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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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

Air

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.

Land

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

Grist-Mill

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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Adventure’s on the Gorge’s best summer family trips

Looking for a one-stop family vacation? Paddle, soar and explore with one of West Virginia’s most popular resorts.

Adventures on the Gorge (AOTG) in Lansing has summer thrills for folks of all ages. Just pick your element: water, air or earth. Then plunge in and make those family memories!

The wet zone

Adventures on the Gorge rafting

Did you know that the New River Gorge is a top whitewater destination? Whether you’re a beginner or confident rafter, the New and Gauley rivers have the diversion you crave.

So does AOTG. Their professional guides can take you on trips like:

  • Upper New River: an easy family outing with Class I-II rapids. Kids 6 and up are welcome!
  • Lower New River: a more dramatic section. Kids 12 and up are welcome to try the Class IV rapids on this full-day expedition.
  • Family Lower New: if your family has rafted before, sign up for this rambunctious trip. Kids 9 and older can join the fun if water levels are just right.
  • Dueling Rivers 2-Day: tackle the Lower New then gear up for the untamed Gauley! Rapids go from Class III-V, so you must be 15 or older.

AOTG has many more river trips, including overnight experiences.

The resort also has relaxing jaunts to the “Little Bahamas of the East.” AOTG’s Lake Multi-Sport Adventure in Nicholas County takes you to the clearest, bluest water east of the Mississippi. Against this stunning backdrop, you can kayak and even go rock climbing.

stand-up paddleboardingStand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a tranquil alternative to rafting. AOTG has delightful lessons for the whole family at Summersville Lake and— for more experienced folks— the New River. Imagine paddling your way through West Virginia rapids!

Flights through the forest

These aren’t your ordinary zip lines. AOTG sweeps you high above treetops— acres of them, as far as your eye can see.

TreeTops Zip Line Canopy Tour lets you explore the old growth hemlock forest canopy from a series of zip lines, sky bridges, hikes and a rappel.

Gravity Zip Lines bullets you along at highway speeds 200 feet above the ground. The tour highlight is Adrena-Line, a ride that often hits 65 mph. But that’s just one of many. Altogether, you’ll cover 1.5 miles of airspace. Sounds more fun that running a mile, right?

Timbertrek Adventure Park is a blast, too. It’s an aerial obstacle course that advances in difficulty as you progress. Shaky bridges and sky-high platforms are just some of the challenges you’ll face. Not everything is what it appears to be, either. Use your smarts to find the most efficient way through the course! Or play at night if you’re especially daring.

Land roving

There’s casual pedaling through the neighborhood, and then there’s mountain biking. Let AOTG show you the difference.

A Fat Kat electric tour combines traditional pedaling with mechanical oomph. Quiet but powerful, these motorized bikes are a fun way to blast through the wilderness.

Of course, AOTG also has traditional mountain bikes. The 2-hour evening ride is an easy but scenic tour through the New River Gorge. For something more intense, sign up for the Half-Day Guided Mountain Biking trip. It’s a longer tour, but not necessarily difficult— unless you want to to test out those demanding single-track trails.

Want to make the most out of the Mountain State? Sign up for AOTG’s rock climbing packages. Professional instructors will introduce you to the area’s world-famous sandstone. Classes include evening climbs, full-day trips, and rappelling.

Then, there’s the most traditional way to explore: on horseback. AOTG’s trail rides penetrate the Gorge’s most romantic areas. Ramble to Glade Springs or, better yet, sign up for the blissful evening ride. Summer doesn’t get any better than that!

How do you like to spend vacation time with your family? For more trip ideas and inspiration, visit Adventures on the Gorge for anything from cabins to caving.

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Is Bridge Day on your bucket list? Make it happen.

Plan ahead for the world’s biggest BASE jumping festival!

For just 1 day, the New River Gorge Bridge closes to cars and opens up for aerial stunts, tourists and plenty of drama. If you’d like to have a stake in Bridge Day, get ready to snag the best activities before they’re gone!

BASE jumping

This year’s Bridge Day is Oct. 21, so you have months to prepare for the festival’s main event: BASE jumping!

BASE jump registration opens July 1 and closes Oct. 10. Since you’ll be leaping from the bridge to the gorge— a height of almost 900 feet— you must have years of experience. Get the proper gear, too. Among other things, you’ll need a 9-foot bridle and a pilot chute no smaller than 38 inches.

BASE jumpers from around the globe travel for this unique opportunity, so make sure you get that paperwork in order and start practicing.

Tandem BASE jump

BASE jump like a pro … with a pro

Only experienced folks can BASE jump solo at Bridge Day. But with an expert along for the ride, you can TandemBASE into the gorge, too. It’s an adrenaline rush you’ll never forget. Imagine what your pals will think!

