5 Must-Do Fall Activities in the New River Gorge National Park and PreserveAugust 24, 2022
Colorful adventure is waiting for you this autumn in America’s newest national park – the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. From exciting outdoor activities and annual events to beautiful sights and cozy cabin getaways, here are our favorite ways to spend this vibrant season in the Gorge.
Raft The Gauley River
Fall is often characterized by cooler temperatures and bright foliage, but here in the New River Gorge, we identify this time of year with our world-famous whitewater! For six weekends in September and October, the Gauley River has scheduled, controlled water releases from the Summersville Dam. This period of time is known as Gauley Season — West Virginia’s fifth official season. Thrill seekers count down to this chance to raft 26 miles of the wildest rapids. Known as the “Beast of the East,” the Gauley is consistently ranked one of the top five in the world to raft and in the top three to raft in the United States. The river consists of two distinct sections — the Upper and Lower Gauley.
The Lower Gauley is similar to the Lower New, with Class III-V rapids, but the Upper Gauley is truly a wild ride, featuring iconic Class V rapids — the “Big 5” — Insignificant, Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring and Sweet’s Falls.
These sections are typically each run separately as a full day trip, although you can raft the entire 26-mile Upper and Lower Gauley together as a Marathon Trip. The first release date for the 2022 season is on September 9, with the season-ending on Bridge Day weekend, October 16. Gauley trips fill up quickly, so book yours now with one of our local outfitters.
Take In The Fall Foliage
With shades of red, orange and yellow leaves painting our already amazing landscape, autumn in the Gorge is an unforgettable experience! Combine the vibrant foliage with endless opportunities for outdoor adventure, and you’ve got a fall getaway that’s truly one-of-a-kind.
Explore miles of winding trails on a scenic hike or mountain bike excursion. Long Point Trail, one of our favorite routes, offers an incredible angle of the New River Gorge Bridge, and the Arrowhead Trail System’s diverse terrain is perfect for riders of all ages. Saddle up for a horseback ride through the forests or take a drive along Midland Trail to discover rushing waterfalls, wonderful overlooks and other local gems.
There are also plenty of more adventurous activities that will provide unique views of the seasonal landscape. For a stunning aerial view, scale our sandstone cliffs on a guided rock climbing trip or walk under the New River Gorge Bridge, 850 feet above the New River on a Bridge Walk tour.
Enjoy The Seasonal Events
Start your fall off with the 23rd Annual Oak Leaf Festival on September 1-4 in Oak Hill! This fun-filled weekend has entertainment for all ages, including live music, local vendors, a car show, a grand parade, fireworks and more. During the festival, shop a gigantic collection of books on the lawn of the Historic Lewis House.
Another event during Labor Day weekend is the West Virginia Craft Brewery Showcase. Head to ACE Adventure Resort on September 3 and go on a brew tour featuring West Virginia’s best craft breweries. Tickets include a commemorative glass, five tastings and live music on the deck all day long with The Company Stores, Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns, Long Point String Band and Whiskey & Wine.
End your September at the Montgomery Fall Festival on September 24. The festival includes live entertainment, a cruise-in, local vendors and children’s activities. Throughout the autumn, enjoy live music, weekly markets and drive-in movies. Check out our calendar for more information on upcoming events.
Attend West Virginia’s Largest Single-Day Festival
Appreciate the peak fall view from the New River Gorge Bridge and watch as professionals BASE jump and rappel from the structure at one of the largest extreme sports events in the world. That’s right, save the date for Bridge Day on October 15, 2022. This year’s festival will be the first held in a national park, so you don’t want to miss it. Bridge Day is the only day of the year that pedestrians are allowed on the renowned New River Gorge Bridge. The iconic structure is the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
In addition to watching thrilling BASE jumping and rappelling, there are other events during the popular weekend, including the Bridge Day Chili Cook-Off, Taste of Bridge Day, Active Southern West Virginia’s Bridge Day 5k and more. Visit Bridge Day’s website for a full list of activities as well as festival rules, schedules and shuttles.
Stay Cozy In The Gorge
Make your autumn getaway last a little longer with an overnight stay at one of our local accommodations. Whether you want to snuggle up in a wooded cabin, camp under the stars or stay close to all the adventures at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast — we’ve got an exceptional place for you.
No matter the direction you travel, there’s always something to discover in the Gorge. Request a copy of our free travel guide to help plan your unforgettable trip to the New River Gorge this fall.