12 Incredible Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park: Top Attractions to Visit

by Jen
Incredible Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
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My first visit to New River Gorge National Park was an eye-opener. Situated in the mountains of West Virginia, this park is a paradise for those who love the outdoors. It’s not just about the views, although the sight of the New River Gorge Bridge is something to behold. This place is a haven for adventurers seeking thrilling experiences in a natural setting.

The park’s diversity is its biggest draw. Whether it’s tackling some of the country’s most challenging whitewater rapids, hiking through dense forests, or simply enjoying the quiet beauty of the Appalachian wilderness, there’s something here for everyone. The park’s rich history and unique geological features also add depth to any visit. I visited here before it became a national park, and today, it’s more tourist-friendly than ever.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the best activities and sights in New River Gorge National Park. I’ll share tips and insights to help you make the most of your visit, covering everything from hidden spots to popular attractions. Whether you’re here for the adrenaline rush or to connect with nature, New River Gorge National Park offers an unforgettable experience. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in New River Gorge National Park.

The incredible places to visit in New River Gorge National Park right now

Best Places to Visit in New River Gorge National Park

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in New River Gorge National Park? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this captivating vacation spot in West Virginia. So keep reading to discover all these unique New River Gorge National Park places to visit.

Are you looking to experience outdoor activities such as white-water rafting and rock climbing and hiking? Or would you prefer a tranquil getaway in nature, such as bird watching? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in New River Gorge National Park can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in New River Gorge National Park that you should know about.

1. New River

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, whitewater rafting on the New River is a must-try. The New River is renowned for its powerful rapids and stunning scenery. It offers one of the most exhilarating rafting experiences in the United States. Beginners and seasoned rafters alike will find something to love here, with rapids ranging from Class I to Class V.

Tackling the Lower New River is one of the best things to do in New River Gorge National Park. The river’s intense rapids and calm stretches combine to offer both a thrilling ride and stunning views of the gorge.

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The journey takes you through a series of rapids with names like ‘Surprise’, ‘Double Z’, and ‘Keeneys’, each offering a unique challenge.

Safety is a top priority, and numerous experienced outfitters in the area provide all the necessary gear and guidance. These rafting trips provide an unforgettable adventure. They also allow you to witness the breathtaking beauty of the gorge from a unique perspective. The experience of navigating through the roaring waters, surrounded by towering cliffs and lush forests, is truly unmatched.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or just looking to try something new, whitewater rafting in New River Gorge is an adventure that should be on your list.

Whitewater rafting on the New River is one of the incredible things to do in New River Gorge National Park.
Whitewater rafting on the New River offers an exhilarating experience with rapids for all levels, amidst stunning scenery.

2. Endless Wall Trail

For those who love hiking and breathtaking views, the Endless Wall Trail in New River Gorge National Park is a perfect choice. This moderately challenging trail, stretching about 2.4 miles, offers some of the most stunning vistas of the New River Gorge.

As you traverse the path, you’ll be treated to a diverse landscape. The trail meanders through dense forests, over rocky terrain, and along the cliff’s edge, providing panoramic views of the gorge and the river below. One of the highlights is the Diamond Point, an overlook that offers a spectacular vantage point for photographers and nature lovers.

The Endless Wall Trail is not just about the views; it’s a journey through the area’s rich natural history. The trail takes its name from the endless stretch of sandstone cliffs that dominate the landscape. These cliffs are a favorite spot for rock climbers. This adds an element of excitement to the hike, as you might spot climbers skillfully scaling the vertical walls.

This trail is ideal for a day hike. It’s recommended to wear sturdy shoes and bring water, as some sections can be challenging. The best times to visit are in the spring and fall when the foliage adds a burst of color to the already magnificent scenery.

Hiking the Endless Wall Trail is a memorable way to experience the natural beauty of New River Gorge, offering a blend of adventure, tranquility, and awe-inspiring views.

The Endless Wall Trail in New River Gorge offers stunning vistas along its 2.4-mile stretch.
The Endless Wall Trail in New River Gorge offers stunning vistas along its 2.4-mile stretch.

