Located in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, New River Gorge National Park and Preserve protects 73,000 acres of rugged land along a 53-mile stretch of the New River. Although this national park is one of the newest in the country, the river system is actually quite old. The gorge was carved out by millions of years of erosion; and the New River is thought to be one of the oldest rivers in the world!
From visiting the northernmost Canyon Rim area, home to the New River Gorge Bridge, to the southernmost Sandstone area with its impressive waterfalls, New River Gorge will keep visitors busy for days! Adventure seekers can choose from more than 100 miles of hiking trails, whitewater rafting and some of the best rock climbing on the eastern seaboard!
Although the national park winds along the New River, the four main areas of the park are quite spread out and not connected by a single road. So, it requires a bit of driving to thoroughly explore this park.
We hope this guide will help you narrow down your choices and help you plan an amazing visit to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve!
Before you head to New River Gorge, make sure you pick up a copy of our downloadable New River Gorge National Park itinerary. Not only do we cover the best things to do at New River Gorge, we also include details on hiking trails, where to stay, what to pack and other places to visit while you are in the New River Gorge area.
NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE HISTORY
The historical geology of the New River Gorge area is fascinating. New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world and has kept its course for over 300 million years! Over this period, fluvial erosion carved a deep gorge through the Appalachian Plateau creating steep canyon walls and sandstone cliffs. The erosion also exposed long tracts of bituminous coal.
The cultural history of the gorge is deeply intertwined with the landscape. From the native people and pioneers who once called this rugged area home to the arrival of the railroad, coal mining and logging industries, the New River Gorge area has a storied past (see the NPS website for more information about the history and culture of New River Gorge). In the late 1800s, the railroad through the gorge was completed and dozens of coal mining towns sprung up along river canyon. New River Gorge was a hub of industrial activity for decades. By the 1960s, all the coal mines were closed, and coal towns were abandoned.
Shortly after the disappearance of mining in the gorge, New River Gorge began to draw adventure seekers—the first of those seeking its rapids. The whitewater rafting industry was born in the New River area in the 1970s. A couple major events also transpired in the 1970s—the construction of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge and the designation of the New River as a National River. The New River Gorge Bridge, which was completed on October 22, 1977, reduced a 45-minute drive down narrow mountain roads and across the river to less than a minute! At 3,030 feet long and sitting 876 feet above the river, the bridge is an engineering marvel and a centerpiece for the park. Following the completion of the bridge, New River was designated as New River Gorge National River in 1978.
New River Gorge began attracting rock climbers in the 1980s and hundreds of routes have been created since—with over 1,400 established rock climbs. On December 27, 2020, the New River Gorge National River was redesignated as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. It became the 63rd national park and 20th preserve in the United States, and also West Virginia’s first national park! Now millions of visitors come to New River Gorge National Park every year to enjoy the spectacular scenery, take advantage of its many recreational activities and learn about the area’s rich history.
New River Gorge National Park map, courtesy of the National Park Service
CANYON RIM AND NORTHERN AREAS
Canyon Rim area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Canyon Rim area, northeast of Fayetteville and off Highway 19, is home to one of the park’s main visitor centers and the New River Gorge Bridge. There is plenty to see and do in this northernmost area of the park (Lansing and Fayetteville)—including miles of hiking trails, a scenic drive and historic coal mining sites. Just south of the Canyon Rim area, visitors can explore the historic townsite and coal mining operation at Nuttallburg. Regardless of how much time you have at New River Gorge, be sure to allow for at least a half day (or more!) to explore the northernmost areas of the park.
When visiting the Canyon Rim and northern areas of the park, our recommendations include:
- Canyon Rim Visitor Center. The Canyon Rim Visitor Center is open year-round and a great place to begin your journey in New River Gorge. The center features exhibits highlighting park geology, ecology, and history. It also has a park store, theater, and back deck with a view southward into the park. Park rangers can answer any questions you might have and help you make the most of your time in the park.
