End Your Summer In The New River Gorge

Squeeze in some last-minute summer fun with a family trip to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve this month! There are still a few more weeks to enjoy the warm weather and relaxation before school starts. Here are a few of our best family-friendly activities to add to your vacation for some bonding moments sure to cure your end-of-summer blues. 

From the Waters 

No vacation to the New River Gorge is complete without a trip down the river! Soak up all the season’s excitement on a rafting trip. Make some memories on a laid-back family float trip on the Upper New. 

Luckily, this section of the river is suitable for ages 6 and up, making it great for families with children. The rapids on the Upper range from Class I–III, and the area is perfect for swimming and floating. Another perk about this part of the river is that it passes through the historic town of Thurmond, offering some of the most scenic views of the Gorge. 

For more adventurous families, the Lower New delivers raging crosscurrents and fast-moving water that create Class II-IV+ rapids! Although more intense than the Upper, this section is still suitable for anyone 12 and up.  

If you are searching for a more leisurely afternoon on the water, hop on a New River Jet Boat! Get the best views of the New River Gorge Bridge from down below while staying cool on the water. This activity is safe, exciting and ideal for kids.

To the Sky

Nothing beats a bird’s-eye view of the New River Gorge. Reach new heights on a family rock climbing trip. Our region is one of the largest, most diverse and highest quality climbing areas in the east. But don’t worry, we have plenty of professional climbing guides to show your family the ropes! These climbing companies offer beginner-friendly trips to some of the most popular and scenic climbing spots in the area.

Or give the kids something to brag about to their classmates and take the family ziplining through the Gorge. From facing fears on a canopy tour to challenging the family to complete a ropes course, find the best aerial activity for your family here. 

Back to the Land

Let a four-legged friend take your family on the best tour of the Gorge! Saddle up for a horseback riding excursion with one of our local outfitters. These trips take you from the top of the mountain to the rim of the New River. The horses stay in a single-file line during the walk and never trot or gallop, which allows this activity to be suitable for young families, too. 

End your evening with one of the newest additions to the New River Gorge – the Starlite Drive-In! Settle in with snacks from the concession before catching the latest movies under the stars. The gates open at 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays. 

Then to the Classroom

Even simple summer family vacations can be an educational experience for kids. Discover an outdoor classroom in the Gorge to help your children adjust back into school mode.  

The National Park Service offers environmental education programs that are curriculum-based, ranger-led and free of charge. The curriculum ranges from water resources and habitats to West Virginia heritage and national parks.


While you are here, explore the New River Gorge on a family-friendly scavenger hunt! Follow the clues to some of our favorite spots in town and try to track down Oakie, the black bear. Once you find him, enter for a chance to win a $500 honey pot of gift cards. Stop by the New River Gorge CVB to get a free Scavenger Hunt booklet.

Where To Stay

Nothing says “end of summer” quite like a night spent outside. Pitch a tent at one of our scenic campgrounds and enjoy a family night spent by the crackling campfire — complete with ghost stories and classic s’mores. Our local campgrounds range from rustic tent spaces to full RV hookups. If sleeping outside is not your style, browse our full list of accommodations, including cabins, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. 

Don’t let summer slip away. Plan your back-to-school trip to the New River Gorge now!