Are you Spartan enough for these extreme races?

Tunnel through mud. Slither beneath barbed wire. Push through fatigue. Do you have what it takes for Spartan Trifecta Weekend?

A different breed of competition

A Spartan race encompasses a lot of territory. So, before delving into the nitty gritty, let’s pull back a little.

Put simply, Spartan competitions are obstacle courses held throughout America. They’re designed to wear you down but build you up. It’s like military training to a certain extent.

But as a civilian, you get to pick your punishment— and reward yourself afterwards. New to the sport? Choose the 3-5-mile Sprint. Already in prime fighting shape? Some Spartan races last 12 hours or more. Barbed wire crawls, fire jumps and submerged walls add to the experience, too. Failure to clear an obstacle results in penalty burpees.

No doubt about it, Spartan races aren’t easy. Far from it. But simply crossing the finish line— regardless of time or placement— is an accomplishment. It doesn’t matter if you’re dead last, either. Every finisher gets a medal. Even better, you’ll feel mentally tougher.

Trifecta Weekend

The next Spartan series makes its way to West Virginia! From Aug. 26-27, the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Glen Jean will host three races: Beast, Super and Sprint. Kids ages 4-14 can compete in their own divisions, too. It’s an opportunity that attracts hundreds of athletes across the country.

The Summit Bechtel Reserve was chosen as the race location for its setting. The recreation center boasts more than 10,000 acres of mountain wilderness. It’s also the National Boy Scout Jamboree headquarters. You couldn’t ask for better terrain than that!

Now for the Spartan Trifecta Weekend:

August 25
It’s easy to feel intimidated before a race. If you’re overwhelmed or mystified, attend Friday Open House at the Summit from 4-6 p.m. You’ll meet fellow racers, Spartan coaches and professional athletes.

It’s also a great way to get the lay of the land. Try some obstacles and tour parts of the course. Spartan staff can answer your questions as well. Not ready to compete? The open house is for anybody interested in Spartan “culture.” You might be inspired enough to try a future race!

This event is free. The first 200 registrants get some Spartan swag, so go ahead— register online.

There’s also the Friday Athlete Dinner. Break the ice with other racers, get a glimpse of the course and fuel up on carbs at 5 p.m. Brisket, slow-cooked chicken breast, mac n’ cheese and sweet potato casserole are just some of the buffet entrees on offer. The event will also have a beer bar.

Tickets are $40 per adult and $20 for kids 13 or younger. Space is limited, so order them while they’re available online.

August 26
Break out those energy bars; you’ll need ‘em for the Beast. It’s the weekend’s toughest race with 30-35 obstacles over 12-14 miles. Physical stamina is a must. A healthy dose of tenacity helps, too. Heavy mud, rope climbs and Tyrolean traverses can challenge the body as well as the mind.

Is your kid a Spartan, too? Some youth races will take place on the 26th, too. Bring the family and cheer from the sidelines! Saturday’s youth competitions are as follows:

  • a 2-mile race for 11-14-year-olds
  • a 1-mile race for anybody 9-13 years old
  • a half-mile race for kids 4-8 years old

Expect mud, dirt and a good time for everybody!

August 27
Sunday morning dawns with the Super. This race covers 8-10 miles and 24-29 obstacles. It’s a notch easier than the Beast, but only slightly.

The Sprint is another option. Try this one if you’re a brand-new Spartan; with 3-5 miles and 20-23 obstacles, it’s the “easiest” of the Trifecta.

Sunday also has the same kids races: the 2 miler, 1 miler and half-miler.

Spartan stash

It takes guts to show up, compete and finish a race. Personal victory aside, here’s what you’ll earn in exchange:

  • a medal
  • free finisher’s shirt
  • free snacks: bananas, protein bar and beer
  • free event photos by a professional photographer

Going for all three races? In addition to your finisher’s medal, you’ll also receive a medal for completing the Trifecta. Together, the medals create a special shape.

Kids also earn a shirt and medal.

Spectators get perks, too. Watch competitors slog through muck and battle obstacles, mere feet from the sidelines. You’ll also receive five dollars’ worth of Spartan bucks; these can go towards select merchandise. Other entertainment includes live music, vendors and raffles.

Tickets for spectators are $20 if you purchase them online before Friday, Aug. 25. Otherwise, pay $25 in cash on site. More information is available on the Spartan site.

Would you rather watch a Spartan race or compete in one? Share your opinions with us!

