The East Coast’s Newest National Park- New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia

Thanks in part to a 2021 stimulus package sent for approval by President Trump in December 2020, the New River Gorge National River was upgraded to National Park and Preserve. This is a 73,000 acre canyon in southern West Virginia famous for its whitewater rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, camping, and even base jumping once a year at Bridge Day. Basically the new status will allow the Park Service to buy more land around the area to add to the national preserve and add necessities like more parking near trailheads. It’s also expected to increase tourism by 20%, which is typical when previous monuments have been upgraded to national parks.

I grew up in southern West Virginia and have visited the New River Gorge many times. The first time I went whitewater rafting was on the New River. I was absolutely terrified but loved it so much I went back a couple more times. When I was dating someone many years ago not long after I had moved to North Carolina and brought him to meet my parents in West Virginia, the first thing my step-dad said was that we should visit the New River Gorge. The New River Gorge Bridge is likened by West Virginians as the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Franciscans- it’s a beauty to behold.

Bridge Day has grown to one of the largest extreme sports events in the world. Every third Saturday in October the New River Gorge Bridge is closed off to traffic while thousands of people visit primarily to watch BASE jumpers descend 876 feet into the Gorge below and rapellers ascend and descend from the catwalk. In 2019 there were nearly 100,000 visitors so if you want to go, I suggest you make plans well in advance. Also, you do need a Gorge ticket, which goes on sale in January every year and sells out quickly. https://officialbridgeday.com/bridge-day-info

New River Gorge Bridge- my grainy photo taken many years ago but it still looks the same today!

If you don’t have a huge fear of heights, you can walk the catwalk under the New River Gorge Bridge with a few different options. You can book a Bridge Day Bridge Walk, a Bridge Walk Full Moon Tour, or a Moonrise Sunset Tour. You begin near the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center on the north side of the bridge and walk the entire 3,030 feet on the 2 foot wide catwalk, all while fastened to a safety cable. All of the tours take around 2-3 hours. https://bridgewalk.com/

ACE Adventure Resort is one of the more popular companies for whitewater rafting but they have grown to be undeniably the largest outdoor adventure company in southern West Virginia (probably the entire state). Not only can you go whitewater rafting, you can also go ziplining, mountain climbing, go on an obstacle course, standup paddleboarding, kayaking, plus so much more; and they have a huge range of accommodations from tent sites, cabins, bunkhouses, and RV sites. Plus, if that wasn’t enough, there’s also Wonderland Waterpark on a lake with fun things like giant waterslides and huge water toys. https://aceraft.com/

If you’re really into mountain biking (or even if you would like to learn more about it), there’s Arrowhead Bike Farm where you can visit the bike shop, rent a bike, sign up for a clinic, eat at The Handle Bar + Kitchen, or reserve a campsite. Arrowhead is near the Arrowhead stacked-loop trail system and the Long Point Trail giving you the opportunity to hike or bike right from your campsite into the New River Gorge. They are also located near Kaymoor Top, a premier rock climbing location, and public put-in and take-out for boating on the Lower New River. https://arrowheadbikefarm.com/

Being an avid hiker every opportunity I get, I have to include some information about hiking in New River Gorge National River. To read about 23 trails in the area, head to https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/west-virginia/new-river-gorge-national-river to find trails ranging from easy, moderate, and hard, in many different lengths. These trails include everything from waterfalls, rivers, old coal mines, views of the bridge, and mountain views. Although there are black bears in the area, I’ve personally never seen any; mostly you’ll see deer, squirrels, birds, skunks, and the occasional raccoon and groundhog.

If all of this just sounds like more adventure than you’d care to take on, you can always just rent a cabin and sit outside while you enjoy the sounds of the river with an ice-cold beverage. There’s just something about getting away from it all and sitting outside and truly relaxing in nature. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is a great place to do that! https://www.nps.gov/neri/index.htm

Have you ever been to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve? Have you seen the bridge on your way driving through to go further north? Gone whitewater rafting here? Any interest in going here someday?

Happy travels!

Donna