3. Grandview

Grandview is a must-visit area in New River Gorge National Park, renowned for its spectacular panoramic views. Located about five miles north of the town of Beckley, Grandview offers a unique perspective of the New River Gorge. This makes it a favorite spot for both photographers and nature enthusiasts.

The main attraction at Grandview is the Main Overlook, providing a stunning view of the horseshoe bend in the New River. The rugged gorge walls frame this scene beautifully. This viewpoint is easily accessible, making it ideal for visitors of all ages and abilities.

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The area also features several other overlooks, each offering a different angle of the breathtaking landscape.

For those seeking a bit more adventure, Grandview has a network of trails. These include the Grandview Rim Trail and the Tunnel Trail, which lead through diverse terrain, from dense forests to rocky outcrops. These trails are perfect for a leisurely hike, offering numerous opportunities to stop and admire the views. One of the coolest things to do in New River Gorge National Park is to visit Grandview during the early morning or late afternoon. At these times, the light casts a magical glow over the gorge, enhancing its natural beauty. Additionally, the park hosts an outdoor drama, “Honey in the Rock,” at the Cliffside Amphitheatre in Grandview, adding a cultural touch to your visit.

Grandview is a testament to the park’s natural splendor, offering a peaceful yet exhilarating experience for all who visit.

Grandview draws photographers and nature enthusiasts for its unique gorge perspective.
Grandview draws photographers and nature enthusiasts for its unique gorge perspective.

4. New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge, an engineering marvel and a symbol of West Virginia, offers a unique experience for visitors to New River Gorge National Park. This impressive structure, once the world’s longest single-span arch bridge, stands as a testament to human ingenuity. It offers breathtaking views of the gorge below.

Visitors can start their exploration at the New River Gorge Bridge Visitor Center, which provides insightful exhibits about the bridge’s history and construction. The center also offers a fantastic vantage point for viewing the bridge and the gorge.

One of the best things to do in New River Gorge National Park is to walk across the bridge on the pedestrian walkway. This walk offers a thrilling perspective of the gorge and the river far below. It’s a favorite for photographers and sightseers alike. The bridge is also famous for the annual Bridge Day festival. During this event, BASE jumpers and rappellers showcase their skills, drawing crowds from all over.

For those looking for a more relaxed experience, the nearby Fayette Station Road offers a scenic drive. This route winds down into the gorge, passing under the bridge and along the river. This route provides several stops with stunning views of the bridge and the surrounding wilderness.

The New River Gorge Bridge is not just an architectural wonder but also a gateway to the natural beauty and adventure that the park has to offer, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring the area.

The New River Gorge Bridge offers visitors stunning views of the gorge, once the world's longest single-span arch bridge.
The New River Gorge Bridge offers visitors stunning views of the gorge, once the world’s longest single-span arch bridge.

5. Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex

Nestled within the New River Gorge National Park, the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s industrial past. This historic site, once one of the most significant coal mining operations in West Virginia, now stands as a unique testament. It represents the area’s rich history.

Among the unique things to do in New River Gorge National Park, exploring Nuttallburg is a journey through time. Visitors can walk along the remains of the coal processing plants, coke ovens, and the iconic conveyor belt. These structures once transported coal from the mine to the railroad below. The site’s interpretive trails and signage provide valuable insights. They tell the story of the life and work of the coal miners who shaped this region’s history.

The Town Loop Trail, a highlight of the complex, takes visitors through the remnants of the old town site. Here, miners and their families once lived. This trail offers a more personal perspective on the coal mining community, revealing the human side of this industrial story.

For those interested in photography or industrial archaeology, Nuttallburg is a treasure trove. The juxtaposition of the decaying industrial structures against the natural beauty of the gorge creates a compelling and thought-provoking landscape.

Visiting Nuttallburg is not just about witnessing the remnants of a bygone era. It’s an opportunity to connect with the stories and struggles of the people who lived and worked in these mountains, adding a profound depth to the park’s natural splendor.”

Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex offers a unique glimpse into West Virginia's industrial history.
Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex offers a unique glimpse into West Virginia’s industrial history.

