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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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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Spring showers bring…sleuthing powers?

Don’t let rainy days keep you and your crew from heart-pounding adventure! Can you solve Fayetteville’s New River Gorge Escape Rooms in 1 hour or less?

New River Gorge Escape Rooms

It’s just like an action movie: you’re “trapped” in a closed area, and you’ll have to use props and logic to flee. Bring family members along for extra help, or play with fellow adventure geeks.

No escape room is the same, either. Local lore and history inspire the stories, and games vary in difficulty. Just 1 thing remains the same: time.

Runaway Train

You’re speeding along the C&O railroad tracks to Thurmond. Suddenly, the conductor makes a grave announcement: the engineer has disappeared. Worse, you have 60 minutes before the train runs out of track.

Can you halt the locomotive in time? Explore your surroundings, piece together clues and you just might save the day!

“Runaway Train” is the easiest escape game of the bunch, so start with this one if you’re new to sleuthing.


On a dark and stormy night, you seek shelter in an abandoned New River Gorge mine. Unfortunately, the entrance collapses. That’s when you discover you’re stuck in the Mothman’s lair!

Just 1 hour remains until the monster returns. This is a moderately challenging game with a 42 percent success rate, so think quickly.

Brave New World

A nuclear missile has targeted America! Your pal has the launch codes that can stop it, but you’ll have to find them in his Gorge cabin.

As you piece together clues, though, you realize things aren’t what they seem. Your friend seems more mysterious by the moment. Plus, the missile is about to launch!

“Brave New World” is the hardest game to solve. Think you’re up for the challenge?

Which game do you want to try?

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5 weekend wilderness escapades, ready for spring!

Take full advantage of glorious natural scenery and cheerful April weather. No matter your experience, these activities get you strolling through the deepest, most majestic portions of the New River Gorge.

1. Easter Sunrise Bridge Walk

Marvel as you stand 876 feet above the ground, right as dawn settles over the New River Gorge. It’s a glorious moment, one that’s fitting for Easter. 

Join Bridge Walk for this year’s special tour. Starting at 5:30 a.m., you’ll step across the New River Gorge Bridge’s catwalk— an expanse 3,030 feet long. The views are stupendous. Rim-to-rim forests, distant rapids, and enormous pastel skies are just some of the highlights. It’s not unusual for folks to glimpse hawks, either.

The Easter Sunrise Bridge Walk on April 16 is just $39.00 a person (plus tax). Make reservations as early as you can, too. Spots fill up really quickly!

2. National Park Service: Prescription Day

Park Prescription Day on April 23 makes good on the cheerful premise that “having fun outdoors is the best medicine.” For one thing, it’s at Grandview— a striking location renowned for its magenta rhododendrons and mountain panoramas.

For another, you can try a new sport. Rangers will have tai chi, yoga, guided walks, and a trail run. It’s also your chance to dabble with sports equipment: stand-up paddle boards, mountain bikes, and more!

Doctors and healthcare professionals (is that you?) will also get free “prescription pads” for patients who could use more time outside. Just ask a ranger. You’re also welcome to join volunteers at blood pressure and glucose stations. Call the visitors’ center for more information.

Think of it this way: it’s the one time you’ll get a “prescription” that’s free and inspiring.

3. Smart Tech Birding at Grandview

Hey, there’s an app for that! Use your smartphone to identify whatever critter happens to meet you on April 28.

If you don’t have any nature “apps” on your device, download some before heading out. Popular ones include Audubon Bird Guide, Birdsnap, and Merlin Bird ID. These are free, but you can also find premium software for a price.

Or, scan the skies with old-school technology. Grandview rangers will have binoculars you can borrow. Join them from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., when birds are chirping, swooping, and gliding around the New River Gorge. It’s a delightful excuse to explore this magnificent park, too— birds or no birds.

4. Hike into Spring

From the dramatic overlook at Grandview to the cobalt New River, this casual walk on April 29 makes the most of the season.

Naturalists will lead the way from start to finish. It’s a 2.5-mile wilderness immersion rich with young foliage, mountain crags, and migrating birds. Some of the terrain is steep, but you can always take a free shuttle on the return trip.

