Beat the Heat — Top 5 Ways to Stay Cool in the New River Gorge

Escape the summer sun’s blaze and keep your adventures going in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve! Dive into unforgettable experiences and cool off with a variety of activities, from heart-pounding thrills on the rapids to serene paddles on calm waters.

1. Hit The Rapids

The New River Gorge is home to some of the world’s best whitewater rafting. Navigate the twists and turns of the New River on an exhilarating rafting trip. Choose your adventure:

  • Upper New River: Ideal for ages 6 and up, the Upper New River offers a milder experience with Class I-III rapids, perfect for families or those new to whitewater. Enjoy a scenic float trip past the historic town of Thurmond and take a refreshing dip in the cool waters in between splashy rapids.
  • Lower New River: The Lower New River offers wild Class II-IV+ rapids, guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. From raging crosscurrents and hydraulics to submerged rocks and obstacles, the Lower New has fast-moving water. So, be prepared for plenty of paddling! End your adventure on the Lower New under the picturesque New River Gorge Bridge. This section is best for ages 12 and up.

No matter your skill level, a licensed rafting outfitter can help you find the best trip to experience the thrill of the New River.

2. Explore By Paddle

Serene lakes and cascading falls await kayakers and paddleboarders in the Gorge. For a peaceful escape, visit Hawks Nest Lake, a scenic waterway formed by a dam on the New River. Rent a kayak and enjoy a leisurely paddle around the lake, spotting local wildlife and soaking in the tranquility. Ideal for beginners and families, Hawks Nest Lake is a great way to relax and cool off on a hot summer day. For a unique and refreshing experience, book a stand-up paddle (SUP) tour of the majestic Kanawha Falls. Glide across the water, feeling the cool mist as you approach the cascading falls. Explore the hidden coves behind the falls and take in the power and beauty of this natural wonder from a different perspective. 

3. Jet Boat Blast

Experience the Gorge from a whole new angle with a New River Jet Boats tour. The jet boats navigate the scenic waterway, offering a cool and invigorating ride. Feel the spray on your face and the chilly breeze as you zoom past dramatic cliffs and underneath the iconic New River Gorge Bridge

4. Air-Conditioned Attractions

Sometimes, a break from the sun is just what you need. Put on your bowling shoes and challenge your friends and family to a friendly match at our local bowling alley. Feeling up for a challenge? Put your teamwork to the test in an escape room! Work together to crack codes, solve puzzles and escape the room before time runs out. Or, if relaxation is what you seek, find your inner zen with a rejuvenating yoga class. Stretch, breathe and find your center in a cool and calming environment. In addition to these options, museums, art galleries and a golf simulator attraction provide entertainment options for all interests.

5. Soar Through The Sky

Escape the summer heat and soar through the Gorge on a breezy zipline tour. Let the air whip through your hair as you fly from tree to tree, leaving the heat of the day behind. Our local outfitters offer canopy tours designed to maximize the cooling effect. Glide on long ziplines through the dense tree cover, where the temperature naturally drops compared to open areas. For those looking for an adventure with an added cooling bonus, a ropes course in the trees is a perfect option. Traverse challenging obstacles, conquer elevated platforms and navigate through a series of exciting elements

Find your summer refresh in the New River Gorge! Request a free copy of our travel guide to start planning your escape.