The New River Gorge – A Destination For Every Season

January often feels like it lasts for years, but as a ray of hope the last Tuesday of the month is always National Plan For Vacation Day. So, request your days off from work, pull out your New River Gorge Travel Guide and start planning the best getaway for 2023!

Hosted each year by the U.S. Travel Association, National Plan For Vacation Day (January 31, 2023) is a day that is dedicated to encouraging Americans to sit down and plan out their vacation for the year. Scheduling days off ahead of time gives you something to look forward to and ensures you actually take time off – for vacations and staycations alike! 

Since the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a four-season destination, we’ve outlined four seasonal trips to take this year that you will not regret. 

Walk Through A Winter Wonderland

Winter in the New River Gorge is truly magical. From dazzling snowscapes to the cozy atmosphere that can be felt all around, a trip to the Gorge during the colder months will recharge your mind and body. 

Many don’t think of winter as a prime hiking season, but the snow transforms our trails into a beautiful wonderland. Our area is home to two rail trails – Hawks Nest and White Oak – which are both perfect for trekking through the snow. Spend the day exploring the frosty forest and frozen lake at Babcock State Park. Or enjoy a short walk around the Park Loop Trail in Fayetteville. No matter where you end up hiking, each trail offers a unique look at winter in the Gorge.

Looking for an adrenaline rush? Soar through snow-covered canopies on a zipline tour. That’s right, you can zipline year-round! But if you prefer to stay warm during the winter (we don’t blame you), try an indoor activity such as yoga, bowling, an escape room or visiting local museums. 

End your winter days in a cozy cabin or vacation rental. With many choices, including lavish log cabins, historic stays, and chalets located near all of the adventures, there are options for every visitor! Plus, with hot tubs and fireplaces, you are sure to warm up quickly. 

Watch As Spring Blooms

Springtime serves as a great reminder to get outdoors and appreciate the environment around us! Watch as nature comes alive in the Gorge. The heavily forested New River Gorge is home to a wide range of plants and wildflowers. Take to our trails and discover petals like Dutchman’s breeches, flame azaleas, fairy bells, catawba rhododendrons and more. For more ways to explore our green trails, rent a mountain bike or book a horseback riding adventure with one of our partners!

As the winter snow melts and the spring rain begins, take some time to visit our local waterfalls! From roadside cascades on Route 60 (Cathedral and Kanawha Falls) to the rushing waterfalls found in our small towns of Ansted (Mill Creek Falls) and Thurmond (Dunloup Falls), each cascade is unique and stunning, especially in the spring. Additionally, warmer weather encourages more anglers to pick up their poles and cast a line in our stocked waters. The New River Gorge area even has some options for guided fishing tours

Nature often inspires art, and there is no shortage of artistic expression in the New River Gorge. Visit an art gallery to view regional artists’ work or shop for exquisite pieces to bring home as souvenirs at our local businesses. Stay overnight at a centrally located hotel and enjoy all the conveniences of home while you visit. 

Spend Your Summer Days Adventuring

It’s no surprise that the New River Gorge is known for its free-flowing water, and summer is the best time to take advantage of the rivers, lakes and streams that run through the region! Home to some of the best whitewater in the world, rafting should be at the top of your list. But there are more water activities to enjoy. For a peaceful paddle, head to Hawks Nest Lake for a flat water kayaking excursion. The gentle waters and panoramic scenery make this lake a paradise for beginner paddlers and families looking for a refreshing day on the water. Or rent a stand-up paddleboard and go to Kanawha Falls for a one-of-a-kind view of the falls. Then, hop on a New River Jet Boat ride for a spectacular look at the New River Gorge Bridge from below!

If you prefer to stay dry, then a rock climbing trip is calling your name. Take in aerial views of the 63rd national park from our sandstone cliffs. The region is home to some of the oldest and hardest sedimentary rock in the world and hosts over 3,000 established routes expanding across 60 miles of cliff line. Whether you love traditional climbing, sport climbing or bouldering, there’s a route for you here!

Relax in the evenings by catching a movie at a classic summertime drive-in, before heading to a scenic campsite. Pitch a tent under the stars and enjoy the sounds of nature as you rest. 

Take In The Autumn Views

The vibrant hues of fall in the New River Gorge are breathtaking and we have a few suggestions on how to fully appreciate the seasonal sights. First, plan your autumn trip during peak color which is usually around the middle of October. Bridge Day is always the third weekend of October and it is a can’t-miss event! Appreciate the peak fall scenery from the New River Gorge Bridge and watch as professionals BASE jump and rappel from the structure at our favorite extreme sports event. 

If you want your own version of extreme sports, then raft the Gauley River! For six weekends in September and October, the Gauley River has controlled water releases from the Summersville Dam, causing West Virginia’s official fifth season — Gauley Season. Known as the “Beast of the East,” the Gauley is consistently ranked as one of the top five in the world to raft and in the top three to raft in the United States.

For a unique perspective, book a Bridge Walk tour and walk under the New River Gorge Bridge. The tour allows guests to walk the entire 3,030-foot length of the bridge, 850 feet above the New River. During the three-hour tour, there is plenty of time to snap photos of the incredible views, as well. Have you ever wanted to fly through the Gorge? Well, you can with a biplane ride with Wild Blue Adventure Company! The flight takes you through the Gorge with glimpses of Beauty Mountain, Endless Wall Trail and Hawks Nest State Park. If you are feeling extra adventurous, the pilot can add aerobatics to your ride. 

To make your fall getaway even better, stay at a local bed-and-breakfast to experience charming Appalachian hospitality while still enjoying all of the modern comforts.  

Spring or fall? Summer or winter? When will we be seeing you this year? Request a free travel guide to start planning your vacation to the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.