Walking in a winter wonderland…876 feet up!

Try this for your New Year’s resolution: a catwalk tour on the New River Gorge Bridge. They’re unlike anything else in America! Winter makes these unusual hikes even more spectacular.

Record-breaking walks

Elegant yet sturdy, the New River Gorge Bridge is a West Virginia icon. It’s also famous. At 876 feet high and 3,030 feet long, the steel span ranks as America’s third tallest bridge and the Western Hemisphere’s longest.

Want a piece of the action? Take a Bridge Walk! These tours go on the catwalk, a 2-foot-wide span with safety harnesses. It’s a heady experience. You’ll see foaming rapids, distant forests, and even the occasional train, far, far below your boots. At that height, everything looks like a miniature toy. But it’s very real.

Don’t let the heights scare you away – Bridge Walk tours are very secure. In fact, it has the world’s longest continuous safety system! Your guide will go at a slow pace, share facts about the gorge, and give you plenty of time for photos.

Winter Bridge Walks

Open daily (Thanksgiving and Christmas excepted), Bridge Walk tours in Lansing offer Instagram-worthy experiences all year. January and February are especially photogenic. Winter transforms the New River Gorge into a sugared world, textured with frosty pines and cliffs. It’s still and silvery and silent.

If you’ve ever wanted to capture magical landscape photos for yourself, then now is the time. Grab that camera and book a tour!

Here are some winter tips:

  • Wear layers and dress warmly. Bridge Walk tours are 3 hours long.
  • Tours operate in all weather. You’ll get a special umbrella if it rains.
  • The catwalk is flat. However, expect to cover 1.25 total miles, including a brief hike to the bridge.

Special winter deals

Wondering when to go? Bridge Walk has discounts throughout the year. Winter is no exception.

Score deals on 2018 specials like:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day: tours are $54 a person on Jan. 15.
  • Groundhog Day: tours are $54 a person on Feb. 2.
  • Valentine’s Day Special: tickets are two for the price of one on Feb.14.
  • President’s Day Special: tours are $54 a person on Feb.19.
  • Daylight Saving Time: it’s easier to wake up on March 12 when tickets are $54 each!
  • St. Patrick’s Day: tickets are $54 each on March 17.

For the latest deals and events, follow Bridge Walk on Facebook. Still can’t get enough? Request an annual pass! You’ll get unlimited tours, gift shop discounts, and incentives for family members.

Have you ever gone on a winter Bridge Walk? If so, what did you like most about it?

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The New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th birthday party – and you’re invited!

Every Bridge Day festival seems to be better than the last. But this year, the New River Gorge Bridge’s 40th anniversary celebration adds to the excitement. Find out what inspired the original event— and what’s going on for the party.

How it all began

On Oct. 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge opened to traffic. It was an achievement by anyone’s standards. Graceful yet sturdy, the span broke engineering records. It’s the Western Hemisphere’s longest steel-arch bridge (3,030 feet) and America’s second highest (876 feet). But that’s just the beginning.

The New River Gorge Bridge isn’t on flat ground. Quite the opposite. It straddles a wild river valley that’s nearly 1,000 feet deep. Imagine tackling a project like that! What Ginger Rogers did for dancing (backwards and in high heels), the New River Gorge Bridge did for engineering.

Drivers had another reason to rejoice. Before 1977, the river valley forced people to take a 45-minute route. Winter made commutes even longer. The New River Gorge Bridge changed everything. Smooth and quick, it replaces mountain roads with a 60-second crossing.

Now that’s worth celebrating!

Bridge Day history

In fact, that’s what happened: a festival. The very first Bridge Day launched in 1980. Back then, it featured 2 skydivers, 5 BASE jumpers and commemorative certificates to anybody who crossed the span.

The event has grown ever since. BASE jumpers and rappellers number in the hundreds, while sightseers tally by the thousands. It’s one of America’s most unique, dramatic festivals.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s happened over the years:

  • World’s longest bungee jump from a fixed position: Chris Allum tackled this feat in 1992 (although bungee jumping is no longer allowed).
  • World’s biggest simultaneous BASE jump: In 1998, a dozen parachutists (followed by 4 others) broke the standing record.
  • First high line from the bridge: Since 2002, anybody brave enough can zip line from the catwalk. Interested? High line tickets are available.

The 40th anniversary celebration promises to be a historic occasion, too!

40th anniversary celebration

This year’s Bridge Day— Oct. 21, 2017— marks a significant milestone for the New River Gorge. To celebrate, Governor Jim Justice will visit at 11 a.m. for a special presentation. His talk will be an addition to regular festival events.

What’s more, Sweet T’s Bake Shop from Fayetteville will serve 1,000 free cupcakes! You won’t want to miss these iced wonders. Tandy Dempsey and her crew have a loyal following for their homemade treats.

“We are very excited to share our goodies on the bridge’s birthday,” said Dempsey.

So now you have even more reasons to come for Bridge Day! What do you hope to see or do during the festival?

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Go “Into the Gorge” on Bridge Day!

