New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be cliche. In the New River Gorge, they can be downright awesome!
Here’s how you can spice up 2018:
1. Ride some waves
Ever tried something that’s world class? Some of America’s best whitewater is right here!
Start your new rafting journey on the New River. Lively and occasionally wild, this ancient waterway is famous among adventurers. Two distinct sections give completely different experiences. If you’re feeling bold, take a guided trip on the Lower New. It’s a feisty ride with big Class V rapids, twisty currents, and lots of foam.
In contrast, the Upper New is much milder. It’s a popular choice for beginners, families, and nervous rafters. Class III rapids are the “biggest” you’ll encounter. Even these are broken up with flat pools. Catch your breath, float, and admire the dramatic canyons. A New Year’s resolution has never felt so sweet!
Then, there’s the Gauley River. It’s one of the world’s foremost whitewater stretches, especially during fall, when dam releases create massive rapids. The “Beast of the East” also has two sections: Upper and Lower. Diehard rafters love the former, which roars to life. Monstrous Class Vs— including a 14-foot-tall waterfall— join forces with huge boulders and tricky currents. If you’ve never rafted before, think twice before tackling this portion.
The Lower Gauley is a little less intense. Class III-V rapids keep things feisty, but daring beginners can give it a try with guidance. Grit your teeth and ride the waves! Provided you have enough gumption, the Lower is a blast.
2. A hike that’s 876 feet off the ground
If you’re looking for something unique, cast your resolution on this one: the New River Gorge Bridge, America’s third highest span. It’s not just a monument. The 3,030-foot-long catwalk boasts one of America’s most unusual— and awe-inspiring— hikes.
Intrigued? Look no further than Bridge Walk in Lansing. Friendly, informative guides hook you to a safety cable (the world’s longest safety system) and the adventure begins! As you slowly cross the catwalk, you’ll hear fun facts about the region and bridge. There’s plenty of time for photographs, too. The New River Gorge is stunning from this vantage point. Distant rapids, forests, and craggy canyons are viewable in all directions.
Special tours make things even more thrilling. Full Moon Walks reveal deep, velvety skies with thousands of stars. Some trips start right before dawn, like on Easter. Imagine seeing sunrise 876 feet above the New River Gorge! It’s also worth coming at different times and observing seasonal changes. Come during winter, when snow settles upon the cliffs!
Bridge Walk tours are open daily, Christmas and Thanksgiving excepted.
3. Overnight horse rides
There’s nothing more American than riding into the sunset. It’s just you, a horse, and freedom— horizons of seemingly limitless territory. If you’ve always wanted to be a cowboy, hit the saddle in 2018. It’s not too late. In fact, the New River Gorge has overnight rides— the kind with campfires and stories.
Ready to lasso those resolutions? Check out Horseshoe Creek Riding Stable in Hico. They have two overnight options: the New River and Gauley River. Explore quiet woods and old logging roads, then relax by the campfire for dinner. You’ll also get breakfast and more riding time in the morning.
4. Gorge-ous trails
Not everybody wants to ride rapids or horses. That’s ok! There’s adventure for everybody in the New River Gorge.
Hiking is a great activity to try. You don’t need to be athletic or fit to get started. Even better, superb landscapes reward your efforts!
Here are some resolution-worthy paths:
- Burnwood Trail (easy): a 1.2-mile loop through woods and a field, which once belonged to an old homestead. The trailhead starts at the Burnwood Day Use Area in Lansing; it’s near the Canyon Rim Visitor Center parking lot and restroom.
- Endless Wall Trail (moderate): voted as America’s top national park hike by USA Today readers, this 2.4-mile path boasts seemingly limitless cliff lines through the gorge. Catch your breath and soak up the scenery at the Diamond Point overlook.
- Glade Creek Trail (easy): tranquil and poetic, this 5.6-mile path is a New River Gorge favorite. Cascades, streams, and beautiful boulders entertain you throughout the hike. It’s also pretty flat.
- Long Point Trail (moderate): emerge from a hardwood forest onto a clifftop promontory, which overlooks the canyon and New River Gorge Bridge. The 3.2-mile (total) trail is mostly flat but gets twisty and uneven towards the end.
That’s just the beginning, too. See how many New River Gorge trails you can cover in 2018!
5. Handcrafted splurges
Outdoor adventure isn’t the only ticket in town. Bring your appetite to the New River Gorge; you’ll find delicious (and unusual) ways to make those resolutions.
Dig into places like:
- Pies & Pints: artisan pizzas with inventive topping combinations. Favorites include the savory-sweet Grape & Gorgonzola; the festive Cuban Pork, which features jalapenos, fresh pineapples, and cilantro; and the exotic Sriracha Shrimp. Located in Fayetteville.
- Top Knot Coffee & Artisan Shop: a cozy micro-roaster with fresh South American coffee and espresso drinks. Homemade muffins, desserts, and panini sandwiches are also available. Shop for alpaca wool scarves and socks while you’re at it! Located in Oak Hill.
- Giuseppe’s: there’s Italian food, then there’s authentic Italian food. Taste the difference! Spaghetti with meatballs, eggplant parmesan, and baked rigatoni are Veramessa family specialties. Giuseppe’s also serves sandwiches and burgers. Located in Mount Hope.
Enjoy and have a happy 2018! What activity— or activities— are you going to try this coming year?