Hiking New River Gorge: Plan Your National Park Adventure
Updated: Nov 20
Welcome to West Virginia, home of New River Gorge National Park, the newest and one of the most underrated parks in the US. This gorgeous place needs to be on your adventure travel list if it isn't already.
With trails for all abilities and levels, New River Gorge hiking trails provide some of the best options 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 details about hiking New River Gorge, 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 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 New River Gorge hiking trails to whitewater rafting to biking to rock climbing and more. This 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 Centers: 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 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 is a fantastic time to visit as the autumn colors here are breathtaking and the cooler temperatures allow for lots of hiking.
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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.
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 New River Gorge, 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 1 hour 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, so 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 on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you want to stay at an established campground, my top recommendation for nearby New River Gorge camping is Chesnut Creek Campground. I really enjoyed my stay here and highly recommend it.
If you do plan on camping, make sure you go prepared and check out my camping essentials checklist so you have everything you need! Below are my accommodation recommendations for your stay at New River Gorge.
Hotel: Quality Inn New River Gorge, dog-friendly, breakfast included
Airbnb: Lansing and Fayetteville, West Virginia are the closest towns
Hiking New River Gorge
This national park covers over 70,000 acres so there are many miles of hiking trails in New Rover Gorge. There are trails for all levels of hikers, ranging in distance. 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 need a car to easily explore multiple trails. Many popular trailheads are located quite far apart.
5 Best Hikes at New River Gorge
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 hikes at New River Gorge are below. Plan your hiking days around these beautiful trails!
Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk
Length: 0.6-mile out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 88 feet
Trailhead Location: The Visitors Center off Rt. 19 on the north side of the bridge
Difficulty: Moderate, fairly steep stairs
The Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk offers the classic view of the New River Gorge bridge. It's a must-do in the national park and only takes around 15 minutes to complete.
Endless Wall Trail
Length: 3.2-mile point-to-point trail
Elevation Gain: 318 feet
Trailhead Location: Endless Wall Trailhead or Nutall Parking (both lead to Endless Wall Trail, just on opposite ends)
Difficulty: Easy, mostly flat
Endless Wall Trail is my number one recommendation for hiking in New River Gorge. The views of the gorge are breathtaking, and if you only have time for one hike in New River Gorge, let it be this one. It takes an average of 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
Kaymoor Miner's Trail
Length: 1.6-mile out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 951 feet
Trailhead Location: Kaymoor Parking Lot
Difficulty: Challenging, very steep
Kaymoor Miner's Trail is quite challenging as it is very steep, but it's very cool to see the old mine and make it to the river for more incredible views.
Castle Rock Trail
Length: 1.1-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 173 feet
Trailhead Location: Grandview Visitor Center
Castle Rock Trail isn't too long of a hike; I recommend tacking it onto your itinerary maybe after Endless Wall or Canyon Rim Overlook. The trail offers hikers a close-up look at the rock walls and exposed coal running through them as well as an overlooking view of the New River.
Sandstone Falls Boardwalk
Length: 0.5-mile out-and-back
Elevation Gain: 9 ft
Trailhead Location: Sandstone Falls Boardwalk parking lot
Another iconic part of New River Gorge is the Sandstone Falls. This is the largest waterfall on the New River with drops from 10 to 25 feet and spanning over 1500 feet across. It's a quick and easy hike to add on to your hiking itinerary.
Other Fun Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
Besides having fantastic hiking trail options, New River Gorge offers other fun activities for adventure enthusiasts. There are options for families, couples, adrenaline junkies, and more. Plan an epic trip and book one of the following activities!
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 whitewater 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 whitewater rafting trips in New River Gorge National Park.
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.
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.
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!
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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 in New River Gorge, 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 between the 50s to 70s. This is perfect for long hikes so you don't risk getting overheated from the summer sun.
No matter what New River Gorge hiking trails you're going on, you need to bring plenty of water with you. I recommend packing a day hiking bag with a large water bottle, snacks, bug spray, 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.
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. I recommend the insulated, 40 oz Hydroflask.
Snacks: My go-to hiking snacks are Clif Bars, trail mix, fruit and nut bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and candy for rewarding ourselves.
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 sunshirt 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 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 this national park. Enjoy hiking in New River Gorge, pack your climbing gear, or book a white water rafting adventure. 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 of your visit? Check out my 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 to New River Gorge National Park. Keep this blog handy while planning so you can reference how to get here, where to stay, all about hiking New River Gorge, what to do in the park, and what to wear.
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