- New River Gorge Bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge is one of the most photographed sights in West Virginia. It is the world’s third longest single span steel arch bridge and the third highest bridge in the United States! There are many ways to experience the bridge. Drive over it via Route 19 or drive under it on Fayette Station Road. View it from overlooks on the Canyon Rim Boardwalk or hike out to Long Point. Feeling adventurous? Harness up and walk the catwalk under the bridge via a guided tour. Just one day every year, you can walk across the bridge—if you don’t mind sharing the experience with thousands of other people! The third Saturday in October is Bridge Day—West Virginia’s largest single-day festival and one of the largest extreme sports events in the world. The New River Gorge Bridge closes to vehicular traffic and is open to spectators who gather to watch BASE jumpers leap from the bridge and rappelers ascend and descend from the catwalk.
- Fayette Station Road. For nearly 100 years, Fayette Station Road was the main route across the river, winding down to the bottom of the gorge, across a one-lane bridge and back up the other side. The original Fayette Station Bridge was closed and condemned after the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge in 1977; however, it underwent a significant renovation in 1997 and opened a year later—renamed the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge. Access to Fayette Station Road is just down the road from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. Follow the one-way Fayette Station Road into the gorge and under the New River Gorge Bridge via a series of hairpin turns. Look for pull-outs with exhibits along the way and some amazing views of the bridge overhead! We enjoyed stopping at the Bridge Buttress Trail, a popular climbing area in the park, to watch rock climbers in action! Once at the bottom of the gorge, cross the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge and drive 0.1 miles to a public parking lot on the right. From here, you can explore the river’s edge with clear views of the New River Gorge Bridge to the north, watch whitewater rafters take on the Fayette Station Rapid, and walk back to the old bridge for photos (the NPS asks that vehicles not stop on the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge). The entire drive takes about 45 minutes and ends in Fayetteville. Download the Fayette Station Audio Tour from the NPS website before your trip! NOTE: This road is not suitable for large vehicles (including RVs and trailers) due to hairpin turns and a low clearance bridge.
- Nutallburg. From the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, drive 40 minutes to reach historic Nuttallburg. Wander around the site of a once booming coal town to learn about an important piece of West Virginia history. Several short trails pass remains of historic structures like the coal conveyor, coal tipple and coke ovens. Learn about the mining operation and what life was like in a bustling coal town from exhibits along the way. Use caution when driving Keeneys Creek Road to Nuttallburg. This narrow, winding road (part pavement/part gravel) is not suitable for trailers and RVs. Much of the road is one lane and drivers may need to pull off to the side to allow oncoming vehicles to pass.
- Canyon Rim Gifts. While visiting the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, you may want to swing into Canyon Rim Gifts and Fudge Shop (located next door to the visitor center) to check out the selection of mouthwatering fudge!
Hiking. There are miles of trails to explore in the Canyon Rim and Nuttallburg areas—ranging from easy to strenuous. In this area, we recommend the following hikes:
- The Canyon Rim Boardwalk offers some of the best easy access views in New River Gorge. A full accessible ramp leads to the upper observation deck. Descend 178 steps to the lower overlook, and you’ll be rewarded with unobstructed views of the gorge and the New River Gorge Bridge (0.5 miles round-trip). The Canyon Rim Boardwalk begins from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center parking area.
- With great views of the gorge and access to some of the best rock climbing in the eastern US, the Endless Wall Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. This trail winds through a hardwood forest and crosses Fern Creek before reaching the gorge’s cliff edge. Rock climbers use metal ladders along the trail to gain access to the sandstone cliffs below. Although there are numerous overlooks, Diamond Point is the best spot for views of the “Endless Wall,” gorge and river to the south. There are a couple options for hiking this trail. 1) Use the Fern Creek Trailhead to hike halfway to Diamond Point and make this an easy 2-mile out-and-back hike. 2) The point-to-point Endless Wall Trail can also be hiked as a moderate 2.6-mile loop when using Highway 82 as a connector (requires a .25-mile walk along the edge of a road back to the trailhead parking). The Endless Wall Trail has two trailhead parking areas on Route 82, south of the Canyon Rim Visitor Center: the Fern Creek Trailhead and the Nuttall Trailhead. If trailhead parking is full, DO NOT park along the road. Your car will be ticketed and/or towed.
