Whitewater rafting, climbing, biking - you'll find it all at one of the oldest rivers in the world, ironically named and located at the New River Gorge in West Virginia.
Located in the southern end of the state, you'll find tall sandstone cliffs, rushing rapids, and lush forests that host endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. New River Gorge National River has become one of the country's most popular destinations for climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting, so if you're planning on visiting, come equipped with all your gear.
In addition to its infinite number of outdoor adventures, you'll also be gallivanting through an area rich in history. The gorge itself used to be home to a number of logging, railroad-building, and coal-mining towns. Take the opportunity to learn about the region's history by keeping an eye out for abandoned ruins, or taking the self-guided African American Heritage Tour of the area.
Access to New River Gorge National River is off of either Hwy 64 or 19, which are both paved and well-maintained. While there are dirt roads for OHV access, most of the main roads leading to the park's primary attractions are well-maintained and easily accessible.
If you're heading from Charleston, the closest major city, head south on Hwy 64 towards the park. Depending on which area of the park you'd like to go, you might exit at either Mossy or Prosperity. This is a large park with multiple entrances, so do your research and choose which part of the park you'd like to see before you drive out.
The park has many campgrounds, but most have tent or walk-in sites, and only a few have RV sites. Grandview Sandbar Campground is located on Glade Creek Road, off of Route 41 near Prince. You'll have to drive on the gravel road for one mile, and then head down a winding road to the campground along the river.
There are 10 sites available for small to medium sized RVs. The campgrounds within the park are all primitive, so no hookups or drinking water are available. Pets are allowed on leash. Each site comes with a picnic table and fire ring, and there are pit toilets available.
The New River Gorge National River has 53 miles of the New River. The upper part of the river has long pools and easy rapids, but the Lower Gorge in the northern section of the river has some of the biggest rapids ranging from Class III to Class V.
If you're experienced, you have the option of running the river on your own. However, if you're a beginner or not comfortable with heading out on your own, there are plenty of local places that offer guided trips along the New River.
There are available trips all year, but the high season is from April to October.
In addition to climbing, the New River Gorge is also one of the most popular places for mountain bikers. With its stunning landscapes and wide variety of routes, you'll be able to find a bike trail for everyone. You can go on your own, or book a guided biking tour of the New River Gorge.
If you're planning on biking, make sure you check in with the ranger station, as bikes are only permitted on certain trails. Additionally, they'll be able to tell you the trail conditions and if there are any hazards that have developed on the paths.
The New River Gorge has become one of the most popular climbing areas in the United States, with over 1,400 established routes. Made out of sandstone, the cliffs range from a short 30 feet to 120 feet, with an abundance of unique features and cracks.
The majority of the routes are harder than 5.9, with sport routes mostly falling within 5.10-5.12. If you're heading out to climb, make sure you're equipped for the difficulty level and have a guidebook to locate the climbs.
New River Gorge has plenty of scenic drives for those who want to explore more of the park in less time. You'll be driving up and down along the river, along the rim, or a combination of both.
If you head along the rim, you'll see the gorgeous sandstone walls and overlook the river. Along the river, you'll get to see the New River and its native plants and animals up close.
While you're driving keep a sharp eye out for some relics of the past. You might see ruins, abandoned roads, and cemeteries from the old towns that used to inhabit the gorge while building railroads, logging trees, and mining coal.
Are you interested in the social and cultural history of the area? Download the African American Heritage Tour app to learn the stories of the black coal miners, railroad workers, and inhabitants of this region.
This self-guided tour will take you to 17 historical sites in the neighboring cities, and you'll learn about the history and experiences of African Americans in this area of the country.
If you're interested in exploring the area on foot, check out the park's variety of trails. Ranging from a quarter mile to seven miles, the trails will take you through quiet forests, historical scenery, and to stunning overlooks.
Grab a trail map at one of the visitor centers, and you'll be able to connect some trails to make your trip longer. Make sure you stay on the trails - a lot of the land in this boundary is private property.