5. Hot ID: Skills with Apps and Guides

Bring your smartphone or favorite field guide; you’ll get an eyeful as rangers take you deep into the New River Gorge on April 30.

From Stone Cliff Trailhead, you’ll wander through old-growth forests populated with venerable oaks, buckeyes, and hickories. This moderate 2-mile trek also winds past picturesque riverbanks.

How do you enjoy spring in the Gorge?

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Get ready for spring with these seasonal staples

Those balmy, carefree days are right around the corner. Just head to the New River Gorge, where special events and activities make the season even sweeter.

 Color in the mountains

The Gorge reaches the height of its powers as winter wanes, revealing springtime gems. For this reason, no hike should be without a camera.

Wildflowers are the easiest, most rewarding surprises to spot. Nothing stands out against greenery like sprays of color, and the Gorge abounds in blooms. There are star chickweeds, which resemble spiky fireworks; crimson cardinal flowers; frilly Culver’s root; and many more intriguing plants. If you’re especially lucky, you might find a lady slipper orchid.

Rhododendrons are especially showy. The “great” variety, which reigns as West Virginia’s state flower, has extravagant white clusters from June to July. There’s also the Catawba rhododendron. Its magenta blooms really pop! Expect to see them in May.

Mountain laurel, another shrub, looks just like a rhododendron. But rising above its stubby, dark green leaves are lovely crowns of frilly pale pink or white blooms. These flowers appear from May to June.

That’s just the tip of the bouquet, too! In fact, so many colorful plants flourish here, there’s an annual celebration: the New River Gorge Wildflower Weekend. Local state parks also have special hikes throughout spring.

Wild animals

The New River Gorge attracts animals, too. Its deep, remote canyon provides a sheltered corridor for a host of mammals, reptiles, and birds.

While you’ll find critters any time of year, spring is prime time. People aren’t the only ones who appreciate warmer weather! More than 60 mammal species live in the Gorge. Mink, deer, coyotes, bats and river otters are just some of the residents you’ll spot in this neighborhood.

Numerous reptiles and amphibians live here, too. You might find five-lined skinks, common map turtles, eastern worm snakes and hellbenders. Timber rattlers and copperheads are the only venomous animals in the Gorge. They’re reclusive and shy, though.

Last but definitely not least: birds. The vast region forms the perfect habitat for hundreds of migrating and local species. Naturalists and visitors from across the country flock here for the flashy warblers, glorious bald eagles and dazzling tanagers. In fact, the New River Birding & Nature Festival is an annual highlight. This year’s gathering is May 1-6 and will feature hikes, scientific presentations, cabin hangouts and hot meals.

Wild rapids

For locals and rafters across the country, spring marks the return of world-class whitewater. Some rivers are particularly rambunctious. Melting snow and rain engorge the rapids, creating one feisty ride after another.

Outfitters start guided trips on the New River in April. If you’d like to give this thrilling sport a try, now is one of the best times! The tranquil Upper section is great for beginners; it has calm pools and lively (but not scary) waves.

For an adrenaline rush, there’s nothing like the Lower. Its Class III-V rapids, muscular currents and looming boulders will wake you up for sure!

Closer towards summer, the Gauley River comes into its own. Hailed by rafting fans as the “Beast of the East,” it boils with more than 100 rapids, complex hydraulics and tricky chutes. You must be 15 or older on some guided trips, and outfitters recommend prior rafting experience. But if you’re game, there’s nothing like a ride on a world-famous whitewater river.

Wild ice cream

Well, sort of! The Stache in Fayetteville serves Hershey’s ice cream, but not the kind you usually find in stores. Ever tried Play Doh, Graham Central Station, Cappuccino Crunch or Superman? It’s also the only place in West Virginia where you can order the mysterious Blue Moon.

Try flavors like these in a cone, or transform one into a milkshake or sundae. The Stache makes fresh smoothies and iced coffee, too. Locals also gather here at noon for bag lunches. You can have BBQ, hot dogs or chicken salad with chips and a drink— all for less than $6!

Old-fashioned ambience is another reason to visit. The Stache’s tiny interior is crammed with whimsical toys, vintage candy and craft kits. Talk about a trip down memory lane!

The Stache opens in April— the earliest you can get a scoop of summer pleasure.

What’s your favorite rite of spring in the Gorge?

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