- The 3.2-mile out-and-back Long Point Trail is another popular trail in the area but on the Fayetteville side of the gorge. This moderate trail passes through field and forest before ending at a rocky outcrop overlooking the gorge and New River Gorge Bridge. The trail is mostly flat and descends gradually to Long Point, except for the last 0.2 miles of trail which is steep and filled with roots. The trailhead starts at the Long Point parking area on Newton Road (just off Gatewood Road).
- The Kaymoor Miners Trail is a great way to get a sense for the industrial history of the gorge…if you don’t mind stairs and a LOT of them! This strenuous 1.6-mile out-and-back hike leads to the historic Kaymoor coal mine site and town site deep in the gorge. To reach the mine site, follow switchbacks down a forested hillside until the trail intersects with the Kaymoor Trail. Wander around the mine site to view the old mine shaft, remains of company buildings used for mining operations, and the safety board, highlighting the safety record of the mine. Then descend 821 steps down to the remains of the coal processing plant, coke ovens, and the town site on the banks of the New River. To return to the trailhead, hikers must climb the very same 821 steps and steep switchbacks. The trailhead starts at Kaymoor parking lot, just minutes from Fayetteville and off Kaymoor No.1 Road. Bring water for the challenging climb up the stairs! Wooden stairs may be slippery when wet.
- There are a couple great Nuttallburg trails to explore from the Nuttallburg parking area, located at the bottom of Keeneys Creek Road: the Tipple Trail and the Town Loop Trail. Walk the easy, 0.6-mile (one-way) Tipple Trail to see historic structures, including the coal and tipple system designed by Henry Ford in the 1920s. The moderate, half-mile (one-way) Town Loop Trail is perfect for those who want to get a glimpse of what life was like in the Nuttallburg community. From the Tipple Trail, continue up a hillside on the Tipple Trail to foundations of a school, church and homes of the residents of Nuttallburg. The Tipple Trail combined with the Town Loop Trail is a 1.3-mile hike. From Winona, turn right off Lansing-Edmond Road on Keeneys Creek Road. Drive 4 miles to the main parking area. Use caution when driving the narrow, windy roads that lead to the Nuttallburg parking area.
- The moderate, 0.7-mile (one-way) Headhouse Trail offers up-close explorations of the Nuttallburg coal mine and headhouse. Follow a gravel trail (administrative road) to the entrance of the mine and top of the coal conveyor used to transport coal down to the river-level processing area. For those seeking a workout and some challenging terrain, continue down the steep and rugged 0.8-mile (one-way) Conveyor Trail. The trailhead for the Headhouse Trail can be reached by turning off Lansing-Emond Road onto Beauty Mountain Road. Travel 0.13 miles and turn right onto the road just past the cemetery. A small parking area is located next to the gate that is the start of the Headhouse Trail.
For information on other hikes in the Canyon Rim and Nuttallburg areas, see Fayetteville area trails and Nuttallburg Trails on the NPS site.
Thurmond area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
Founded in the early 1900s, Thurmond was once a thriving railroad town. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway carried shipments of coal from nearby mines to industrial areas nationwide. Thurmond generated the most freight revenue on the C & O Railway, and its banks were the richest in the state!
Nowadays the Thurmond area is not nearly as crowded or busy; however, the Thurmond Depot does still serve as a flag stop for Amtrak. The town remains surprisingly untouched by modern development, and it is fascinating to explore this historic railroad town and get a sense of the impact of the industrial revolution. The Thurmond area is home to the Thurmond Depot, restored as a visitor center by the NPS, and over 20 park-owned structures in the historic district.
To reach Thurmond, follow the winding Route 25 from Glen Jean, WV down into the gorge. Since Route 25 is narrow and winding, it is not recommended for RVs and trailers. The drive from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center/Fayetteville area takes about a half hour.