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Follow the leader to these 9 park activities

Explore the boundless depths of the New River Gorge with park staff and volunteers. From mild yoga to demanding canyon hikes, there are all kinds of summer activities for you to try.

Sunset Hike on Long Point | August 11 | 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

This is one of the most beloved jaunts in the gorge, and for good reason. Long Point’s dramatic clifftop vista never fails to stir the senses. There you are, on a sandstone precipice, with the New River Gorge Bridge at eye level. It’s a delightful surprise at the end of a pleasant walk.

Twilight at Long Point becomes even more majestic. Everything softens to pink and gold: the cliffs, forests and mountains. Well, that’s the “Sunset Hike”!

Before you go, please make reservations first. This is a joint program with the park service and Active Southern West Virginia (ASWV), so the volunteer guide needs to know how many people will be coming.

It’s also worth noting that Long Point is 3.2 miles long (round trip). It’s mostly flat, although the ending has steep, twisty rock sections.

Rock Climbing in the Park | August 12 | 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Few places in America have cliffs like those in the New River Gorge. If you’ve always wanted to tackle world-famous mountains, this beginner workshop is perfect!

“Rock Climbing in the Park” starts at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center near Fayetteville. You’ll get a basic introduction to equipment and technique first. Then, it’s off to those sandstone cliffs!

Because this is a joint effort between ASWV and the park service, volunteers and rangers will provide instruction. They will bring all the gear, too. Is that handy or what?

“Rock Climbing in the Park” is free, but reservations are required. You also must be 14 or older.

Sunset Yoga in the Park | August 22 | 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Slip away to some of West Virginia’s most tranquil escapes. “Sunset Yoga in the Park” does just that, plus a little more. Ever wanted to try some “sun salutations”? Relaxing yet strengthening, these full-body poses are a gentle way to get in shape.

For this free class, you’ll need to drive to Camp Brookside, a historic park in Hinton. Your instructor will have mats and blocks. All you have to do is arrive in comfortable clothes.
It’s as easy as pie— or yin.

Stand Up Paddleboarding in the Park | August 24 | 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

This sport is hard to resist. Virtually anybody can learn it, too. What’s more, “Stand Up Paddleboarding in the Park” is geared for beginners.

Ready to dive in? Meet hopeful SUPers at Camp Brookside, where your instructor will provide everybody with boards. (Kids 7 and up are welcome, although anybody younger than 10 will have to share with an adult.) You’ll be an expert before you know it!

This class is free, but reservations are required. Knowledge of swimming is a must, too.

Can’t make the lesson? There will be another class on August 27. Follow the link for class information and reservations.

Tai Chi in the Park | August 26 | 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Originally a form of martial arts, this ancient practice is now a popular form of exercise. It’s slow, gentle and easy on the body. The benefits— stress reduction, improved balance and better flexibility— are pretty tempting, too.

Intrigued? Come to the Burnwood shelter for a beginner-friendly introduction. (It’s opposite the highway from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.) The next class will be on August 26 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Grandview.

Mountain Biking in the Park | August 27 | 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The New River Gorge’s scenic, twisty paths attract riders from all over the country. Join the club with “Mountain Biking in the Park”!

Everybody meets up at Southside Trail, a 7-mile path in Cunard. Abandoned mines and lush forests add interest to this easy trek. Don’t have a mountain bike? No worries. Your instructors have rides and helmets for everybody. Just make reservations beforehand.

Dog Walk in the Park | August 28 | 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Exercise is more fun when Fido is involved! Bring your furry co-pilot to the Grandview Visitor Center, where you’ll meet the pack.

Most walks are easy and cover 1-2 miles. Dogs must be leashed. Please bring clean-up bags, too.

Bluestone Walk | Recurring | Every Saturday at 10 a.m. from now until September 30

Explore this remote corner of the New River Gorge.

Your journey starts with a ride down Pipestem Resort State Park’s aerial tram. A ranger will meet you at the bottom. From there, you’ll start a 2-mile (round trip) hike along the Bluestone National Scenic River.

Tranquil yet rugged, the canyon is relatively untouched by mankind. Wildlife is plentiful. You might encounter box turtles, gray fox and bald eagles. Each season invites different critters, too. It’s always worth coming back.

The Bluestone Walk is relatively easy with few hills. Wear sturdy shoes, though; paths can be rough. You’ll also need $3 for a return trip on the aerial tram.

