Hello national park lovers! Welcome to my article on America’s newest national park: New River Gorge. My name is Kim and I grew up in Illinois. I attended college in Michigan and went on to work as an Occupational Therapist. I still work as an OT to pay the bills but when I’m not working you can find me on the 14ers of Colorado or on the trails of our national parks.
My husband and I got married in Banff in 2017. Then, in 2018, we sold our house and quit our jobs to travel by RV around the US and Canada with our dogs. We wanted to explore more of our country and Canada’s parks, and scope out exactly where we wanted to relocate. The Midwest wasn’t doing it for us anymore and we needed a change. It has been an epic journey so far which has taken me to 53/63 national parks and all 50 states!
Three Days Exploring New River Gorge National Park
I have always loved national parks. I remember going to Haleakala in high school and becoming hooked! My goal is to visit all 63 parks. When I found out New River Gorge became the newest one, I knew I had to get there – especially before more people discover the park and it becomes crowded. My friend and I spent three days exploring New River Gorge and its surroundings. We found nice waterfalls and even stayed in a treehouse!
I feel like some of our parks are underrated because they don’t have mountains or alpine lakes. New River Gorge is definitely one of those places that should not be overlooked. There are many beautiful trails through the forests here, all with amazing overlooks. If you are into climbing or rafting, this is certainly a place to check out. The nearby Babcock State Park is also gorgeous and worth visiting if you have the time on your trip.
Best Hiking Trails of New River Gorge National Park
I loved all the hikes at New River Gorge but my favorite one was Endless Wall Trail. This hike takes you through the serenity of the Hemlock forest to lookouts with breathtaking views over the gorge. If you are only going to do one trail at New River Gorge then Endless Wall Trail is the perfect option. Another highlight for me was Long Point Trail. I recommend seeing the bridge on this hike during either sunrise or sunset for the best experience.
The other main options for hiking at the park are Concho Overlook Trail, Canyon Rim Overlook Boardwalk and Grandview Rim Trail. The former is easily accessible by driving or taking a short half-mile walk and offers wonderful views of the bend in the New River right at the old mining town of Thurmond. This place is a photographer’s dream destination. The remaining two trails are beautiful in their own right and deserve time too.
What I Loved Most about this National Park
All national parks are special to me, but this one was extra special because the park was only a few months old since being recognized as an official national park. Even better, we had the place to ourselves and only saw a handful of other people during the trip. The sunrises and sunsets were stunning and spending time immersed in nature with one of my best friends is what life is all about. I can’t recommend this place enough!
Need to Know Before you Go
There isn’t a ton of accommodation near New River Gorge but Country Road Cabins is a great option if you want to stay in a cabin or treehouse just outside the park in a town called Hico. As you can probably imagine, this place books out fast – so make a reservation a few weeks in advance.
If you plan on coming from out of state, the closest airports are at Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania), Charlotte (North Carolina), Columbus (Ohio) and Cincinnati (Ohio). They are all a good two or three hours drive away. Other places to include in your travels around West Virginia are Babcock State Park, Cathedral Falls, Summersville Lake and the famous Bridge Walk.
Lastly, when you are hiking around New River Gorge, be mindful of the all important Leave no Trace principle and try to leave the park in a better condition than you found it. A lot of the park is dog-friendly too, so feel free to bring your puppies along to experience the beauty with you!