Roads Less Traveled: New River Gorge National Park

I visited New River Gorge for the first time in 2020. Just months after I left this beautiful area, it was promoted to National Park status when Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act in December 2020.

This area has been a conservation area since 1978 and is a mecca for all kinds of outdoor activities. From biking to rafting, hiking to rock climbing, anything you want to do outdoors can be found on this 83-mile stretch of river lined with sheer canyon-like walls.

Earlier this month I returned to this new national park. Last week I covered the Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, a state park in West Virginia that borders the National Park. However, I spent two and a half days in this area, visiting everything I could.

The park’s biggest attraction besides the river is the bridge off Highway 19 that crosses the gorge. This bridge is the longest single arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest vehicular bridge in the United States. It was the tallest bridge in the world until 2001 and has since fallen to 34th place, mainly behind bridges built in China. There are many hikes to see this bridge, but in my opinion the best view is from the Long Point Trail. This moderate 1.2 mile trail takes you to a spectacular view of the bridge from below in the gorge. The fall color was just waning when I visited.

You can also take Fayette Station Road and enjoy the view just under the bridge which is very cool.

Probably the best hike in the region is the Endless Wall Trail. This is a 3 mile loop that takes you to the top of sheer cliffs. Unlike many canyons on the east coast, the edges of this canyon are fairly flat. This makes hiking relatively easy compared to other places, but you can hike quite gnarly if you decide to walk down the rim. However, there are rewards for your efforts, like this relatively unknown little waterfall hidden between two massive rock faces. Slot canyons are very, very rare in the Southeast. Matteus Falls is at the top of a small but very impressive waterfall.

However, the view from the rim can’t be beat. Another location that is right in the canyon is a location called “Beauty Mountain”. This is a phenomenal spot for the sunset, especially in the fall through early spring when the sun straightens the canyon from this location. This is another relatively unknown site compared to other places in the gorge and a very quick hike. Note that this location is private property, adjacent to the park itself. Luckily the landowners allow the visit so treat it with respect.

On the other side of the gorge, very close to the bridge, is Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek is home to a series of cascades and waterfalls. The largest waterfall, the aptly named Wolf Creek Falls, is very difficult to access down a VERY steep drop with limited grab rails and lots of slides. Much easier to access are the cascades near the footbridge at the end of the Kaymoore Connector Trail. I was lucky enough to catch colors here in the top which was nice with limited space to park.

About 20 minutes away is the Concho Rim Overlook. Like Beauty Mountain, this lookout is on private property, this time on the ACE Adventures campus. They kindly grant access to this place. It is directly across the river from Thurmond, WV, an old mining town well preserved as evidence of the once common mining towns that dotted the entire gorge. You’ll also get a great view of the railroad tracks from this vantage point, so keep an eye out for the many coal trains that traverse the river below.

These are just a few places to visit in America’s newest national park, and one day I’ll probably tell you more about them.

Have a great week! See you on the way…

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