Planning a trip to West Virginia? Here are our favorite things to do near the New River Gorge National Park.
1) Go For a Hike
New River Gorge is known for its spectacular scenery, and one of the best ways to see the sights is on foot.
Try the Endless Wall Trail for cliff, valley, and river views. It's a moderate 2.4-mile hike with lots of overlooks!
The Grandview area is in the middle of the park and has some spectacular hiking as well.
2) Go Whitewater Rafting
Whether you're looking for a whitewater rafting beginner's experience, a family-friendly outing, or a thrilling adventure, this area of West Virginia has options.
The New River has rapids up to class 3 in its southern portion, but offers the more challenging Classes III to V in its northern section.
Slightly to the north, Gauley River (which later joins up with the New River) has rapids that are Class IV and V.
A number of companies offer guided whitewater rafting, from laid-back, kid-friendly day trips to strenuous multi-day experiences.
3) Kayak on the New River
The New River is fun for kayaking, but remember that this river isn't slow and calm all the time. It has rapids!
So, depending on what difficulty level you feel comfortable with, plan wisely for where you want to kayak.
If you need help putting together some kayaking gear as a beginner, this guide will help you out with suggestions for things like waterproof dry bags, waterproof phone cases, and the wetsuits and water shoes mentioned above!
4) Visit Hawks Nest
Hawks Nest State Park is located at nearby Ansted, West Virginia, about a 20-minute drive from New River Gorge.
The scenic overlook pictured below is a nice paved area that's easy to get to, though it does have some stairs. There's also a gift shop near the overlook.
This 270-acre recreational area has scenic overlooks, hiking, and whitewater rafting opportunities to rival that of New River Gorge.
If you visit Hawks Nest during the summer, you can experience the gorge from above, below, and everything in between if you take an aerial tram. (Note: As of 2022, the tram was closed and scheduled for replacement.)
The tram carries you from the top of the gorge down to the marina, where you can then take a jet boat ride out to see the New River Gorge Bridge from the water.
5) Visit the Mill at Babcock State Park
The mill, set over a rocky stream behind a beautiful layer of waterfalls, is a big attraction for photographers throughout the year.
But it's also a real working mill that you can tour during the summer season. You can even buy cornmeal at the gift shop on site.
Little Beaver is another nearby state park worth checking out, especially if you're looking for some easy kayaking and hiking.
6) Check Out the Canyon Rim Overlook
The Canyon Rim Visitor Center is the most accessible way to check out the scenery at New River Gorge if you don't have enough time or ability for one of the hikes.
A boardwalk from the visitor center leads to two fully accessible observation decks with impressive views of the gorge and the bridge.
7) Drive Fayette Station Road
In the mood for a picturesque drive? Fayette Station Road is a historic route of switchbacks, river and bridge views, and glimpses of once thriving coal communities.
The road passes directly under the New River Gorge Bridge, and there are spots for parking along the sides and bottom for photo ops.
If you want to learn the history and geology as you go, make sure to stream or download the eight-part audio tour designed just for Fayette Station Road.
8) Take the Bridge Walk Tour
Want to see the New River Gorge Bridge — 876 feet above the river, and the longest single-arch bridge in the western hemisphere — up close? Take a guided bridge walk tour.
This bridge walk takes around three hours and puts you on a 24-inch wide catwalk right under the bridge.
Does it sound exhilarating? That's exactly what the tour guides are aiming for, but safety precautions are important too. Guests are fastened securely to a cable for the walk across the bridge.
Although there are some uneven surfaces and occasionally the weather might be challenging, the bridge walk should be suitable for most people of reasonable good health and ability. (Though you should probably weigh your options if you're afraid of heights!)
9) Come for Bridge Day
Bridge Day is usually held on a Saturday in October, though it had to be canceled in 2020 and 2021.
Although Bridge Day is famous for attracting BASE jumpers, lots of other activities kick into high gear in the midst of the festival atmosphere.
There are opportunities to rappel, ride the high line (a 300-foot drop over 600 feet of distance), walk the bridge, or just mill around among the vendors and food items for sale.
10) Explore Fayetteville + Summersville
Fayetteville is a cute little town with gift shops, restaurants, and a historic theater.
Pies and Pints is one of our favorite restaurants in town (and apparently lots of people feel that way, because it can have long waits during peak busy times).
This location has limited outdoor seating, which we like to take advantage of if we can.
We love visiting Pies and Pints locations in Charleston, West Virginia, and Lexington, Kentucky, too. Our favorite choice on the menu is the grape and gorgonzola pizza.
For an eclectic, fun menu (and potentially shorter wait time during the busy season), try Wanderlust CreativeFoods.
Nearby Summersville has a fun coffee shop called the Honeybee Coffee and Donut House that's also worth a visit!
Whether you have one day, a whole weekend, or longer to spend near New River Gorge, it's clearly easy to fill up your time! This new national park has tons to offer, including free camping, and is worth going back to again and again.