Bluestone Turnpike Hike | Recurring | Saturday at 10 a.m. on September 3 and October 8

Take the Bluestone Walk and lengthen it. That’s the Bluestone Turnpike Hike, a 9.5-mile expedition along most of the river. It’s fairly level but has a few mild hills. Wear sturdy shoes and pack a lunch with extra water. The rugged mountains provide some of the best al fresco settings anywhere!

Expect to be out for 4-5 hours. A shuttle will pick everybody up for a return ride to Pipestem. For reservations, call Sandstone Visitor Center.

When it comes to outdoor recreation, do you prefer going solo or accompanying a ranger? Why or why not?

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Bike, raft, run: take on the New River Gorge Games!

One weekend, three wilderness competitions. Up for a challenge? You’ve found it.

Challenge yourself with these demanding (but satisfying) New River Gorge Games:

Captain Thurmond’s Challenge | Aug. 5

If you’re fit, try this demanding triathlon. It’s one of the East Coast’s most intensive competitions— all 28.5 miles of it.

The first portion entails mountain biking. Mount up in downtown Fayetteville, then pedal over the region’s best singletrack, including Arrowhead Trails. Paved roads round out the remaining 15 miles.

Rafting is next. You’ll have to paddle through 7 miles of frothy whitewater, including Class III-V rapids. Prior experience is a must; this run isn’t for beginners. If you’re part of a rafting team, though, a skilled guide is allowed.

After that, 6.5 miles of running separates you from the finish line. While it’s the shortest segment, it’s also very steep— roughly 1,100 feet of elevation. Strenuous? You bet. The Challenge isn’t for everybody. But if you’re game, just completing this triathlon is an impressive accomplishment.

Register online; fees are $65 per solo racer, $150 for a relay team, or $165 for a rafting team. Add $10 if you decide to sign up on race day.

Fayetteville Town and Country 5k | Aug. 5

Casual and no pressure, this charity race is for walkers and runners alike. It starts in Fayetteville proper and loops past storefronts and neighborhoods. That’s the “town” part.

The “country” portion is next. You’ll trot over an easy trail before finishing at the beautiful Gaines Estate, a restful setting with meadows and stately trees.

Register online; entry fees are $20 per person. You can also sign up on race day. All proceeds go to the New River Gorge Learning Co-op.

Thurmond Triathlon | Aug. 6

Don’t let its name fool you. This race is great for beginners and kids 7 and older!

The triathlon starts at the quaint yellow Thurmond train depot. From there, you’ll bike 2 miles to Stonecliff, raft 1.5 miles to the Dun Glen Day Use area, then jog 2 miles through the surrounding area.

Bikes aside, you don’t need any special equipment. Duckies will be provided if you register by Aug. 1. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring your own craft.

Registration costs $20 for individuals, $35 per couple, or $45 for families.

If you’ve ever tried a New River Gorge triathlon, what was your experience like?

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An insider’s guide to the New River Gorge

Find out what visitors really think!

Exquisite natural scenery and exhilarating adventures: that’s the New River Gorge! It can be tough deciding what to do next. Hopefully, these reviews help you narrow down that to-do list.

WaterwaysGauley River in WV

The New River Gorge ranks as one of America’s top whitewater destinations. It’s also stunningly wild and wonderful. Whether you prefer to play with a camera or plunge into rapids, there’s a memory waiting for you that’s just your speed— guaranteed.

Here’s what folks on TripAdvisor think about the New River Gorge National River area:

  • I have gotten up at 4 and driven to Fayetteville and Gauley Bridge to be there when the trees were in their autumn splendor and the sun was just coming up. Valleys are filled with fog that gently lifts and the light of the morning sun plays out on the trees giving an interesting mixture of greens, golds and reds. — LKNCHOWHOUND
  • We visited the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and walked down the boardwalk steps to the overlook. It’s unbelievable. Imagine the Grand Canyon full of lush trees. — lecollye
  • Grandview: Had heard of “wild & scenic rivers,” but never a “national river,” so this was a first for us. A short walk through the woods was rewarded with an overlook of the meandering river, and hillsides covered with trees. Lovely. Be careful driving around curves, lots of deer roaming about in late afternoon. — MosbyScout

The Gauley National Recreation Area is a highlight, too— particularly if you know a thing or two about rapids. In fact, dam releases every autumn make it one of the world’s best whitewater destinations.