When visiting the Thurmond area, our recommendations include:
- Thurmond Depot. The Thurmond Depot was restored by the National Park Service in 1995 and serves as a seasonal visitor center (open June-August and weekends in September and October). When open, it has maps and information, exhibits, and a small park store.
- Thurmond Historic District/Walking Tour. The best way to learn what life was like in this railroad town is to walk alongside the track through the historic downtown (open year-round). Pick up a New River Gorge--Thurmond brochure at the visitor center or you can find the NPS Thurmond Walking Tour details online. Currently, the Thurmond Historic District has over 20 park-owned structures. The walking tour includes nine sites to visit. In 2003, the National Park Service began a stabilization program which included repairs to preserve buildings until they can be rehabilitated or restored, removal of overgrown vegetation and installation of metal roofs and gutters. Preservation efforts are ongoing. Use caution when crossing the road and railroad tracks to explore the town. The track is an active railroad line with nearly a dozen trains passing through daily. DO NOT walk the tracks.
- Hiking/Biking. Although we didn’t have time to explore any of them, there are a few trails in the Thurmond vicinity—some open for mountain biking. For more information on Cunard, Thurmond and Stone Cliff area trails, see the NPS website or ask a park ranger for more information at one of the visitor centers.
Grandview Area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Grandview area has some of the highest vistas and most dramatic scenery in the park! Enjoy miles of hiking trails, picnic areas and expansive views of the gorge from 1400 feet above the river. If you only have a day in the park, be sure to leave time to drive down to Grandview!
When visiting the Grandview area, our recommendations include:
- Grandview Visitor Center. The Grandview Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day (noon to 5). This summer-season center has maps and other information about the area, plus a small park store. Nearby there are picnic tables, a playground and picnic shelters which can be reserved.
- Main Overlook, North Overlook and Turkey Spur Overlook. Scenic overlooks offer panoramic views of the deepest part of the gorge. The Main Overlook is fully accessible and just a short distance from the Main Overlook parking lot. The North Overlook (not far from the Shelter #1 parking area) can be reached via a short walk on the Grandview Rim Trail. The Turkey Spur Overlook requires a 150-step climb. This overlook can be reached via a winding drive to the very end of Turkey Spur Road or by hiking the full length of the Grandview Rim Trail.
Hiking. There are six miles of beautiful trails to explore at Grandview—ranging from easy to strenuous. In the Grandview area, we recommend the following trails:
- Grandview Rim Trail. The Grandview Rim Trail begins near the Main Overlook and ends at the Turkey Spur Overlook. This moderate, 3.2-mile (roundtrip) hike is Grandview’s longest trail. The early part of the trail winds gently along the rim of the gorge and offers numerous viewpoints. However, there are a couple steep sections as the trail nears Turkey Spur and the Turkey Spur Overlook requires climbing 150 steps to reach the top.
- Castle Rock Trail. The Castle Rock Trail was one of our favorites in the entire park AND the most adventurous! Get up close-up and personal with the geology of New River Gorge as you scramble over rocks and hike past towering walls of sandstone and a coal seam. The challenging 0.6-mile Castle Rock Trail begins near Grandview’s Main Overlook and ends where it intersects with the Grandview Rim Trail. Returning to the main parking area via the Grandview Rim Trail makes this a great 1.1-mile loop, plus you get to enjoy various viewpoints along the Grandview Rim Trail on your return trip! We hiked out to the Turkey Spur Overlook on the Grandview Rim Trail first and then took the Castle Rock Trail on our return trip to the parking area, making this a 3.5-mile loop. This trail is listed as difficult due to some challenging terrain and narrow trail in spots with steep drop-offs. It is not recommended for young children. It is also best to avoid this trail in rainy/snowy weather since the rocks are extremely slippery when wet.
- Tunnel Trail. The 0.5-mile Tunnel Trail is great way to explore the Grandview area if you are short on time but want to stretch your legs. This short and shady forest trail descends from the Grandview Overlook walkway and travels past sandstone cliffs. The trail climbs back up and ends at the baseball diamond and playground. Walk back through the fields to the parking area to make this a loop hike. The “tunnel” section of the trail is closed due to safety concerns. Since there are some sections with stairs and uneven terrain, the NPS rates this trail as moderate.