6. Sandstone Falls

Sandstone Falls, a remarkable natural feature in New River Gorge National Park, presents a stunning display of the New River’s power and beauty. Spanning across the river, these falls create a series of small islands and channels, offering a unique and interactive experience for visitors.

Accessible via a scenic drive and a short walk, Sandstone Falls is more than just a picturesque spot. It’s an adventure waiting to be explored. The boardwalks and viewing platforms allow visitors to get up close. They can feel the mist on their faces and hear the roar of the water. It’s a sensory experience that connects you directly with the raw power of nature.

For those who love photography, the falls provide a dynamic backdrop, especially during sunrise or sunset when the light plays off the water. The surrounding area, rich in flora and fauna, also offers ample opportunities for wildlife spotting and nature photography.

Beyond the falls, the area is ripe for exploration. Hiking trails wind through the nearby forests, leading to hidden gems and offering different perspectives of the falls. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a more challenging hike, the trails around Sandstone Falls are ideal. They cater to all levels of adventurers.

Visiting Sandstone Falls is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of New River Gorge National Park. It’s a place where you can pause, reflect, and appreciate the simple yet profound beauty of water cascading over ancient rocks.

Sandstone Falls creates islands and channels for an engaging visitor experience.
Sandstone Falls creates islands and channels for an engaging visitor experience.

7. Long Point Trail

Long Point Trail is a must-visit for anyone exploring New River Gorge National Park. This relatively easy hike, known for its breathtaking views, is a favorite among both locals and tourists. The trail leads you through a beautiful forest, opening up to a stunning overlook of the New River Gorge Bridge.

The hike to Long Point is about 1.6 miles one way, making it a manageable adventure for most fitness levels. The path is well-maintained and marked, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. As you walk, the sounds of nature surround you, creating a peaceful atmosphere that’s perfect for clearing your mind and enjoying the moment.

Reaching the viewpoint, you’re greeted with a panoramic view that’s simply unforgettable. The iconic New River Gorge Bridge stretches across the gorge, framed by the lush Appalachian mountains. It’s a photographer’s dream and a moment worth savoring. The viewpoint is also a great spot for a picnic, where you can relax and take in the scenery.

Long Point Trail is more than just a hike; it’s a journey that connects you with the heart of New River Gorge National Park. It’s one of those “New River Gorge National Park things to do” that you can’t miss. Whether you’re an avid hiker or just someone who appreciates natural beauty, this trail promises an experience that will leave you in awe.

The Long Point Trail in New River Gorge offers stunning views, including an overlook of the iconic bridge.
The Long Point Trail in New River Gorge offers stunning views, including an overlook of the iconic bridge.

8. Thurmond

Thurmond stands as a hidden treasure in New River Gorge National Park, offering a unique journey into history. This once-bustling railroad hub, now a serene ghost town, invites visitors to explore its forgotten stories.

The drive to Thurmond sets the stage for adventure. Upon arrival, you’re greeted by the old train depot, now serving as a visitor center. Strolling through the town, you’ll encounter remnants of its lively past. The deserted buildings and silent rail cars paint a vivid picture of a community frozen in time.

What’s compelling about Thurmond is its untouched state. It’s not a reconstructed tourist spot but a genuine piece of history. This authenticity makes your visit more meaningful, allowing you to connect with the past in a real way.

Photography enthusiasts will find Thurmond particularly appealing. The rustic charm of the old structures, set against the park’s natural beauty, offers stunning photo opportunities.

Thurmond is more than just a historical site; it’s a place where stories of the past come alive. It’s an essential stop for anyone visiting New River Gorge National Park, providing a memorable and insightful experience.

Thurmond is a serene ghost town inviting visitors to explore its forgotten history as a once-bustling railroad hub.
Thurmond is a serene ghost town inviting visitors to explore its forgotten history as a once-bustling railroad hub.

9. Kaymoor

Nestled within New River Gorge National Park lies the ghost town of Kaymoor. It’s a fascinating destination for those intrigued by history and the allure of abandoned places. This site, once a bustling coal mining town, now stands as a silent testament to a bygone era.