Check out these TripAdvisor visitor comments:

  • Visiting the Gauley is a must, especially for those interested in whitewater action! The scenery is amazing and the sound of the roaring rocks is mesmerizing. — ELFDUDE
  • Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen. We were impressed with the depth of the gorge, the history of coal in that area, the history of the rivers in the area, the fact that it has world-class whitewater rafting and much more. — Barbara T.
  • From the first rapids to Sweets Falls there’s barely time to organize your thoughts and fears before you’re tossed into another whirlpool of adrenalin. But just because this is serious white water don’t be afraid to try. — Hawkeye2001a


Horizons of unspoiled forests, jagged canyons, foaming rivers— the best place to see it all is from the sky. Fortunately, you can do just that!

First up: Wild Blue Adventure Company, where you can tour the Gorge miles above the earth … in a WWII-era Stearman biplane:

  • Amazing views of the New River Gorge within minutes of takeoff. Live a little and have [the pilot] do some aerobatics, it will be an experience of a lifetime and make you want to come back again! — waltdisneygeek, TripAdvisor guest
  • We chose a 40-min flight that went along the New River Gorge. The flight showed the twists and turns of the river, the famous bridge and a waterfall. — RoyNYC, TripAdvisor guest
  • From the cadet check in-desk, the correct music [for the era], to the finishing touches in the restroom, Chris [the pilot] has done this the right way. Upon your arrival Chris comes out in era correct attire, looking like he just landed from a mission or barnstorming through the mountains. — nitro g, TripAdvisor guest

Next: Take a Bridge Walk under the iconic New River Gorge Bridge! At 3,030 feet long and 876 feet high, it’s one of the world’s most impressive structures.

Take a look at these TripAdvisor reviews:

  • Halfway across [the bridge] the rain moved in (you do not get wet) and we could see the rain and the clouds and the fog (which is haunting at that height) and even a rainbow. Pictures are taken in abundance, the guide makes sure of that. — bthomas28
  • Our timing was perfect in that we saw several kayakers and rafters going down the rapids. There was also a train that came through on the tracks below— and just as Jay [the guide] had told us, it shook the catwalk! — Jmo523
  • The highlight of the trip, for me, was stopping in the middle of the bridge to sit with our legs kicked over the edge. — Joe C.


The devil’s in the details. Get closer to the Gorge with a bike ride, quirky tourist pitstop, and fairytale visit— like hundreds of folks before you.

Here’s what reviewers on Singletracks thought about the Arrowhead Trails, a stacked loop system that’s ideal for families and competitive riders alike:

  • For first time riders I recommend a to visit to Arrowhead Bike Farm. You will get all [the] info you need and more. Don’t forget to stop by on your way back for beer and food. — Radar84
  • I am not an exceptional mountain biker by any means, and this trail system had enough climbing, descending, rocks and roots to be fun but not overwhelming. We covered most of the trails and it was a blast! Very well marked. — drazilnc
  • Super flowy. An amazing ride on trails that were built specifically for bikes. Best marked trails I’ve ever ridden. — fatadkins

If you crave some kitsch, head to the Mystery Hole! Your mind will be blown by all the oddities— and the incredible river views:

  • We came on it suddenly around a bend and doubled back because we got a good laugh at the structure. The staff was great and the presentation was fun. Well worth the time and the admission charge! — Fanglin64, TripAdvisor guest
  • It was a fun trip back to childhood, where science appeared to be magical. You get caught up in the moment. It is a marvelous recreation of childhood road trips. — JillDonnellyBennett, TripAdvisor guest
  • In the midst of all the scenic grandeur surrounding the New River Gorge, you have this old-school tourist trap completely at odds with its surroundings. And I think it’s that that makes this place even more ridiculous and fun. — Scott W., Yelp reviewer


One of West Virginia’s most photographed sites is the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park. It’s a scene worthy of an illustrated children’s book: creaking wood, smooth boulders, and gurgling water.

Here’s what TripAdvisor guests think:

  • Absolutely beautiful. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a more beautiful state park and my cell phone pics turned out so wonderful, I’m having them blown up to hang in my house. — myjenyoung
  • The photos [of the mill] have been seen and sold all over the world. Found it kind of funny when I visited a flea market in Atlanta that a vendor had a made-in-China picture of the Babcock State Park. It is a beautiful sight at any season. — momofscooby
  • Very picturesque setting with the mill on the creek. If you have mobility issues, not to worry. The mill is very easy to get to. You can drive right up to it. — AAHolt

Even more insider tips

Stop by the visitors’ center for travel suggestions, brochures, and information. It’s a place no adventurer should go without!

What advice or comment about the Gorge would you share with tourists?

