When it comes to America’s National Parks, one size doesn’t fit all. They come in all shapes and sizes – tall, wide, deep, flat, hot, and cold – and we love them all! America’s newest National Park in West Virginia just adds to the variety. Formerly the New River Gorge National River, this long and skinny National Park and Preserve was designated in December of 2020 and is a lot of fun to explore.
Let’s check it out!
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Visiting New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is located near Glen Jean, West Virginia, and is the state’s first and only Park to receive this status. The Park was formally designated the New River Gorge National River and the new Park and Preserve protects around 70,000 acres of land and free-flowing river.
Things to do at New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge is a playground for paddlers and whitewater rafters, but it’s also full of rich history to explore, along with many miles of hiking trails, opportunities for rock climbing, camping, and many other activities.
Rafting at New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge whitewater rafting is second to none, and is a premier destination for whitewater enthusiasts. Between April and October, local outfitters descend on the river to show off what this park has to offer, and the Class III-V rapids give guests all they can handle. Paddlers will find the lower section of the river challenging with fast water, strong currents, and plenty of obstacles to navigate through. If you love a good rafting trip, be sure to put the New River at the top of your list.
For calmer trips, the upper portions of the river offer a great experience for all skill levels. Canoe and kayaking trips are also available from here.
For more information on booking a trip on the river, check out this list of outfitters and resources on the New River Gorge whitewater page.
While it was too early in the season for us to raft during this visit, we’d love to book a day on the river sometime.
Related: Looking for a unique whitewater experience? Check out Riversport OKC in Oklahoma City. It’s great for families!
New River Gorge Camping
New River Gorge has many different campgrounds around the park for primitive and RV camping. Many of the sites are on a first come, first served basis. There are also backcountry camping opportunities, as well as overnight river trips.
For more information on New River Gorge campgrounds, check out their camping information page here to plan your trip.
Hiking at New River Gorge National Park
Hiking trails run throughout the park, and it’s easy to find one to fit your schedule and skill level. We hiked the Park Loop Trail that begins at Town Park in Fayetteville and also hiked the Canyon Rim Boardwalk that begins at the Visitor Center and descends 178 steps to a lower overlook of the New River Gorge Bridge. If you are able, we highly recommend this one for some great views of the bridge!
Scenic Drives in New River Gorge National Park
One of our favorite experiences of this park was taking the old Fayette Station Road down to the river. Before the New River Gorge Bridge existed, the only way across the New River was a 40-minute drive down one side of the canyon and up the other side. Today, guests can take the Fayette Station Road Tour which offers some nice views of the river and the bridge.
For a longer tour around the entire park, you can take the 83-mile New River Gorge Scenic Drive. This will take you about three hours and will hit most of the highlights of the park, its mining history, viewpoints, sites, and Visitor Centers.
Fishing and Hunting at New River Gorge National Park
Fishing is definitely popular at New River Gorge National Park. With several access points along the river, this park gives anglers the opportunity to catch bass, walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, or flathead and channel catfish. Be sure to read all of the guidelines here before casting a line.
If you’re spending the day on the river, don’t forget the sunscreen! Be sure to use something that’s safe for the environment. We use Sunbum and it works great!
Where to stay at New River Gorge National Park
New River Gorge is not what you would call a bustling urban area, so you won’t find fancy lodges right next to the river. We stayed in nearby Beckley which has several hotel chains, and of course you can camp at one of the park’s campgrounds if you like. Because of tourism to the park and nearby Summit Bechtel Reserve Scout Camp, there are plenty of New River Gorge hotels in the area to choose from.
New River Gorge is great for summer fun on the river
Even in the off season, New River Gorge National Park is spectacular and worth a visit. Obviously we would have loved to spent some time on the river, but we have a great reason to return.
Have you visited New River Gorge? What was your favorite thing to do?
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