For information on other hikes in the Grandview area, see Grandview Area Trails on the NPS site.
Sandstone Area map, courtesy of the National Park Service
The Sandstone area is home to the largest waterfall on the New River. Enjoy a scenic drive with overlooks of the river on your way to the falls.
When visiting the Sandstone area, our recommendations include:
- Sandstone Visitor Center. This visitor center, located just off I-64, serves as a gateway to the southern section of New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. The Sandstone Visitor Center is a green design building with interpretive exhibits, and impressive inlaid floor map and a film. Learn about the New River watershed and history of the New River Gorge. The center also has small park store, picnic tables and a native plant garden. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm from April through October, and then on weekends only through the winter.
- Scenic Riverside Drive and Overlooks. The drive to Sandstone Falls (from the visitor center) takes over a half hour without stops; however, you’ll want to leave extra time to take in the views along the way! As the road winds south towards Hinton, Route 20 offers two park vistas from high above the New River—the Sandstone Falls Overlook and the Brooks Overlook. The Sandstone Falls Overlook has a short, gravel path that descends 0.1-mile from the parking area to a view of the falls 600 feet below. The Brooks Overlook, just 5 minutes beyond the Sandstone Falls Overlook, provides a view of the mile-long Brooks Island, a bald eagle nesting site. Follow Route 20 to Hinton and over the river before turning right onto River Road and heading north to the falls. There are a few riverside pull-offs and river access points along the way, including a picnic area and wooden viewing platform at Brooks Falls, a class III rapid.
- Sandstone Falls. An accessible boardwalk leads to Sandstone Falls, the largest falls on the New River. These impressive falls span 1,500 feet! Walk along the wooden boardwalk (0.2-miles one-way) and bridges that span the two islands below Sandstone Falls. The first bridge provides views of the lower falls and the second bridge leads to an island with observation deck and stunning river-level view of the main falls. Use caution near the river’s edge, as the Sandstone Falls area has been the site of several drownings.
Hiking. In addition to the short trail to the Sandstone Falls Overlook and the boardwalk at the falls, there are a few other trails in the southern end of park.
- Island Loop Trail. The easy, 0.5-mile Island Loop Trail starts and ends on the Sandstone Falls boardwalk (a 0.75-mile loop including the boardwalk). The short, rocky trail travels around the largest island below Sandstone Falls. Hikers can explore a forest reclaiming its territory on an island one farmed and logged.
- Big Branch Trail. This moderately difficult, 2-mile loop trail winds through the forest and follows a stream with several waterfalls (in winter and spring) and water crossings. When hiked in the clockwise direction, the trail ascends along the stream to the remains of an old farmstead before reaching a ridge. The descent back to the trailhead is quite steep with some scenic views of Brook Falls along the way. Alternatively, the trail can be hiked in the opposite direction to ascend the steepest section and descend along the more gradual Big Branch stream section. The Big Branch Trail is most scenic in the spring when the waterfalls are running and plentiful wildflowers are in bloom. The trailhead is just across the street from the Brook Falls overlook and parking area, roughly 4 miles north of Hinton on River Road.
For information on other hikes in the Sandstone area, see Sandstone-Brooks Area Trails on the NPS site.
OTHER THINGS TO DO AT NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
In addition to hiking, exploring mining towns and taking scenic drives, there are numerous recreational opportunities in New River Gorge to satisfy adventure seekers!
- Whitewater Rafting on the New River. The New River is known as one of the nation’s top destinations for whitewater rafting. Whether you seek a peaceful float down the river or prefer tackling technical rapids, there are rafting trips for all comfort levels. Within the park, there are two sections of river with very different characteristics (NOTE: since the river runs south to north, the upper section of river is in the south and lower section is in the north). The calmer, upper (southern) section of river, which consists of slow pools and easy rapids (up to Class III), is best for those with kids or anyone new to rafting. The lower (northern) section of river, also referred to as “the Lower Gorge,” is best for the whitewater enthusiast with more obstacles and technical rapids ranging from Class III to V. There are several licensed rafting outfitters from which to choose with trips varying in length from a half day to several days. The main season runs from April through October.
