One Great Day in New River Gorge National Park

One Great Day in New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge National Park is the United States newest national park.  It was established as a national park in December 2020, becoming the 63rd US National Park.  The top experiences in New River Gorge National Park revolve around its rivers, and there are a lot of adventures here!

First of all, why is New River Gorge a National Park?

New River Gorge National Park encompasses the New River as well as 70,000 acres of land along the New River.  Not only is this free-flowing river protected, but so are the fish within its waters.  The New River offers up some of the best fishing in the world!

About The New River and the New River Gorge Bridge

The New River

What’s in a name?  Well, the New River is actually the second oldest river in the world and the oldest river in the United States!  Flowing, south to north, The New River also flows over rocky terrain, which leads to its awesome conditions for whitewater rafting.  

The New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge was completed in October 1977, creating a faster and safer way to cross the gorge.  Before construction of the bridge, drivers had to navigate down into the gorge on old country roads to reach a small, single-lane bridge to cross the river.  

The New River Gorge Bridge is the most photographed site in West Virginia and was even featured on the back of a commemorative quarter in 2006.  It is an engineering masterpiece, claiming the title to the longest steel span bridge in the western hemisphere as well as the third highest bridge in the United States!

The New River Gorge Bridge

NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL PARK FACTS

The New River is the second oldest river in the world

  • LOCATION:  West Virginia
  • CLOSEST CITY:  Fayetteville, WV
  • ANNUAL VISITORS:  1.5 million (2022)
  • 18th most visited US National Park (out of 63)
  • BECAME A NATIONAL PARK:  2020
  • TOP THINGS TO DO:  Whitewater Rafting & The Bridge Walk

Our Two Day Itinerary

New River Gorge National Park is just under five hours from our home in Kentucky.  Because of this, we planned our visit over a quick weekend trip, giving us just enough time for two fun adventures.  We drove to New River Gorge National Park on a Friday, arriving in the early evening.  While we didn’t have time to explore the depths of the park, we had a blast with two of the top experiences one can have in New River Gorge National Park! 

Where we stayed

Adventures on the Gorge | Sunnyside Cabin

Our cabin was spacious with a kitchenette and a generously sized bathroom.  The cabin came with a wrap around deck, giving us plenty of space indoors and out. 

Adventures on the Gorge has many different types of lodging, ranging from campsites to a variety of types of cabins.  There is a coffee shop, restaurants, and Rendezvous Lodge, which is an open air bar with a live band and games to play, such as cornhole and pool.  We had a great time here in the evenings!

One of the restaurants and coffee shop on site

Adventures on the Gorge also houses a ropes course as well as the beginning point for many of the area’s adventures.

The outdoor pool area is open seasonally.  From the pool area, take in the stunning views, which overlook the New River Gorge from high above. 

The pool area

When we visited

Early October.  The weather had just dipped from hot days to cool days and cold nights.  While there, the highs were in the 50s and the lows in the 30s.  It made for a cold whitewater rafting trip and bridge walk.  However, the fall is fantastic whitewater rafting season so it was a good trade off.

Whitewater Rafting

Adventures on the Gorge | Half-Day | New River

We booked our rafting trip with Adventures on the Gorge, as it was required to book an experience with our lodging.  This actually made it easy, simply add an adventure onto your lodging reservation.  This also made it easy logistically as well.  On the morning we rafted, we simply walked about five minutes from our cabin to Rendezvous Lodge.  This was our meeting point to meet our guide and the rest of our rafting group.

Our rafting trip was booked for 8:00 am with a 7:40 am meet time to sign waivers and go over lots of safety information.  Mike rented a wet suit, which helped him stay warm on this unseasonably chilly morning.  It was 38 degrees at meeting time and would only reach up to the mid 50s during our rafting trip.  While the air was cold and we definitely got soaked, the river was oddly warm, so when the river soaked us, it felt good for a few seconds!

Once all guests had checked in and signed waivers, those who rented wet suits and jackets were fitted,  and we all collected our personal floatation devices, helmets, and a paddle.  The group then boarded the bus around 8:20 a.m.  The bus ride took about 10 minutes to the drop in location.  During the bus ride, we listened to Ray Ray give us a lot of info as to safety while rafting including how to fit our helmets and life jackets.  Most importantly, he shared what to do if you fall out of the raft.  I paid close attention to this, determined to not be a casualty of the whitewater!

