7 Things We Love About The New River Gorge 

February is the month of love, so it’s the perfect time for us to show our appreciation for our cherished home — the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Let’s celebrate this season of love together. Here are seven things we adore about the New River Gorge! 

1. The 63rd National Park 

We’d be remiss to not mention our recent national park status. The area was originally established in 1978 as a National River. Then, on December 27, 2020, the 53-mile stretch of river along with 70,000+ acres was redesignated as the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. This month, we invite you to find your own way to explore the rivers, forests, lakes and canyons of one of America’s newest national parks. 

2. One of the Oldest Rivers 

The New River Gorge may be a newer national park, but it is steeped in rich history and ancient beauty. Home to the world-renowned New River, one of the oldest rivers in the world, this area boasts a timeless appeal that sets it apart from any other. Flowing from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this river takes a unique path, defying conventional norms by flowing from south to north, passing through the states of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia before joining forces with the Gauley River to form the Kanawha River. The exact age of the New River remains a mystery, yet geologists estimate it to have been flowing for at least 65 million years, making it an awe-inspiring testimony to the power of nature and time.

The New River is a top destination for whitewater enthusiasts, with rapids dividing it into two sections: the Upper and Lower New. Both offer unique experiences, from beginner-friendly calm waters on the Upper to adrenaline-fueled rapids on the Lower. There’s a guided trip for every level of adventure. With such a diverse range of experiences, the New River is a true gem for all who love the great outdoors. Other activities on the New River include jet boat tours, fishing, whitewater kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. 

3. A West Virginia Landmark 

Before 1977, the scenic route through the New River Gorge was the only option for drivers, but this changed with the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge, which was a $37 million construction project, is now a well-known landmark of the state and listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its extraordinary impact on local transportation and engineering significance. Standing as the fifth-longest single-span arch bridge in the world and the third-highest vehicular bridge in the United States, the bridge is a marvel of engineering and design. To get a unique perspective, visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center or take a Bridge Walk tour and walk the catwalk directly underneath the bridge.

The New River Gorge Bridge is the centerpiece of Bridge Day, one of the world’s most unique and largest single-day festivals in West Virginia. Held on the third Saturday of October, Bridge Day closes the bridge to traffic and opens it to pedestrians for the day. The first Bridge Day took place on November 8, 1980, with daring parachutists jumping from the bridge and a plane. Now, an average of 80,000 people attend the festival each year. On this special day, admire the impressive 3,030 feet length, 876 feet height, and 70 feet width of the bridge, made from 88 million pounds of US Cor-Ten steel and American cement, blended seamlessly into the surroundings for a spectacular view.

4. Endless Adventures

Adventure is all around in the New River Gorge. From the gentle flow of our rivers to the clear skies and rugged landscapes, there’s never a dull moment here. We especially love that this natural wonder offers a range of thrilling experiences, including rafting, rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking. 

As a hub for rock climbing, the region is one of the largest, most diverse, and highest-quality climbing areas in the east. But even if you’re a beginner, there’s no need to worry. Professional climbing guides are available to show you and your family the ropes and lead you to some of the most popular and scenic climbing spots in the area. Another way to take in the views from above is on a zipline tour or ropes course

For those who prefer to stay grounded, our scenic trails are perfect for hiking and mountain biking. Hop on a mountain bike and explore the vast network of trails that wind through the Gorge. From wide, paved rail trails that are ideal for the whole family to gnarly singletrack trails that lead you to amazing views, there is a route for every rider. Of course, the hiking opportunities in the New River Gorge are amazing, regardless of the season. Make a trek to some of the most popular sights in West Virginia on our trails. 

5. Full of History 

The New River Gorge is a treasure trove of rich history and natural beauty. Scattered across the national park are unique towns with captivating tales to tell, such as the historic town of Thurmond. Established by Captain William D. Thurmond in the 1880s, this former coal town was once a bustling hub of activity in the 1920s, with more coal running through it than Cincinnati, Ohio. Today, over 80 percent of Thurmond is owned by the National Park Service and is a designated historic district on the National Register of Historic Places, making it a must-visit destination for those looking to delve into the area’s history. The historic mining communities of Kaymoor and Nuttallburg, as well as the railroad town of Prince, are also notable places to visit in the national park.

These communities have long since been abandoned, but they have left behind artifacts of the past, such as coal coke ovens, which were used to remove impurities from coal to make it burn hotter for steel production. Buildings, signs, and stories from these ghost towns remain, serving as a reminder of the past and continuing on in memory as local lore. Each town offers a window into the history and character of the New River Gorge.

6. The Local Dining Scene 

We’ve often heard that the best way into someone’s heart is through their stomach. And luckily, in the New River Gorge, there are plenty of options for unique and mouth-watering meals. Whether you’re refueling after an adventure-filled day or embarking on a foodie tour, our local restaurants offer something for every hungry visitor. From early morning espresso drinks and brunch specials to famous specialty pizzas and frozen ice cream treats, your taste buds will never be left unsatisfied.

7. A Pet-Friendly Destination

Another thing we love in the New River Gorge is our furry friends! If you are planning an upcoming visit to the Gorge and are worried your four-legged companion might not have much to do — don’t be! Bring your furry friend along to the New River Gorge, where they will be just as warmly welcomed as you are. With plenty of pet-friendly options for outdoor recreation, lodging and dining, you’ll never have to leave your beloved pet behind. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful hike or a day spent out on the water, our area has something for everyone, including your furry friends. Check out our pet-friendly lodging page to find the best spot to stay – from primitive camping to luxury cabins.

Bonus – Our Visitors!

Our visitors truly make the New River Gorge an incredible place to live. Whether you are a frequent tourist or are planning your first trip, we welcome you to our backyard. View our travel guide and browse our lodging to help plan your 2023 getaway.