- Rock Climbing. The sandstone cliffs of New River Gorge have been attracting rock climbers since the 1980s. Within the park, there are more than 1,400 established rock climbs—with heights ranging from 30-120 feet. Most of the routes in the park are for the experienced climber; however, some local outfitters offer guided climbs and rappels for climbers of all abilities. Climbing can take place all year, but the best seasons for climbing are spring and fall.
- Mountain Biking. New River Gorge is one of few national parks that allow mountain biking inside its borders and it’s a great way to explore the park! Arrowhead Trails is a 12.8-mile stacked loop trail system in the Craig Branch area of the park, just south of Fayetteville. There are options for beginner and intermediate riders on rolling forested terrain. Over 1,000 volunteers from Boy Scouts of America’s national honor society constructed the trail system, making it one of the largest youth service projects in NPS history! Outside of the Arrowhead Trails, some hiking trails in the park are also accessible to mountain bikers. See Bicycling at New River Gorge, for more maps and more information on trails accessible to mountains bikers. If you need to rent a bike to explore New River Gorge, Arrowhead Bike Farm and Campground has a fleet of Trek bikes available for full-day rentals. They also offer camping and run a restaurant. The Handle Bar + Kitchen is sure to satisfy your hunger and/or craving for craft beer after a day out adventuring!
- Fishing. Fishing is a popular activity in spring and fall at New River Gorge. The fast-flowing, boulder-rich waters of the New River create perfect habitat for smallmouth bass. The New River also supports healthy populations of a wide variety of fish including catfish, walleye, muskellunge, bluegill, crappie and trout. The park has several public access points along the river including Fayette Station, Tug Creek Beach, Glade Creek, Brooks Falls and Sandstone Falls. A West Virginia fishing license is required to fish in the park.
WHAT TO DO NEAR NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
If you have extra time while visiting New River Gorge, there are some great nearby attractions and towns to explore. Our recommendations include:
- Babcock State Park. Babcock State Park is only a half-hour drive from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and worth a visit! The park is best known as the site of the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill, one of the most photographed landmarks in West Virginia. However, Babcock State Park also offers camping, log cabin rentals, hiking trails and fishing on Boley Lake.
- Hawks Nest State Park. Located just 5 minutes north of the New River Gorge Bridge, Hawks Nest State Park offers a stunning overlook of the New River and gorge to the south, hiking trails, jetboat rides (in summer months) and an aerial tramway (reopening in 2023).
- Gauley River National Recreation Area. Also north of New River Gorge National Park and managed by the NPS, Gauley River National Recreation Area is known as a whitewater rafting destination.
- Summersville Lake. At the head of the Gauley River, Summersville Lake is a popular summer destination for boating, paddleboarding, fishing and technical rock climbing.
- Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Take a mine car tour led by retired coal miner inside a former mine.
- Fayetteville. Spend an afternoon wandering around the charming town of Fayetteville. The local cafes and restaurants are sure to satisfy your hunger and/or thirst! Check out Cathedral Café (breakfast, lunch and delicious coffee served in a former church) and Pies and Pints (delicious pizza and craft beers).
HOW TO GET TO NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION
New River Gorge National Park sits in the southeast region of West Virginia, about an hour southeast of the state’s capital, Charleston. Although West Virginia doesn’t have any large airports, New River Gorge is accessible by car from other major hubs like Washington, DC (5 hours), Pittsburgh, PA (3.5 hours), Columbus, OH (4 hours) and Charlotte, NC (4 hours). It is also possible to combine a trip to New River Gorge National Park with a trip to Shenandoah National Park—about 4 hours away (depending on your destination inside the park).