What’s better than watching BASE jumpers from the New River Gorge Bridge? How about sitting in the canyon itself, 900 feet below! Here’s how.

Into the Gorge shuttle rides

It’s a sight like no other: BASE jumpers soaring right towards you. Skimming the New River, they meet the landing zone, one after the other.

Would you like to be at the scene of the action? Just take an “Into the Gorge” shuttle ride on Bridge Day! For $25 a ticket, you’ll get a priceless perspective like no other. Abus will take you down into the Gorge and drop you off, providing you with the opportunity to watch Bridge Day from a completely different angle. Pack a lunch, sit near the 876-foot-high New River Gorge Bridge and soak up glorious autumn foliage while you watch BASE jumpers fly. If you look carefully, you’ll also spot rappellers. This is your best opportunity to see them, dangling below the Bridge. There’s no time limit for how long you can stay in the Gorge, but it’s recommended that you get on the bus to come back up to the bridge by 3 pm.

Energizing and uplifting, it’s an experience to treasure. Kids really get a kick out of it, too.

So how do you reserve that shuttle ride?

It’s easy. Call the Fayette Chamber of Commerce at 304-465-5617. Spaces are limited and always sell out before Bridge Day. If you think friends or family members want to tag along, now’s the time to order those tickets!

What do you think is better: viewing BASE jumpers from above or below? Why? Share your thoughts with us!




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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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Race in one of America’s most unusual 5ks!

For less than 2 hours, one of the world’s longest bridges is a racecourse. Sign up for this year’s Bridge Day 5k and get ready for the run of your life.

3,030 feet of possibilities

Runners take in the view as they cross the New River Gorge bridge

It may be months away, but October 21, 2017 already looms large on the calendar. That’s when Bridge Day— the most extreme sports event in America— unfolds.

Everything revolves around the 3,030-foot steel span. The New River Gorge Bridge stars not only on the state quarter, but also as the launching point for BASE jumpers and rappellers. At 876 feet high, it’s an irresistible spot to skylark.

The elegant structure also makes an alluring sidewalk. After all, with car traffic shut down from dawn to dusk, no pedestrian can resist a crossing. Spectacular views of the canyon and rapids are yours for the day. But there are intangible perks, too.

“The New River Gorge Bridge is the icon of our state that so many relate to their state pride,” notes Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia.

Under her guidance, numerous activities have sprouted throughout the region: walking shelter dogs, yoga, tai chi, you name it. Adding a race to the mix made sense— especially since it involves a rare landmark.

“Our mission is to improve the health and quality of life in southern West Virginia,” Seiler explains. “What better way to celebrate that than to have active people running across the ‘Big Bridge?’ ”

On your marks!

Last year marked the first annual Bridge Day 5k, but it’s already a rite of passage. The race starts on the north side of the span in a closed lane. From there, you’ll jog into downtown Fayetteville, loop around a park, and finish at the courthouse.

Runners from the first Bridge Day 5k pose for a photo in front of the Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Fayetteville

Seiler has fond memories of the first 5k.

“The weather was perfect, security procedures went smoothly, and proceeds were generated to support local kids’ run clubs across southern West Virginia!” she said enthusiastically.

Another memory also tugs at her heart. A young lady named Michelle decided to enter the race after her mother died from Type 2 diabetes and her father had open-heart surgery. Determined to maintain her own health, the West Virginia-born gal signed up for Bridge Day 5k. It was especially important to Michelle because her family had taken a lively interest in the bridge’s construction.

“As soon as I saw the post for the first ever Bridge Day 5k, I just knew that I had to be a part of the adventure,” she shares on her blog. “After years of the bridge being part of MY life, now I could be part of its history.”

Two weeks before the race, her father died.

“I decided to run anyway, in his honor, thinking of him and the amazing childhood filled with discovery and adventure that he had afforded for me,” Michelle said.

Other racers encouraged her, including a local who held a sign that read, “Never quit.” That message had a special meaning to Michelle. Her father’s favorite slogan was, “never give up.”

“For the flash of a moment, Daddy was there with me, like he was supposed to be, sharing in this moment,” she reflects.

Moments like that reveal the symbolic importance of the bridge and, by extension, the race. It’s what motivates Seiler and her team.

Sneak peek

This year, 400 folks can sign up for the race— twice the number allowed from 2016. But you’ll have to be quick on your toes; online registration started March 1 and entries fill up quickly. People as far as California and Florida compete, too.

“But the desired audience is West Virginia residents,” Seiler said. “We get really, really excited when this is someone’s first 5k!”

New features for the 2017 race include a “start line dance party,” redesigned race course, and indoor awards ceremony. Kids can also enter a youth essay contest. The prize: 2 race entry tickets.

What’s more, it’s a race anyone can try. While no walking is allowed, you can casually jog with friends. You can also try to earn a trophy. Top male and female runners get prizes, as do winners from various age groups. Everybody gets a special shirt and medal, though. Bridge Day is too special to leave empty handed!

For more information on the race, visit ActiveSWV.

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