Visiting Kaymoor is like stepping back in time. The remnants of the town include the ruins of buildings and old mining structures. These evoke a sense of wonder about the lives of those who once worked and lived here. The town’s decline began in the mid-20th century, leaving behind a haunting yet intriguing landscape.

Exploring Kaymoor offers a unique experience. You can wander through the ruins, imagining the daily hustle and bustle of the past. The area is also a photographer’s paradise, with its blend of natural beauty and man-made structures creating a compelling contrast.

One of the highlights of Kaymoor is the Kaymoor Miners Trail. This trail takes you down a steep descent to the mine site, offering a more immersive experience. It’s a challenging hike, but the historical significance and scenic views make it worthwhile.

Kaymoor is not just a place to visit; it’s a journey into the heart of Appalachia’s coal mining history. Visiting Kaymoor stands out as one of the unique things to do in New River Gorge National Park. It offers a glimpse into a past that profoundly shaped the region.

Kaymoor intrigues history buffs and fans of abandoned places with its coal mining past.
Kaymoor intrigues history buffs and fans of abandoned places with its coal mining past.

10. Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake, a gem in the New River Gorge National Park area, offers a refreshing change of pace from the rugged terrain of the park. Known as West Virginia’s largest lake, it’s a haven for water enthusiasts and a must-visit for anyone exploring the region.

The lake’s crystal-clear waters are ideal for a variety of activities. Boating and kayaking are popular, allowing visitors to navigate the serene waters at their own pace. For those seeking a more adrenaline-fueled experience, the lake is also a hotspot for water skiing and wakeboarding.

Fishing enthusiasts will find Summersville Lake to be a paradise. The lake is teeming with a variety of fish, including bass, walleye, and trout, making it a prime spot for both casual and serious anglers. The scenic backdrop of the lake, surrounded by lush greenery, adds to the tranquil fishing experience.

One of the best things to do in New River Gorge National Park is to take a leisurely swim in Summersville Lake. The designated swimming areas, with their sandy beaches, are perfect for a relaxing day by the water. The lake’s beaches also offer picnic areas, making it an ideal spot for a family outing.

Summersville Lake stands out as a versatile destination within the New River Gorge area. Whether you’re looking to engage in water sports, fish, or simply enjoy a day by the water, the lake offers something for everyone. I highly recommend staying near here in a lake house rental to experience the magic!

Summersville Lake is a must-visit for water enthusiasts seeking a refreshing break from the rugged terrain.
Summersville Lake is a must-visit for water enthusiasts seeking a refreshing break from the rugged terrain.

11. Babcock State Park

Just a stone’s throw from New River Gorge National Park, Babcock State Park offers a tranquil escape into nature’s embrace. This park, though lesser-known, is a treasure trove of natural beauty and outdoor activities. It’s a must-visit for those exploring the area, offering a unique experience.

Babcock State Park is renowned for its picturesque landscapes, especially the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill. This fully functional mill, a recreation of the original Cooper’s Mill, sits elegantly by the creek, offering a perfect photo opportunity for visitors. The soothing sound of the creek coupled with the rustic charm of the mill creates a peaceful atmosphere.

Hiking enthusiasts will find a variety of trails winding through the park’s diverse terrain. These trails offer a chance to explore the lush forests, spot local wildlife, and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The park’s trails cater to all skill levels, ensuring everyone from beginners to experienced hikers can enjoy the experience.

For those interested in a more leisurely activity, the park’s picnic areas are ideal. Set against the backdrop of West Virginia’s stunning natural beauty, these areas offer a serene setting. They provide a perfect spot for a family outing or a quiet lunch in the great outdoors.

Babcock State Park, with its blend of historical charm and natural beauty, is a hidden gem in the New River Gorge area. Its serene environment and array of outdoor activities make it a worthwhile addition to any itinerary.

Babcock State Park boasts natural beauty and outdoor activities—a hidden gem worth exploring in the area.
Babcock State Park boasts natural beauty and outdoor activities—a hidden gem worth exploring in the area.