Once you get to the park, be prepared for a bit of driving—the park is long and narrow (53 miles from top to bottom) and there’s no public transportation within the gorge. We started in the most northern area of the park, the Canyon Rim area, and ended our first day in Thurmond. We used the second day to explore the two more southern areas of the park—Grandview and Sandstone. However, what areas you visit and when you visit may depend upon where you are staying and from where you are traveling.
WHERE TO STAY IN AND NEAR NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE
The park does not offer any lodging, but there are plenty of options to suit all sorts of travelers in towns adjacent to the park. There are also a couple popular “adventure resorts” in the area that offer lodging and a wide variety of adventure activities—ACE Adventure Resorts and Adventures on the Gorge.
Camping in New River Gorge National Park: Although the park doesn’t offer any developed campgrounds, there are several primitive camping areas (composting toilets and no showers, drinking water or hookups) inside the park. All are located on maintained gravel roads, but some roads are windy and narrow and not suitable for large RVs. There are no fees for camping, but all sites are first come, first served. All campgrounds, except for War Ridge, have access to the river.
Details on primitive camping in New River Gorge National Park can be found here.
If you are seeking a more developed campground, there are several great ones in neighboring state parks. We enjoyed our stay at Babcock State Park Campground. Another great option is Little Beaver State Park Campground.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE?
New River Gorge National Park is open and accessible year-round. However, the best time of year to visit depends upon what you want to see and do (i.e. hiking can be done year-round, but rock climbing is best in spring and fall). When the park is fully open, typically between April and October, you’ll be able to experience all the park has to offer—visitor centers access, hiking, and a variety of adventure activities.
Summer is the busiest time of year at the park. Warm temperatures coincide with peak rafting season. Expect crowded trailheads and potential traffic jams at river put-ins. Temperatures typically range from the high 70s to mid-80s during the daytime and afternoon thunderstorms are common.
Fall is a great time of year to visit the park, especially if fall foliage is your thing! Cooler temperatures are prefect for hiking, climbing and mountain biking. Although too early for fall colors, September is less crowded. Mid to late October is usually the best time for peak color but expect crowds during leaf peeping season and around Bridge Day (3rd Saturday in October).
Mid to late spring is also an ideal time to visit to avoid crowds. We visited late April and had no trouble parking at trailheads. We even had some trails to ourselves! Although temperatures may still be on the chilly side (in the 50s and low 60s), guided rafting trips start up in April. Early spring rafting is best for those seeking the thrill of bigger waves. Spring is also an ideal time to catch the wildflowers blooming and enjoy the vibrant green color of the new leaves.
VISITING NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK IN THE WINTER
Winters are typically cold and quiet at New River Gorge. While some of the park is inaccessible in the winter, both the Canyon Rim and Sandstone Visitor Centers remain open all year (Sandstone is open weekends only in the winter). Trails may be snow or ice coated, but many can still be enjoyed in the winter with the right cold weather gear and either microspikes or snowshoes for traction. Be sure to check the NPS website for current conditions, road and trail closures, and weather.
IS THERE CELLULAR SERVICE IN NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK?
Cellular reception is spotty throughout the park, but public WiFi is available at Canyon Rim and Sandstone Visitor Centers.
ARE PETS ALLOWED AT NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK?
Pets ARE ALLOWED on all trails at New River Gorge National Park. They must be always kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet. They are not allowed at public ranger programs, in the visitor centers or in any park buildings. Visitors are also expected to clean up after their pets on all NPS land. Streams in the park may contain bacteria or parasites such as Giardia, so bring water for your pet on hikes.
IS THERE AN ENTRANCE FEE TO VISIT NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK & PRESERVE?
New River Gorge National Park is FREE to visit! There are currently no entrance fees to enter the park and no need to display your national park pass, if you already have one like we do.
RELATED INFORMATION ON NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Ahead of your trip, be sure to download our New River Gorge National Park itinerary!
- Nearby New River Gorge is the beautiful Babcock State Park. Check out our blog on visiting Babcock State Park in West Virginia.
- After your trip, order a custom, vintage travel poster! We take your photo, do some great filtering to make it look like a stylized national park poster, add your custom wording and ship it out to you!