Book your spot quickly – these spots fill up quickly!

Into the Gorge Shuttles

Some of the best Bridge Day views are actually from below the bridge. For one thing, it’s much less crowded in the New River Gorge basin. For another, you’ll get incredible photo opportunities as BASE jumpers wheel and arc in the sky.

Plus, how many times do you see folks gliding 876 feet from a ledge?

Get the best seats in the house with an Into the Gorge shuttle ride. These buses take you from the bridge to the New River, right near the landing zone. Tickets cost $25 for an all-day pass.

Ride a high line

Most folks assume that Bridge Day is for experienced rappellers and BASE jumpers only. But anyone can take a high line ride!

No skills are necessary. All you’ll need is enough chutzpah to swoop 700 feet from the bridge catwalk to Fayette Station Road, your landing zone. But be warned: this is a very popular event. Snag your spot before they’re all gone!

Solo rappel

BASE jumpers aren’t the only ones who leap from the New River Gorge bridge. If you’re a seasoned rappeler, you can play, too!

Bridge Day Rappel will provide ropes and anchors. It’s up to you to bring everything else: helmet, harness, carabiners, rack … you know the drill. Registration lasts from May to August, and you must train in the Gorge and at Whitesides prior to Bridge Day on Oct. 21. Bon voyage!

Bone up in the kitchen

Bridge Day’s Chili Cook-off is another festival highlight. Categories typically include traditional and nontraditional stew. There’s even a cornbread competition. If you’re fond of cooking or baking, start practicing! Your efforts might be worth a generous cash prize. Good luck!

What part of Bridge Day are you looking forward to?

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Take a ride with these award-winning bike shops

Marathon Bicycle Company and New River Bikes just won an official designation from the League of American Bicyclists.

The “Bicycle-Friendly Business” prize goes to shops that promote local trails and riding. Visit the New River Gorge and discover why Fayetteville’s 2 bike havens are the latest to join this national organization.

2 wheels are better than 4

Just ask the League of American Bicyclists, a society focused on making bike riding more accessible. It’s a vast organization that— among other things— hosts the National Bike Summit, “smart cycling” programs and gatherings across the country.

The League also evaluates all 50 states every year. Staff members consider criteria like “strong bike culture,” modern infrastructure (like bicycle lanes) and safe roads. Especially bike-friendly businesses and communities get awards, too.

Such is the case with Marathon Bicycle Company and New River Bikes. Both won “Bicycle-Friendly Business” designations, raising West Virginia’s total to 7. No one who’s ever visited these shops will wonder why; the owners and staff are really gung-ho about mountain riding!

The New River Gorge area is rallying for community recognition, too. Besides natural perks— like the twisty Arrowhead Trails— there’s Bike Walk SWV, a program that champions accessible routes, safe infrastructure and active lifestyles. Who knows, maybe southern West Virginia will eventually win the coveted “Bicycle-Friendly Community” award!

Until then, check out:

New River Bikes

A former feed store now houses rows of shiny bikes and colorful accessories. Its motto— “we stock what we love to ride” — encompasses multiple choices. You’re just as likely to find roadies as you are mountain bikes. New River has quality brands, too: Surly, Salsa, Cogburn, Specialized and more.

You don’t have to be in the market for a new ride, though. This shop has a wide selection of quality accessories from companies like Swift Industries, which makes hand-sewn panniers and camping equipment.

Trail rides are another specialty. With an expert guide and rider, you can go deep into the New River Gorge— a region famous for waterfalls and breathtaking canyon vistas. Everyone is welcome, too. Try a gentle, scenic tour if you’re a beginner, or tackle world-class mountain loop trails if you’re an expert! All rides come with water, helmets, rental bikes and transportation. You can also pick a full-day tour, which comes with lunch.

Prefer going solo? New River is cool with that, too. All rental bikes are new and lovingly washed and serviced after every ride. Staff will help you select the right one. Ask them about the best trails and routes while you’re at it! Bike racks and a shuttle service are also available.

Marathon Bicycle Company

Head here for the latest scoop on mountain bikes, trails and gear. The owner, Adam, knows local terrain like the rugged machines he stocks. Stop by and ask for a free map!

Marathon also has service packages and first-rate bikes. Trek, Scott, Cannondale and Santa Cruz are just some of the brands available. You can even rent one! The “demo” program is a great way to try high-tech mountain bikes without blowing cash on the wrong ride. To sweeten the deal, they can apply your rental fee towards the purchase price of the bike, too.

Where do you like to hit the trail in wild, wonderful West Virginia?

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