If you’re looking for a truly unique adventure for your next road trip, look no further than America’s newest National Park, New River Gorge.
There’s no shortage of hiking, scenic overlooks, and wildlife, as is the typical fare in America’s National Parks. But the New River Gorge area also offers lots of unique opportunities for history buffs, adventurers, and even foodies and beer lovers.
On our West Virginia road trip, we discovered that there’s truly something for everyone in the New River Gorge National Park area of West Virginia.
Things to Do in New River Gorge
View the New River Gorge Bridge
Without a doubt, the most viewed and iconic attraction in all of West Virginia is the New River Gorge Bridge. This marvel of human engineering spans over 3,000 feet, coming in as the third-longest arch bridge in the world.
To get a great view of the bridge without having to go too far, stop by the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center. There you’ll not only find maps, historical information, and a gift shop, but it’s a very short hike/walk with some stairs that lead to two spectacular, unobstructed views of the bridge.
This is a great place to start your trip through New River Gorge National Park.
Can’t get enough of that bridge? Get up close and personal by walking across the entire length of the massive bridge on the 24” catwalk just beneath the road.
If you don’t mind heights, this is an ideal way to take in the enormity of the bridge and the beauty of the New River (which is difficult to see while driving over the bridge).
Be sure to make reservations in advance with https://bridgewalk.com/. The tour lasts between 2-3 hours.
The New and Gauley Rivers are famous for their top-tier whitewater rafting. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, there’s sure to be a rafting adventure ideal for your skill level.
The area comes alive with visitors from around the world during September and October, known as Gauley Season. During this time, the dam at Summersville lake is released, creating legendary class V rapids along the Gauley River.
As relative novices, we visited in late spring/early summer when the water levels were relatively low. We chose, and highly recommend, New & Gauley River Adventures, a small, locally owned and operated outfit with expert rafters as guides.
We chose the day-long adventure trip on the Lower New River. Our guide was incredible and made us feel safe, even though the toughest and roughest of rapids. But there are lots of options for families with smaller children and for shorter trips.
This was one of our favorite things to do on our New River Gorge National Park road trip, by far.
If you’ve ever been to West Virginia, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the vast rolling mountains and valleys covered in nothing but green trees and vegetation.
The hiking in and around New River Gorge National Park offers stunning overlooks, bridge and river views, and lush mountain landscapes. There are trails for all skill levels.
Some of our favorites include the Endless Wall Trail where you’ll find amazing views of the mountain greenery and gorge, Long Point Trail for another spectacular view of the New River Gorge Bridge, and the Kaymoor Miners Trail that leads to an abandoned mining town.
GET MORE INFO: Best Hikes in New River Gorge National Park
Fayette Station Road
If you need a rest from all the hiking and adventure, why not take a scenic drive?
Fayette Station Road was first constructed in 1873 and was the only way to get over the gorge. Unfortunately, it was by horse and carriage and took a lot longer than the several seconds it now takes to get across the New River Gorge Bridge.
Along the way, you’ll encounter the remnants of old industrial and mining towns while taking in stunning views of the gorge and bridge on the 45-minute drive.
Another quick stop to get some spectacular views is at Grandview Point. In Grandview State Park, you’ll find some beautiful hiking trails, but it also makes for a great stopping place to have lunch or let the kids get some energy out at the playground.
With all the rivers in the mountain regions surrounding the New River Gorge National Park, it’s only natural that you’ll find some spectacular waterfalls.
Sandstone Falls is the largest (widest by far) waterfall in the area. But the most impressive part is seeing just how powerful mother nature can be as the New River, Gauley River and Kanawha Rivers collide in this v-shaped gorge.
It’s a little out of the way from the main areas of the park, but it’s worth the trip as you wind along rivers and encounter lots of scenic overlooks. It’s also worth a stop in historic Hinton to learn about the history of this former railroad hub at the railroad museum, or grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.
Step Back in Time and Explore Ghost Towns
West Virginia used to be booming with underground coal mines, but harsh conditions and diminishing profits caused many of them to just simply shut down. Whether you like history or just eerie places, hiking to these abandoned mining towns should be a stop on your New River Gorge National Park road trip.
The Kaymoor Miner’s trail is ideal for more advanced hikers as the first half has steep declines on uneven terrain, while the second half takes you down 821 steps to reach the abandoned town. The reward is worth it to find the collapsed buildings and rusted machinery. You’ll even find some coal chunks just lying on the forest floor.
Nuttallburg is probably the most impressive and most easily accessible former mining town in the area. Here you’ll find the fully intact tipple and coal conveyor, along with ruins of the old general store and coke ovens, and other buildings.
Aerial Tram and Jet Boat Ride – Hawks Nest State Park
If hiking and rafting isn’t your jam, then the next best way to take in the enormity of the gorge is by taking a tram, then hopping on a New River Jet Boat. From here, you’ll get an aerial overview of the gorge, followed by a boat tour to get up close and personal with the New River.
No road trip would be complete without stopping at an oddball roadside attraction. Make a stop at the Mystery Hole if you want a fun little break.
Here you’ll feel really confused about the laws of gravity and physics in a really fun way. Admission is really inexpensive, especially if you want something fun for the whole family.
Places to Eat around New River Gorge
There are lots of local places to grab some good grub after a long day of enjoying the wonders of the New River Gorge National Park, whatever you’re in the mood for.
Pies & Pints was one of our favorite places in nearby Fayetteville. There were lots of mouth-watering pizza options, and gluten-free crusts were available as well. And as a craft beer lover, there were tons of local beer and cider options to pair with your pie.
Another great stop is Firecreek BBQ & Steaks, also in Fayetteville. The pulled pork is not to be missed, whether you get it on a giant plate of nachos, or on a sandwich (gluten-free buns are available).
Right in the immediate area of the park, you’ll find a hidden gem called Our House Grill and Pub, which is located at the Cantrell Rafting Company. You can’t go wrong with the giant burgers and golden fries.
Another favorite is the Burrito Bar, where you’ll have your pick of lots of tasty burritos, including vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options. If you check the website, you might even be able to catch a local band while you eat.
Places for a Drink around New River Gorge
As a craft beer drinker, I love to check out the local breweries and their often unique offerings. In the New River Gorge area, we came across some outstanding beer and cider options.
Our favorite brewery in the area was Freefolk Brewery. They had an array of beer styles to suit anyone’s preference and offered a cider or two as well for the non-beer drinkers.
The outdoor space was exquisite, and they often have popup food trucks serving delicious local fare. Come at the right time, and you can catch some live music as well.
Bridge Brew Works is another local brewery offering a wide variety of styles from IPAs to crisp Kolsch. Cans and growlers are available if you’d like to take some beer to go.
Another fun place to grab a drink is at the Arrowhead Bike Farm Biergarten. This is a truly unique place that is a must-stop.
The beer garden has a huge variety of local and national craft beers, ciders, and hard kombucha. But they also have a kitchen with delicious food and snacks, rent bikes, have a campground, and of course, no visit here is complete without stopping to pet the goats.
Get Out and Have Fun
With so many things to do in the New River Gorge National Park, there’s no time like the present to start planning your road trip. There’s something for everyone.