Walk, jog and race in the Gorge for 2017

Exercising for the New Year doesn’t have to be a grind.
When you add waterfalls and clifftop views to your workout, burning calories is (almost) no sweat. Take a hike or run through the New River Gorge to make those New Year’s resolutions more manageable.
Check out these hiking suggestions:

Starter treks

1. First Day Hike at Grandview | 3.2 miles
Kickstart those fitness goals with a special outing on New Year’s Day!
Head to the visitors’ center, where you’ll meet a park ranger to explore Grandview Rim Trail with. It’s reasonably flat and has wonderful views of the New River Gorge, too.
Finish back where you started with hot drinks. Cheers!
2. Glade Creek Trail | 5.6 miles
This route is one of the most idyllic in the Gorge. Frothy waterfalls, still pools and burbling streams appear along the path, which remains relatively flat from start to finish. Glade Creek Trail also has a lush forest and a picturesque footbridge.
Extra credit: Kate’s Falls Trail adds 1.5 miles and a rewarding cascade to your trek. You’ll find it after the footbridge.
3. Big Branch Trail | 2 miles
This loop has some demanding grades and terrain, but the sights are worth it. Multiple cascades, plus a grand view of Brooks Falls, are definite highlights.
Extra credit: Sandstone Falls Boardwalk (.25 miles long) treats you to stunning views of the New River Gorge’s widest waterfall.
4. Castle Rock Trail | .60 miles
You’ll definitely feel like you’re approaching a fortress; the immense wall of sandstone dwarfs everything and everyone with its layers that bulge and ripple.
While Castle Rock is a fascinating place, you’ll need to be careful; paths are uneven and often skirt past steep ridges. It’s not safe for kids. But if you’re in reasonable shape, don’t miss this one.

Memories of mines past

The Gorge has fascinating ruins from the coal boom. Uncover a piece of history along these paths.
1. Southside Trail | 7 miles
Rush Run, Brooklyn, Red Ash: the bustle of these mining towns used to echo through the mountains. Now they rest quietly among the maples and rhododendron groves.
Keep a lookout for foundations as you wander the trail. You’ll also glimpse the swirling New River.
Extra credit: Take the Arbuckle Connector Trail, a .30-mile addition, to see the coke ovens and stonework from the phantom town of Wee Win.

Thurmond, WV

See the town of Thurmond, WV from the Rend trail.

2. Rend Trail | 6.4 miles
The great thing about this hike is that you can keep it short or go big… and get incredible views either way.
Take a breather at the Thurmond overlook, which grants you picturesque views of the historic C&O rail town. You’ll see 19th-century banks and brick commercial buildings, plus an old rail depot.
At this point, you can return to the parking lot (score 2.5 miles altogether) or keep going. If you choose to forge ahead, look for railroad trestles, ruins from the town of South Boyd and a rock slide.
Note: The second bridge from the Minden trailhead (1.27 miles from the beginning) is under construction.
3. Keeneys Creek Rail Trail | 3.3 miles
This easy hike has all kinds of unique artifacts: a conveyor, trestle bridges and old railroads. Trains used to thunder through here, delivering coal and supplies to mining towns.
Extra credit: Add the Town Loop Trail to your hike— a .50-mile route with an abandoned church, school and housing foundations.

Pick up the pace…

If you really want to up your game, sign up for a New River Gorge event or charity walk. Most of these start in early autumn, so you have time to build up those muscles.
1. New River Gorgeous Trail Run | Half marathon
ACE Adventure Resort’s annual challenge isn’t as extreme as you think. While there’s a half-marathon, there are 8.5 mile and 5 mile options, too.
The perks are pretty decent, too: a burrito lunch, prizes, access to hot showers and a camping spot (if you’re so inclined.) You’ll also have that unbeatable scenery. Start training now, and you’ll be ready by August.
2. Walk to End Alzheimer’s | 2 miles
This leisurely trek is one anyone, even the dog, can handle. Start at the Beckley-Raleigh Convention Center, where you can personalize a flower in support of this worthy cause. After the opening ceremony, you’ll join hundreds of folks for an easy autumn stroll.
3. Run Around the Gorge | 41 miles
If you’re ambitious, set your sights on this demanding race. You’ll have to cover 26 miles the first day, then 15 miles the second. Long-distance racers from across America and Canada enter the field, too, so you’ll be in good company.
Think 41 miles is a little extreme? You’re not alone. There’s an easier category you can try: 9 miles the first day and 8 the second! If you sign up, you’ll get to stay in a luxury cabin and dine on catered meals. Get massages or take yoga lessons, too!
Run Around the Gorge is in October, so you have time to build up some endurance.
Which hike or competition sounds like a good place to start those resolutions?