Rough Draft: 3 Day Itinerary for New River Gorge National Park

January 2021

Rough Draft: New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia

Due to the COVID quarantine, I am creating rough draft, “off the shelf” travel itineraries for when travel resumes normal operations so we do not waste any time getting out and exploring!

One of the biggest request from you guys was itineraries for visiting the National Parks which happened to be one of my 2020 goals. This may have to be a 2021 goal as I think everyone (EVERYONE) will be flocking to National Parks as a post-COVID escape plan. Many of the photographers we traveled with on our storm chasing trip frequent the country’s National Parks capturing unbelievable pictures and they could not speak more highly about visiting these areas. I have not hit many of the iconic National Parks so I will be taking the next couple itineraries to discovery them.

Off to New River Gorge National Park!

Hot off the presses, this location is one of the newest named national parks in the country! Ironically, travel vloggers I follow (Adventures of A+K) recently did a West Virginia road trip that was surprisingly pretty awesome. So I filed it away as a drivable destination in the event we are *still* doing this COVID thing for 2021. Then I saw the news that this area became distinguished as the newest National Park – time to plan!


When to visit

This park has a great geographical advantage to make a trip any time of year work really well. Visit at spring time as life begins to infuse back into the dense trees, waterfalls, and wildflowers, summer for the long daylight hours and water activities, and fall for the spectacular, multicolored foliage and comfortable climate. Even winter months have viability in this park unlike the national parks in other parks of the country.

How to get there

You are going to want a car to get around the park and potentially to get to the park itself. This gives you lots of flexibility for seeing the park and adding stops to your trip. When we visit, we will drive down and make a few stops along the way – there a quite a few spots of interest north of New River Gorge that I will highlight. If you have to fly, there are a number of county airports that connect domestic flights – Beckley (BKW) Charleston (CRW) and Roanoke (ROA) which will all require a car rental.

Where to stay

There are a few options here depending on how you are traveling. From campsites to lodging and many Airbnbs in between there are plenty of options. The Airbnb market is actually pretty strong in the area – you can stay in the town of Fayetteville or there are also options immersed in nature as well.

How much does it cost

As of writing this post, there is no fee to enter New River Gorge National Park. Be prepared that this may change to adopt the national park fee structure in the future – a $35 fee per vehicle or a $20 fee per person without a vehicle, both are valid for 7 days. If you make National Park hopping a priority, make sure to check out the American the Beautiful Pass – $80 for the year and included entrance to over 2000 sites!

What are the trails

The trails in New River Gorge are split up into six areas:

  1. Grandview Area – great views
    • Grandview Rim Trail – Main Overlook, Turkey Spur Trails (easy, 3.2 miles) – great for sunrise!
    • Castle Rock Trail (moderate, 1 mile)
  2. Glade Creek Area – waterfalls
    • Glade Creek Trail with Kates Falls trail (easy, 5.6 miles)
  3. Sandstone Brooks Area – woods, more waterfalls
    • Sandstone Falls Boardwalk and Overlook 
    • Gwinn Ridge Trail (moderate, 3 miles)
    • Big Branch Trail (moderate, 2 miles)
  4. Fayetteville Area – the iconic bridge of the park
    • Canyon Rim Overlook (easy, 0.6 miles)
    • Endless Wall Trail (easy, 2.3 miles)
    • Long Point Trail (moderate, 2.9 miles)
    • Kaymoor Miner’s Trail (hard, 1.6 miles)
  5. Thurmond-Stone Cliff-Cunard Area – easy and short trail area
  6. Nattallburg Area – old mining area
    • Headhouse Trail (moderate, 1.3 miles)

There is also Babcock State Park nearby that has a number of trails as well!

  • Skyline, Rocky and Narrow Gauge Loop – bridges, moderate, 3.9 miles
  • Island in the Sky – waterfalls, easy, 0.7 miles

In addition to hiking, there are a ton of activities in the area! White water rafting, fishing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and water activities like paddle boarding and kayaking.

Make sure to stop at these places in Fayetteville for a bite to eat: Pies and Pints, Cathedral Cafe, Wood Iron Eatery, Secret Sandwich Society, Todor’s Biscuit World 

Activity
Day 0AfternoonArrive in New River Gorge
EveningNattallburg Area
Day 1MorningGrandview Area / Glade Creek Area
AfternoonSandstone Brooks Area
Evening
Day 2MorningFayetteville Area
AfternoonActivity: white water rafting
Evening
Day 3MorningBabcock State Park
AfternoonDowntown Fayetteville
EveningDepart

I wouldn’t necessary commit to doing the trails in this order. I also would not want to commit to the longer trails on the last day of the trip cause I would be stressed out in case it is a bad hiking day and it takes longer to complete. And do not forget to check the National Park website frequently as the trail status can change – trails (even before COVID) can close for maintenance.

I did not include a food section in the itinerary because most of the food here is trail snacks and lots of water. Stop by a grocery store to stock up for hiking.

In addition to New River Gorge National Park, there are also so great destinations north of here that are worth swinging by since you are in the area. For us, it would make for a nice road trip coming from the north – stopping at Harper’s Ferry, Blackwater State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness, and Spruce Knob before reaching New River Gorge Bridge. If interested and also driving – here are a few spots of interest! 

Harpers Ferry 

  • Maryland Heights Trail
  • Jefferson Rock
  • Loudon Heights 
  • Eat at: Kelley Farm Kitchen, Canal House Cafe, Old Fireman’s BBQ

Blackwater Falls State Park

  • Elakala Trail
  • Pendleton Overlook
  • Douglas Falls
  • Lindy Point Observation Deck
  • Town of Thomas – Eat at: TipTop, Purple Fiddle 

Dolly Sods Wilderness 

  • Red Creek Trail
  • Lion’s Head

Spruce Knob

  • Seneca Rocks Trail 
  • Via ferrata trail with NROCKS Outdoor Adventures 
  • Eat at: Gateway Restaurant

If you have been to New Rivier Gorge, let me know what I missed and what your favorites are!

Don’t forget to check out all DESKRIB itineraries here!

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