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Hills to hills adventure, deep in the Gorge

Thanks to Fayetteville’s newest touring company, you can explore the Gorge from rim to river. Soak up local lore, brews and jaw-dropping scenery while you’re at it, too! Here’s how.

Meet your ride

Like any breakthrough, Hills to Hills Tours & Shuttle makes you wonder what we did without it.

The concept is simple. Instead of searching up and down the New River Gorge yourself, a guide takes you instead. Just leave your car at Canyon Rim Gifts in Lansing and hop into a van. Easy. No need to stress about parking, getting lost or missing a local attraction.

Check these out:

1. Ride under the New River Gorge Bridge

Want to get really close to America’s second highest bridge? Unless you’re a local, it’s easy to miss this unusual drive. Good thing there’s Hills to Hills.

Meet your guide at Canyon Rim Gifts in Lansing. Everybody will have time for shopping and snacking. (Tip: homemade fudge is a specialty.) Then climb into the van, settle into a seat and have that camera ready.

First up: Fayette Station Road. Long since replaced by Route 19, the narrow mountain pass is more than a century old. It used to be the only way you could cross the deep New River Gorge. Now, the switchback makes a picturesque road trip.

Hills to Hills guides stop frequently for photo opportunities along the way. Sweeping vistas of hardwood forests, sandstone cliffs and the sparkling New River follow you for miles. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll spot bald eagles and peregrine falcons, too.

Then there’s the 876-foot-high, 3,030-foot-long New River Gorge Bridge. Fayette Station Road goes directly beneath it. Your guide will tell you all about this remarkable structure, including its history and trivia— a real bonus.

The Tunney Hunsaker Bridge is next. At 278 feet long, it’s much shorter than its gigantic neighbor. But guess what? You can wander a sidewalk and peer down at the New River. You’ll get a peek at a couple of whitewater rapids, attracting kayakers and rafters throughout the year.

You’re not quite finished for the day, though; part of the tour includes ghost towns. Some hide beneath jungly growth, while others are beautifully preserved. As you ramble through the mountain, hear about the New River Gorge’s many mining communities and what life was like when coal reigned supreme. By the time you return to the car, you’ll know just as much as the locals.

Tours are Mon-Fri and $15 per person; contact Hills to Hills for available times. Expect to be gone for an hour.

2. Brewery and Dinner Tour

In addition to world-class recreation, southern West Virginia has a pretty active craft brew scene. Don’t miss a single sip on this innovative trip!

Park your car at Elliott’s Whitewater Bar and Grill in Fayetteville. Laidback and casual, this no-frills joint boasts local craft beer and American comfort food. This is where you’ll have dinner. But for now, it’s a gathering point for the tour.

After everybody is gathered in the van, this trip follows the itinerary mentioned above, including a stop at Canyon Rim Gifts. But instead of heading home after the bridge, you’ll visit Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville. It’s very much a family business. Three brewers manage everything from hops to labelling— an impressive feat considering all the beers they produce.

As you’ll discover, the brewery is small but ambitious. Kolsch and Belgian-style beers dominate the menu, which features pale ales, stout and lager. Many are available on tap. You can also get bottled beers and growler fills. On this Hills to Hills trip, you’re welcome to sample Bridge Brew’s distinctive creations and tour the production area. The owners are enthusiastic about their trade and want you to be, too.

Your tour ends back at Elliott’s. Local favorites include pig “wings,” batter-dipped cod and Double Z— a one-pound burger with custom toppings. You can also order sandwiches and appetizers.

Daily tours at 4 p.m. Tickets are $35.99 each and available via Quality Inn New River Gorge.

3. Whitewater Shuttle

Rafting is king in the New River Gorge. Folks travel the globe for a chance to challenge the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

If you’ve brought your own boat, Hills to Hills makes transportation easier than ever. Simply bring your kayak or raft to Fayette Station’s parking lot. A driver will load everything into a trailer and bus you to the Cunard put in. With rides available in the morning and afternoon, it’s a convenience nobody can do without!

Shuttles leave Fayette Station every Saturday and Sunday from April through October. Departure times are 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Weekday trips available by appointment.

Tickets are $15 for rides to Cunard or $50 for a weekend pass. Pumps are provided for inflatable crafts, too.

Find your adventure

The New River Gorge may be wild, but Hills to Hills tours take the stress out of parking and exploring.

What have you always wanted to see or do in the canyon? If you have something specific in mind, just ask them. Customized trips are available.

If you could craft the perfect New River Gorge trip, what would you see or do?

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