12. Tamarack

Nestled near New River Gorge National Park, Tamarack stands out as a unique destination. It’s not just a place; it’s an experience that showcases the best of West Virginia. Tamarack is a celebration of the state’s culture, art, and craftsmanship. Visiting it ranks among the coolest things to do in New River Gorge National Park.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a striking, star-shaped building, housing a vast collection of West Virginia-made products. Tamarack is more than a shopping destination; it’s a gallery where local artisans display their talents. From hand-blown glass to intricate quilts, the range of crafts is astounding. Each piece tells a story of tradition and skill.

Food enthusiasts will enjoy the Tamarack’s dining area, where the menu features locally sourced ingredients. The dishes are a testament to the rich culinary heritage of the region. The dining experience here is not just about the taste but also about understanding the local flavors and ingredients.

Tamarack also hosts a variety of events and workshops.

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These events offer a deeper dive into the arts and crafts of West Virginia. Visitors can participate in workshops, watch live demonstrations, and even meet the artisans.

For those exploring New River Gorge National Park, a visit to Tamarack is a must. It offers a unique insight into the heart and soul of West Virginia. And by staying in a cabin rental nearby, you’ll enjoy a memorable trip to the region.

Tamarack is one of the incredible things to do in New River Gorge National Park.
Tamarack is a celebration of West Virginia’s culture, art, and craftsmanship.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Incredible Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park

Looking for more content on the top things to do in New River Gorge National Park? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to New River Gorge National Park:

What makes New River Gorge National Park unique?

New River Gorge National Park stands out for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventure opportunities. It’s home to the New River, one of the oldest rivers in North America, offering world-class whitewater rafting. The park’s rugged landscape, rich history, and diverse wildlife make it a unique destination for nature lovers and thrill-seekers alike.

Can beginners enjoy activities in New River Gorge National Park?

Absolutely! New River Gorge National Park caters to all skill levels. Beginners can enjoy gentle hiking trails, scenic drives, and guided rafting trips on the milder sections of the New River. There are also plenty of opportunities for bird watching, fishing, and photography, making it a versatile destination for everyone.

Group of adventurers navigating whitewater rapids in New River Gorge National Park.
Group of adventurers navigating whitewater rapids in New River Gorge National Park.

Is New River Gorge National Park suitable for families?

Yes, it’s a fantastic place for family adventures, perfect for things to do with kids in West Virginia. The park offers a variety of activities that are fun for all ages, like easy hiking trails, educational visitor centers, and calm river sections perfect for family rafting. The park’s natural beauty and wildlife also provide a great outdoor classroom for kids.

What is the best time to visit New River Gorge National Park?

The best time to visit is from late spring to early fall. During these months, the weather is ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, rafting, and rock climbing. Autumn is particularly stunning when the foliage turns vibrant colors. However, each season offers its own unique beauty and opportunities for adventure.

What not to miss in New River Gorge National Park?

In New River Gorge National Park, among the top activities in West Virginia, don’t miss the iconic New River Gorge Bridge, a marvel of engineering offering breathtaking views. The park’s numerous hiking trails, like the Endless Wall Trail, provide stunning vistas of the gorge. Also, experiencing the exhilarating whitewater rafting on the New River is a must-do for adventure enthusiasts.

Is New River Gorge National Park worth visiting?

Absolutely! New River Gorge National Park is a treasure trove for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With its stunning gorge views, exceptional rafting, rich history, and diverse wildlife, it offers a unique blend of natural beauty and outdoor excitement. Whether you’re into hiking, rafting, or simply soaking in the scenery, this park is definitely worth a visit.

Closing Thoughts on Exploring New River Gorge National Park

Exploring New River Gorge National Park is an experience that combines adventure, natural beauty, and a touch of history. This park, with its rugged landscapes and the mighty New River, offers something for everyone. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking the thrill of whitewater rafting or a nature enthusiast eager to traverse scenic trails, you’ll find your niche here.

The park’s rich history, visible in the remnants of old mining towns, adds a layer of intrigue to your visit. And for those who simply want to relax, the serene views of the gorge provide a perfect backdrop. New River Gorge National Park is a destination that promises memorable adventures and peaceful moments alike, making it a must-visit for any traveler.

The incredible things to do in New River Gorge National Park for all types of travelers
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