Upon arrival at the boat launch, we all ensured our helmets and life jackets were properly secured and were divided into groups.  We were thrilled that Ray Ray would be our rafting guide for the trip!  We, along with four other rafters, carried our raft down to shore and hopped in.  Our group was taught how to paddle, both forwards and backwards, along with some other rafting commands we would hear throughout the day. 

Rafting down the rapids was a blast!  We rafted Class III-V rapids that day.  It took concentration, determination, and quick thinking.  Our group was great and Ray Ray was phenomenal!  What a fabulous way to explore New River Gorge National Park.  The pictures can do all the talking!  (Photos taken by Adventures on the Gorge).

The Bridge Walk

The Bridge Walk | 3 hour tour

Later in the afternoon, we had another adventure booked:  The Bridge Walk on New River Gorge Bridge.

The New River Gorge Bridge is iconic when you see pics of New River Gorge National Park.  It also holds a few records such as 3rd tallest bridge in the United States and longest single arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. 

The New River Gorge Bridge – the Bridge Walk takes place on a catwalk under the road at the top

So what is the bridge walk?  It takes place on a catwalk below the road on the bridge.  The Bridge Walk takes anywhere from 1.5 – 3 hours, to cross from one side of the bridge to the next.  It’s thrilling and offers amazing views of the New River and the gorge below.  

The view of the catwalk

Views from the Bridge Walk – below is the New River, where we had rafted just hours before

Can you do this with a fear of heights?

This is what you will need to decide before signing up for the Bridge Walk.  In full transparency, I do not have a fear of heights but at a few spots was a little nervous as to how high we were.  Thankfully, my camera provided a distraction as I kept busy snapping pics.  Mike does have a fear of heights but was eager to try this and successfully accomplished the Bridge Walk.  He, too, felt comfortable, however occasionally felt the fear creep in.  I suppose it’s only normal when you let your mind wrap around the activity – you are hundreds of feet above the New River, below a bridge that cars are crossing and you can feel the rumble from their passage above.  But again, he was able to complete it, enjoyed it overall, and was so glad he did it.  So you really need to assess if you could do it.  I think keeping in mind that you are attached to a harness system you really are safe and there is no way you can fall.  The railings are high and you are with a confident guide.  I suggest bringing along a camera to keep yourself busy, not only because the views are beautiful, but also to distract you!

NOTE:  Cameras are allowed as long as they have a neck strap.  Cell phones are fine in pockets, although I’d suggest a tether of a sort, whether it is a neck strap or such.  The gift shop sells these items so you can secure them last minute.  Backpacks, crossbody bags, and purses are not allowed.  You need to safely be able to fit into your harness system.  I was able to store a small crossbody bag behind the counter in the gift shop.

Annual Events in New River Gorge National Park

While most of the activities revolve around its rivers and the New River Gorge Bridge, there are several hiking trails throughout the park.

Beyond hiking, the area is chock full of coal mining history.  You’ll get a small taste of this in the Visitor’s Center, but if you want to delve deeper into the area’s mining past, consider visiting Kaymoor, which is rich in mining history.

Bridge Day

Bridge Day takes place on the 3rd Saturday of October annually, drawing thousands of people to the New River Gorge Bridge to celebrate its anniversary.  Daredevils base jump off the bridge and land in the New River!  

To be a base jumper on Bridge Day, one needs to have accomplished 50 prior parachute jumps.  Registration to be a base jumper during Bridge Day takes place in July.

Gauley Season

Gauley Season, also taking place in the fall, is when the dams release to prep a nearby lake for winter.  In turn, the Gauley River is flowing rapidly, making it one of the best rivers to whitewater raft in the world!  Our guide on our New River Rafting trip said the lower Gauley is wild and the upper Gauley even wilder.  He takes rafters over a 14 foot waterfall on that one!

New River Gorge National Park was a blast to explore in a weekend.  We visited the top sights here and had so much fun.  It’s absolutely an adventurer’s paradise!

OUR PACKING LIST

Here is our packing list for New River Gorge National Park:

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