New River Gorge Hiking: Plan Your National Park Adventure
Explore the underrated US national park for a fun adventure.
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Welcome to West Virginia, home of New River Gorge National Park, one of the newest and most underrated parks in the US. This gorgeous place needs to be on your adventure travel list if it isn't already.
With hiking trails for all abilities and levels, New River Gorge hiking is some of the best in the country. Pack your bags and start planning the ultimate trip to New River Gorge National Park!
Below we will cover all the details so you can make the most of your time here, including New River Gorge hiking, where to stay, how to get here, the best time to go, and more.
New River Gorge National Park Overview
Originally established in 1978 as New River Gorge National River, this national park was redesignated as New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in just 2021, currently making it the newest national park in the US.
Located in West Virginia, and sitting at over 70,000 acres, there is a lot to explore here. From miles and miles of hiking trails to whitewater rafting to biking to rock climbing and more. New River Gorge National Park is the perfect place for nature and adventure lovers to visit.
You will need a car to explore New River Gorge as it is a very long park with no shuttle or buses. Trailheads and visitor centers are far apart.
Entrance Fee: Free!
Area: 70,000 acres
Shuttle/Public Transportation: No
Visitor Center: Canyon Rim, Grandview, Sandstone, and Thurmond
Park Open: Year-round
Best Time to Visit New River Gorge National Park
West Virginia's weather is relatively calm, not getting super hot or cold. You could easily enjoy a trip to New River Gorge any time of year, but there are better times to visit if you want to enjoy specific activities.
A very popular activity at New River Gorge National Park is white water rafting. If you plan on adding this to your itinerary, then you should definitely visit in the summer, between June and August.
If you want to hike all day and enjoy all the views, spring and fall are the best time to visit New River Gorge National Park. This time of year, from April through May and September through October, will bring cooler temperatures and smaller crowds.
Peak fall foliage in New River Gorge National Park is from the middle to end of October. this would be a fantastic time to visit as the autumn colors here are breathtaking and the cooler temperatures allow for lots of hiking. Plan accordingly!
How to Get to New River Gorge National Park
Located in southern West Virginia, New River Gorge National Park is "close" to several towns and cities. Because it is such a long and narrow national park, there are several visitor centers that are close to their own respective towns.
The most popular place, and where I recommend you base yourself, is the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. This is where the famous bridge is located, and it is near Fayetteville, West Virginia. This is a reasonably sized city with plenty of stores and supplies available.
There is also a very cute downtown area in Fayetteville, along with hotels and other lodging options if you're not looking to go camping. After a day of hiking, you can head to Fayetteville for dinner or ice cream if it's hot out.
The nearest airport to New River Gorge National Park is Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia. It is about 70 miles, or about 1 hr and 10 minutes, to the park. You will need to rent a car from the airport if you are flying in. There are no shuttles, and you will also need a car to get around the park.
New River Gorge Camping and Lodging
New River Gorge National Park is perfect for nature lovers and campers. While there are no established campgrounds within the park itself, there are many nearby. You can also go primitive camping in New River Gorge; there are no fees and it is a first come, first served basis.
If you want to stay at an established campground, our top recommendation for nearby New River Gorge camping is Chesnut Creek Campground. You have to call to make a reservation; we really enjoyed our stay here and highly recommend it.
If you do plan on camping, make sure you go prepared and check out our camping essentials so you have everything you need!
Interested in glamping or staying in a cabin? Take a look at these New River Gorge rentals for a super fun stay in an RV, cabin, cottage, etc.
New River Gorge Hiking
This national park covers over 70,000 acres so there are many miles of hiking trails here. There are trails for all levels of hikers, ranging from .25 miles to 7 miles. You can also complete multiple hikes together if you're looking for a longer hiking adventure.
New River Gorge National Park is a long and narrow park, so hiking trails can be fairly far from each other. You will definitely need a car to explore multiple trails as the trail map is divided into 5 main hiking areas. Many popular trailheads are located quite far apart.
Trails of Lansing and Fayetteville
Trails of Nuttallburg
Trails of Cunard, Thurmon, and Stone Cliff
Trails of Glade Creek
Trails of Brooks and Sandstone
The most popular area to hike is the trails of Lansing and Fayetteville as is this where the New River Gorge Bridge is located. There are so many hikes to choose from in this park, many of which offer great views.
The best New River Gorge hiking trails are below. Plan your hiking days around these beautiful trails!
Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk: 0.6-mile out-and-back, fairly steep stairs
Endless Wall Trail: 2.3-mile point-to-point trail, mostly flat and easy
Kaymoor Miner's Trail: 1.6-mile out-and-back trail, very steep
Castle Rock Trail: 1.1-mile loop, moderately difficult
Sandstone Falls Boardwalk: 0.5-mile out-and-back, easy trail
If you're in a time crunch and only have time for one hike, you should head to the Endless Wall Trail. Even if you don't complete the entire trail, it offers incredible views at several points along the way. I recommend hiking about 1.5 miles out and turning around there if you have time.
Other Fun Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
Besides having fantastic hiking trail options, New River Gorge offers other fun activities. There are options for families, couples, adrenaline junkies, and more. Plan an epic trip and book one of the following activities!
Mountain Biking: Bring your own bikes along for a self-guided mountain biking tour of New River Gorge National Park. You can view the bike-accessible trails here.
Or book an all-day mountain biking experience with a knowledgeable guide. Ace Adventure Resort has different tour options for all levels.
White Water Rafting: Explore the rapids of New River Gorge by booking a white water rafting experience. Go with your family and bond over a thrilling adventure!
This is a guided experience with knowledgeable leaders; you don't need to have any experience for some of these white water rafting trips in New River Gorge NP.
Sunset Viewing: For a peaceful and relaxing activity in New River Gorge, head to the best sunset locations, such as Endless Wall, Sandstone Falls Overlook, or the New River Bridge Overlook, to catch the sunset and enjoy the view.
Pack a little picnic or snacks, and enjoy your favorite foods with a breathtaking view.
Fishing: Another popular activity in the park is fishing. The best time of year to go fishing is spring or fall as fish are more active these times of the year. There are many fish species in New River Gorge, such as bass, bluegill, and carp, making for a great fishing location.
Climbing: With over 1,400 established rock climbs, New River Gorge National Park is a great place for rock climbing lovers to visit.
The cliffs here are made of hard sandstone and some reach 120 feet in height. Bring your gear and head out for a day full of climbing in the park!
What to Bring and Wear Hiking
The temperature in New River Gorge averages in the 70s to high 80s from June through August, so warm weather clothes, like shorts, will be best for hiking in the summer. From September through November, the weather cools down averaging around the high 40s to 60s.
Winter, from December through February, will be very chilly. It's not the most comfortable time to go hiking, but it is possible. Just make sure you pack plenty of layers and quality hiking socks to keep your feet warm.
Spring in New River Gorge National Park is also a great time to visit for hiking. The temperature averages from the 50s to 70s. This is perfect for long hikes so you don't risk getting overheated from the summer sun, etc.
No matter what trail you're going on, you definitely need to bring plenty of water with you. I recommend packing a day bag with a large, filled water bottle, snacks, bug spray, hiking poles, and sunscreen.
Essentials for New River Gorge hiking any time of the year:
Daypack: Keep your water bottle, snacks, bug spray, etc. organized in a daypack
Hiking Boots: Comfortable and durable hiking boots make all the difference; Solomon are our favorites (women's and men's)
Layers: Plan according to the weather, but layers are always a good idea; think base shirt, light jacket, rain jacket, or coat depending on the weather
Water Bottle: Always carry plenty of water when hiking; we recommend the insulated, 40 oz Hydroflask
Snacks: Our go-to hiking snacks are Clif Bars, trail mix, nut butter and crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and candy for rewarding ourselves, wink wink
Sun Protection: sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and sun shirt (men's and women's)
When it comes to sun protection, you should be careful any time of year if you're spending long periods of time outside. If you opt for a long sleeve sun shirt like the ones linked above, a lighter color will be much cooler than a darker color.
New River Gorge National Park is an underrated place you should definitely visit. If you're on the fence about visiting, this is your sign to definitely plan a trip! This national park is filled with fun activities for nature enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies alike.
Start planning a summer or fall trip to New River Gorge for an amazing trip. Hit the trails and enjoy the Endless Wall Trail views, or pack your climbing gear and find a great rock climbing spot. While New River Gorge National Park is pretty any time of year, spring through fall is the best time to visit.
Want to make a road trip out fo your visit? Check out our ultimate Northeast US road trip route. New River Gorge is one of the stops, and the entire trip is dog-friendly!
Now you have all the details to plan your own trip, grab your laptop and start booking! Keep this blog handy while planning so you can reference how to get here, where to stay, New River Gorge hiking, what to do in the park, and what to wear. New River Gorge is waiting for you!