Don’t Waste Your Time In New River Gorge National Park

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In 2019, White Sands and Indiana Dunes were redesignated as national parks, making them the 61st and 62nd parks under the management of the National Park Service. A year later, New River Gorge National Park received the upgraded distinction.

Once a national river, this park protects over 72,000 acres in West Virginia and welcomed almost 1.6 million visitors in 2022.

Let’s learn more about New River Gorge National Park, and you can decide whether or not it’s worth a visit.

Where Is New River Gorge National Park?

New River Gorge National Park, the newest addition to the national parks, is between Blacksburg, Virginia, and Charleston, West Virginia. It’s east of I-64 and I-77 and the city of Beckley, West Virginia.

I-64 cuts through the southern half of the national park and Highway 19 runs north to south along the western border. The southernmost point in New River Gorge National Park is in Hinton, West Virginia, while the northernmost point is at Hawks Nest State Park. It’s 53 miles from north to south.

New River Gorge Bridge at New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.

When Did New River Gorge National Park Become A National Park?

On November 10, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation establishing New River Gorge National River. In December 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve Designation Act. The park became our country’s 63rd national park.

What’s So Special About New River Gorge National Park?

The New River might be the oldest river in North America. The park protects 53 miles of it, allowing visitors to enjoy outdoor recreation like fishing and whitewater rafting.

For millions of years, the New River has carved the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains. In some places, visitors can see 1,000 feet of sheer sandstone and shale from rim to river.

While preserving this important free-flowing waterway, the national park also protects a diverse ecosystem, including some of West Virginia’s rarest plants. The Allegheny woodrat, a species of special concern in West Virginia, and the Virginia big-eared bat and Indiana bat, two federally endangered species, live here.

While there are plenty of hiking trails in New River Gorge National Park, we’ve chosen three other activities that set apart this national park. You can still hike, bike, backpack, and enjoy sunsets. But New River Gorge is known for its whitewater rafting, fishing, and climbing opportunities.

1. Go Whitewater Rafting On the New River

The New River is one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers in the East. It begins in the mountains of western North Carolina, crosses into Virginia, and enters West Virginia before heading north to join with the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers eventually. The lower section is renowned for its forceful and massive rapids, ranging in difficulty from Class III to Class V.

If you’re a seasoned rafter, you can run the river on your own. Only advanced rafters should attempt the lower gorge. The upper section is suitable for beginners to intermediate rafters. Several licensed outfitters also offer guided trips.

If you’re going to choose a national park to experience the thrill of whitewater rafting, we highly suggest New River Gorge National Park.

Whitewater rafting in New River Gorge National Park

2. Cast A Line On the New River

Another must-do at this West Virginia national park is to take advantage of the fantastic fishing. We’re not big anglers, but you enjoy casting a line, head to New River Gorge National Park in spring or fall. You’ll have the chance to catch smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, muskellunge, crappie, bluegill, carp, flathead catfish, and channel catfish.

You’re required to have a West Virginia fishing license to fish in the park, but 3-day options are available at many sporting goods stores. The best places to access the river include Tug Creek Beach, Brooks Falls, Hellems Beach, Meadow Creek, McCreery, Grandview Sandbar, Mill Creek, Glade Creek, Dunglen, Stone Cliff, Cunard, and Fayette Station.

Fishing in New River Gorge National Park

3. Climb the Sandstone Cliffs

Finally, if you’re feeling adventurous, New River Gorge National Park offers excellent rock climbing opportunities. There are over 1,400 established rock climbs, ranging from 30 to 120 feet in height.

Most of the routes are for advanced and expert climbers. However, New River Mountain Guides offers half-day climbing trips for beginners and families who want to experience climbing and rappelling in the national park.

A man rock climbing at New River Gorge National Park

Visit This Hidden Gem In New River Gorge National Park

We love learning more about the local history of national parks. Yes, they’re beautiful and we enjoy the outdoor recreation. But we also think it’s important to understand the people’s history and cultural heritage.

The African American Heritage Auto Tour at New River Gorge National Park is an excellent opportunity to learn about the lives of black coal miners, railroad workers, and other community members.

This self-guided auto tour takes you to seventeen historic sites in the park like the Hawks Nest Workers Memorial, Slab Fork, and several churches. Download the NPS app to listen to this free audio tour during your visit to New River Gorge National Park.

    Best Places For Camping Near New River Gorge National Park

    Inside the park, eight campgrounds offer primitive campsites with no drinking water, no hookups, and no electricity. They’re in fairly remote areas of the national park. So if you prefer to have hookups and more modern amenities, we suggest booking your stay at Little Beaver State Park on the southern end or Arrowhead Bike Farm on the northern end of the park.

    Little Beaver State Park has 20 miles of trail and an 18-acre lake for additional outdoor recreational activities. The campground is open spring through fall only and offers partial hookup sites.

    Arrowhead Bike Farm is the perfect accommodation for cyclists because of its easy access to the Arrowhead Bike Trails. RV campsites have electricity and water and cost $45/night.

    Pro Tip: You need to know about these easy and delicious camping side dishes!

    Is Visiting New River Gorge National Park Worth It?

    New River Gorge National Park is a breathtaking place in West Virginia. We suggest visiting in the fall to experience the stunning colors. Get down into the gorge on a raft, explore the forests via the trails, or hang from the sandstone cliffs to experience the majesty of this eastern national treasure. You won’t be disappointed!

    Will you visit New River Gorge National Park any time soon?

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