My first trip to West Virginia was a weekend water rafting trip with a group of friends, and it left me yearning for more. The New River Gorge area is simply stunning, stretching for 53 miles from Hinton to Haws State Park near Ansted. It’s the perfect place for a long weekend.
For my return trip, I chose to stay near Fayetteville and the New River Gorge Bridge. There are plenty of outdoor activities for every fitness level and interest: water rafting, canoeing, hiking, camping, ziplining, rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding…you name it!
The area itself is beautiful, with the river making its way through the valley, offering fantastic scenery. The New River Gorge National River was established in the late 1970s to preserve the free-flowing waterway. Interestingly, New River is not new. It is one of the oldest rivers, older than the Appalachian Mountains, with some rocks that are 330 million years old.
With its sheer abundance of outdoor activities, there’s plenty of things to do to keep you busy at New River Gorge in West Virginia. Here are some of my favorites to get your weekend planning started.
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Top outdoor things to do at New River Gorge in West Virginia
Don’t miss out on water rafting if you’re a fan of water sports. You will not be disappointed. There are plenty of options to fit everyone’s fitness level and ensure the perfect balance of adrenaline and fun. You’ll get to see scenic canyons and experience runs of waves, holes, and waterfalls. You can take a trip that ranges from 2 to 6 hours. Just make sure you reserve at least 72 hours in advance.
On the day of your trip, you check-in, leave all your stuff in a locker, and take a bus to your rafting destination. You are discouraged from taking a camera with you because, after all, your job is to stay afloat—so don’t think you’ll just sit there enjoying the ride! You’ll have to do some rowing. If you have a GoPro, you’re welcome to tie it to your helmet to take videos, but your hands must be free.
At the very end of the rafting trip, after you’ve passed all the rapids, you’ll have the chance to get in the water. You’ll also get a beer on the bus on your return trip—you earned it. Don’t worry about missing out on pictures, the water rafting company offers a 15-minute video to purchase after the trip along with pictures, and the quality is really good.
Hiking trails range from less than half a mile to several miles. I focused on short ones for their great overlooks and because they left me time to explore. Those features are perfect if you only have a weekend in New River Gorge.
Long Point Trail
Long Point Trail is 2.9 miles long, and it leads to an overlook with a view of the New River Gorge Bridge. You hike out and back from the overlook on the same trail, so you start and finish at the same spot. Long Point Trail is a heavily trafficked trail. The trail leads through the woods, so it’s shaded and comfortable. Walking in the woods can be muddy, especially after rain, so hiking boots come in handy.
Endless Wall Loop Trail
Endless Wall Loop Trail is another heavy trafficked trail with a great overlook. This one is 2.3 miles long, and the overlook is halfway through the trail. Just like with Long Point Trail, the trail can get muddy depending on the weather. I happened to be visiting during a rainy summer. To get back to the parking lot where you started, you walk another quarter mile on a paved road.
Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk
Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk is right by the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. It is a 0.6-mile walk with a view of the New River Gorge Bridge. This hike is a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t want to get their feet dirty, since you’re walking on a wooden path. It’s also a short distance, making it more convenient.
Wolf Creek Falls
New River Gorge has many beautiful waterfalls. I only found time to visit the Wolf Creek Falls on this weekend trip because it was close to the bridge overlook. I followed the road from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center all the way down to the Fayette Station Bridge, where you can leave your car. Wolf Creek Falls is near the main road. Beware, you have to take a very windy road to get there, which makes you appreciate the New River Gorge Bridge even more. The Fayette Station Bridge is a good location to spot water rafts and see the New River Gorge Bridge Walk from below.
New River Gorge Bridge Walk
This was a fun activity that I got a chance to experience in West Virginia. It was something new and different for me. How often do you get to walk under a bridge that’s 876 feet high? The New River Gorge Bridge is 3,100 feet long, and the bridge walk gives you an overlook of the gorge and its rapids, sandstone cliffs, and waterfalls. It is totally safe, too. Even though you walk on a narrow catwalk, there are rails to hold onto, and you’ll be securely fastened onto a safety cable. There are three tours available: the bridge walk, bridge walk full moon tour, and the moonrise sunset tour.
A few tips for the bridge walk:
- If you are bringing children with you, they must be at least 8 years old and 48 inches tall.
- Backpacks and purses are not allowed. You can leave them in a car or at the check-in place.
- Keep in mind that it can get windy and chilly, so extra layers will come in handy, even in summer. If winds go over 40 mph, tours are canceled.
- You can have your camera with you, but make sure you have it secured.
- It’s always better to reserve your tour in advance.
Babcock State Park
Another picturesque area that I found in New River Gorge is Babcock State Park, located 20 miles southeast from the New River Gorge Bridge. I especially enjoyed visiting the Glade Creek Grist Mill, which is one of the most popular attractions in the park. It is a replica of the mill that stood there in the 19th century. The Grist Mill is right by the parking lot. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to explore much of the rest of the park because it started pouring rain, but the park offers many recreational outdoor activities in a beautiful setting, and it is well worth a visit.
My goal for the trip was to sleep in the woods with the sound of nature. A black bear was spotted in the area, so we were told to put away all our food. I stayed in a pretty cool location that offers a lot of accommodation options to choose from and a view of the New River Gorge Bridge from a pool. There were also restaurants and a full bar. If camping is not your thing, there are plenty of accommodation options from deluxe cabins with jacuzzis, mountain cabins, rustic cabins, platform tents, and camping. If you’re opting for cabins, make sure you reserve well in advance.
I only spent three days in West Virginia, but I would certainly come back again. The New River Gorge is a perfect place for a weekend trip. There’s plenty of things to do there. Each time I leave, I feel like there are so many more outdoor activities to explore next time.