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?

The post Hills to hills adventure, deep in the Gorge appeared first on Bridge Day.

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.

The post Adventure’s on the Gorge’s best summer family trips appeared first on Bridge Day.

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?

The post Get ready for spring with these seasonal staples appeared first on Bridge Day.

The latest whitewater thrill?

A theme park is coming to the New River Gorge!

In the near future, rides will replace traditional whitewater rafting on the New River. It’s a proposal that should promote tourism and the wild outdoors, all at once.

A historic game changer

West Virginia’s popularity as an adventure destination has never been better. And the New River Gorge water park will be newest gem in tourism’s crown.

Though concrete details are still forthcoming, it is understood that an amusement park developer will have rights to whitewater from Hinton to Thurmond.

“It’s definitely controversial,” reported a source who attended a secret meeting last week. “Lots of hot air. But this will be the biggest, wildest thing to hit Wild, Wonderful West Virginia.”

A conference member also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Several folks freaked out when we mentioned installing rides and stuff in the river,” he said. “I thought, ‘Man, there’s no way we’re gonna make it back home.’ Fortunately, we managed to see both sides of the issue and come to an understanding.”

A concept photo shows some of the changes coming to the New River, featuring the region’s mascot New River George.

Taming the rapids

Given the last-minute nature of this development, it’s hard to determine the scope of this project.

Here is what we’ve learned so far.:

  • Underwater monorail system: Rafts, affixed to a rail, will take tourists from the Upper to the Lower New. Everybody can therefore experience the river’s Class V rapids.
  • Vendors: Several select merchants and food truck owners will be allowed to serve tourists as they wait to board the rafts.
  • New River George: The New River Gorge’s mascot will become the MC of the park, “much like Mickey Mouse’s role at Disneyland,” according to a local visitors bureau.
  • Safety: The mechanical rafts will come with seatbelts. Several boulders will also have submerged “bumpers.”

Portions of the New River will remain free from development. As of now, hikers and nature lovers will be free to explore regions above Hinton.

Thumbs up, thumbs down

News about the water park has yet to be fully released. Only insiders have given us a few hints. But when we talked to folks about river rides, their reactions ranged the emotional spectrum.

Some were stunned. Others— especially out-of-state visitors— expressed surprise; they believed whitewater rafts were already on a rail.

Nichole Knudsen, a teenager from Ohio, approved. “Whitewater rides? That sounds amazing.”

What’s your reaction?

The post The latest whitewater thrill? appeared first on Bridge Day.