7 Family-Friendly Summer Activities In The New River Gorge

Beat the summer heat and create lasting memories with your family in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve! With sunshine calling and kids in tow, our area provides the perfect blend of aquatic adventures, outdoor thrills and historical sites — guaranteed to be a hit with families of all ages. Add these seven kid-approved activities to your trip itinerary. 

1. Hit The Rapids

The best way to start your New River Gorge adventure is on the water! Feel the rush as you navigate the twists and turns of the New River. For a heart-pounding ride with bigger waves, tackle the Lower New River (ideal for ages 12+). The Upper New River (ideal for ages 6+) offers a tamer experience with Class I-III rapids, great for introducing young rafters to the whitewater scene. Many outfitters even let little ones paddle their own inflatable kayaks in calmer sections of the Upper, adding a splash of excitement for these junior explorers.

2. Scale The Cliffs 

Calling all climbers (little and big)! The New River Gorge is a rock climber’s dream with over 1,400 established routes catering to beginners and experts. Kids are natural climbers, and here they can tap into their inner adventurer. Families can choose from easy top-roping routes to challenging climbs that push their limits. Sign up for a guided trip with experienced professionals to learn the ropes safely.

3. Explore By Bike 

The Gorge is home to a variety of biking trails for every level. Cruise along the flowy singletrack of the Arrowhead Trail System, or enjoy a relaxing family outing on the White Oak Rail Trail. History buffs, take note! The Southside Trail, an easy seven-mile riverside trail, provides scenic views of the New River and passes through several abandoned mining towns. No bikes? No problem! Local outfitters offer rentals and guided tours to get you rolling.

4. Take A Hike

Discover a network of hiking trails perfect for all ages and abilities. Choose from short, kid-friendly paths with panoramic views to more strenuous treks for experienced hiking families. Take a leisurely stroll to an incredible overlook on the Canyon Rim Boardwalk, ideal for groups with young children. For a more adventurous trek, hike the Endless Wall Trail, following a zig-zag path through dense woods. This trail features stunning viewpoints of the New River Gorge Bridge and surrounding Gorge. 

5. Soar Through The Sky

Take your family vacation to new heights with an aerial adventure. Soar through the skies on a zipline tour, offering a unique perspective of the Gorge’s breathtaking landscapes. Test your skills on a ropes course, conquering obstacles and building confidence with each climb and zip. Embrace friendly competition as you race to complete the course or work together to overcome challenges.

6. Cool Off With A Jet Boat Ride

New River Jet Boats is an exciting and refreshing way to experience the Gorge. Feel the cool breeze and get an up-close look at the iconic New River Gorge Bridge while enjoying a safe and scenic family activity.

7. Earn A Badge

Spark your child’s love for the outdoors with the National Park Junior Ranger program! Visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center to pick up a Junior Ranger book and embark on a quest to complete outdoor activities. Once finished, your young explorer will be rewarded with an official Junior Ranger badge and certificate, becoming a true ambassador for the park.

Bonus: Complete Our New Scavenger Hunt

Head out on a family adventure with the North of the New Scavenger Hunt! Follow the fun as you explore stops North of the New River Gorge Bridge using the North of the New Passport. From one-of-a-kind landmarks to cascading waterfalls, write down something that you see at each location to complete the scavenger hunt. If you conquer ALL five stops, you’ll be entered to win a grand prize giveaway worth $500!

Unwind and Relax

After a day of excitement, unwind at a scenic campsite and enjoy a traditional family camping experience under the stars. Or cozy up in a cabin at a local resort or state park for ultimate relaxation.

Request a free travel guide today and start planning your summer escape to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve!