay Near New River Gorge National Park?
During my visit to the area, I stayed in one of the Sunnyside cabins at Adventures on the Gorge. They offer a variety of lodging options from camping to cabins.
My cabin had two queen beds, a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, a private bathroom with a shower, back deck, and a shared fire ring.
It was really nice to come back to this cabin after a long day of fun outdoor adventures. They also offer special promotions if you plan on trying more than one activity.
Compare Hotels and Vacation Rentals Near New River Gorge National Park
You can compare rates on hotels and vacation rentals in the area by clicking on the map above.