10 Places to Soak Up the Sun in the Gorge

Cool off this summer in the New River Gorge. From calm waters with scenic backdrops to family fun on exciting waterslides, there is a spot for everyone! Recently, the New River Gorge won many awards in the Blue Ridge Country Magazine’s “Mountain Blue” 2020 Reader Poll: “Where To Go For H2O?” Here are the winners along with some of our own favorite local swimming spots, fishing holes and places to relax and catch some rays. 


ACE Adventure Resort Wonderland Waterpark 

For some fun in the sun, check out Wonderland Waterpark at ACE Adventure Resort. Voted one of the “Best Places to Stay with a Water Park,” Wonderland is 5-acres and features a 40-foot tall Wet Willie Water Slide, tower zip line, two giant water slides, 50 inflatable toys, lounging spots on the shore and more. Let your inner-child run wild at this one-of-a-kind destination in the Gorge!


Babcock State Park  

The picturesque Glade Creek Grist Mill, a favorite spot for photographers, runs the waters of Glade Creek over a short cliff and into a relaxing swimming hole. Splash around or just take some time to soak in your surroundings. Also in Babcock State Park, Boley Lake offers swimming, boating, fishing and sunbathing during the hot summer months. 


Canyon Falls Pool at Adventures on the Gorge

Located right on the rim of the New River Gorge, Canyon Falls Swimming Pool at Adventures on the Gorge is a refreshing place to spend a warm day. Go for a swim or sit back and lounge on the deck overlooking the New River Gorge Bridge. The recreational area includes a kiddie waterpark, ornate waterfalls, scenic views of the Gorge and a snack and cocktail bar. 


Cathedral Falls

One of the most scenic and easily accessible waterfalls in the state, Cathedral Falls was voted “Best West Virginia Waterfall.” This beautiful 60-foot cascade is located right off of Route 60 in Gauley Bridge. Pack a picnic and spend a relaxing day listening to the sounds of water and enjoying the spectacular views of nature. Don’t forget to snap a photo, too! 


Gauley River

Known to thrill-seekers as the Beast of the East, the Gauley River is typically rafted in the fall during scheduled releases of the dam at Summersville Lake. But summer water flows on the Gauley River make for an unpredictable and challenging trip for experienced paddlers. Not to mention the fact that, if you are looking to catch some excellent trout, the Gauley River is also a perfect spot for anglers to cast a line.  


Hawk’s Nest Lake 

One of the best places in the area for flat-water paddling is Hawks Nest Lake. The New River flows through Hawks Nest, creating the lake in a dammed section of the river. The gentle waters and panoramic backdrop make this lake a paradise for beginner paddlers, families and people looking for a refreshing day on the water. See what you can reel in at Hawks Nest Lake. There’s plenty of smallmouth and largemouth bass, rock bass, sunfish, crappie and other warm water fish around. Bank fishing access is limited, but there is a concrete boat ramp as well as boat rentals available. 


Kanawha Falls

Located near Cathedral Falls on scenic Route 60, Kanawha Falls (“Best West Virginia Waterfall” — Silver) is only 15-feet high but spans the width of the Kanawha River. Many people enjoy a better view of the falls by paddle boarding or canoeing from the boat launch downstream and relaxing at the coves hidden behind the falls. There is also a public fishing access area for Kanawha Falls, so you can enjoy a day of fishing for trophy-class muskies, walleye, striped bass and more.


Mill Creek

Located in Ansted, Mill Creek is a New River tributary that stretches over two miles. From waterfalls and swimming holes to class IV rapids and paddling, Mill Creek is a great spot for anyone looking to beat the heat this summer. An easy way to access this hidden gem is on the Hawks Nest Rail Trail.


New River

For great rafting or fishing, head to the renowned New River. With public access points along the water (in Thurmond, Cunard, Fayette Station) it is easy to find a spot to go fishing for smallmouth bass along the river. If you want more adventure, book a family-friendly rafting trip with one of our rafting outfitters, including the “Best Whitewater Rafting Company.” to experience all the excitement that the New has to offer.


Summersville Lake

Located about 20 minutes from the New River Gorge, Summersville Lake is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Formed by a dam on the Gauley River, Summersville Lake (“Best West Virginia Lake”) is the largest lake in West Virginia. Known for its spectacular cliffs and endless water activities, you can easily spend hours soaking up the sun on the lake. Summersville Lake is a family favorite, whether you are looking to paddleboard, kayak, swim or even scuba dive! 


How are you keeping cool this summer?