The Best Hikes in New River Gorge: How to Visit Our Newest National Park

You may not have heard of New River Gorge, but this stunning river canyon in the middle of the West Virginia just became America’s newest National Park. Less visited than its more famous neighbors, New River Gorge has miles of trails, whitewater rafting, rock climbing and some of the best views around. Ready to pack your bags? I’m breaking down the best hikes in New River Gorge, and how to plan the perfect trip to America’s newest national park.  

The Best Hikes in New River Gorge: A Quick Look

Canyon Rim Boardwalk0.1 MilesEasy30 Minutes
Long Point Trail3.2 MilesEasy to Moderate1.5 Hours
Endless Wall Trail2 MilesEasy1.5 Hours

Introducing New River Gorge – America’s Newest National Park

New River Gorge from the Canyon Boardwalk

John Denver once called West Virginia “almost heaven,” and after spending a day in New River Gorge National Park, you’ll understand why. Nestled in the central Appalachian Mountains, this National Park straddles the New River and its breathtaking natural gorge, abutting the small but charming town of Fayetteville.

I got a chance to make a quick trip to New River Gorge a few months after it achieved National Park Status on 4th of July Weekend, 2021. My husband and I were in the process of moving for a year from New York City to Montgomery, Alabama for my husband’s military duty.

As a concession to uprooting our lives, he agreed to stop at several National Parks along the way, including New River Gorge and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Park Notes

Where? New River Gorge National Park located near Fayetteville, West Virginia

Entrance Fee? No.

Kid Friendly? Yes. Keep in mind that the New River Gorge is a canyon. Many trails traverse along the edge of steep drop offs with no railings, where falls would almost certainly be fatal. Exercise caution with kids any time you are near a canyon.

Dog Friendly? Yes. Dogs are permitted on all New River Gorge trails, provided they are properly leashed. Make sure to ALWAYS pick up and properly dispose of pet waste.

A Quick History of New River Gorge National Park

New River Gorge, or “the New” as its commonly called, has been a haven for rock climbers and whitewater rafters for decades.   In 1978, a 53 mile stretch of the Gorge was designated a National River, a division of the National Park Service.

In December 2020, Congress gave New River Gorge the official upgrade to National Park status as part of a COVID-19 stimulus bill. Around 7,000 acres of the New are offical National Park lands, while the other 65,000 acres are protected as a National Preserve. New River gorge is only the second area outside of Alaska designated as a National Preserve.

What’s the Difference between a Park and Preserve? The New River area has been used for recreation and hunting for generations. While hunting is strictly prohibited in National Parks, it is allowed in National Preserves.

Why Visit New River Gorge?

The New is home to stunning whitewater rapids racing through deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, and vibrant rhododendron forests. The park has more than 100 miles of hiking trails, ranging from 0.25 miles to 7 miles, through stunning Appalachian scenery.

Not up for a hike? Check out the Park’s Scenic Drives along the New River Gorge

New River Gorge Bridge and Bridge Day

But New River Gorge’s most iconic sight is a man-made marvel. Built in 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge spans the length of the Gorge, 3,030 feet long, rising 876 above the New River.

When it was constructed, the Bridge cut the travel time over narrow mountain roads from 45 minutes to less than 1 minute. The Bridge is the longest steel-span bridge in the western hemisphere and the third highest bridge in the United States.

Fayette County locals celebrate the bridge in spectacular and adrenaline-pumping fashion: Bridge Day. On the third Saturday in October, the New River Gorge Bridge closes to vehicle traffic and becomes a 3,000 foot long block party – complete with music, food, crafts, and oh yeah, jumping OFF the bridge.

Bridge Day draws hundreds of BASE jumpers every year with the opportunity to soar and parachute into the gorge, hundreds of feet below. The event draws thousands of spectators cheering on the daredevil jumpers.

Ordinarily, BASE jumping is prohibited in National Parks. But when New River Gorge was awarded National Park status, a special provision was included to make sure that Bridge Day and all its adrenaline-junkie traditions can continue!

Learn more about the New River Gorge Bridge and Bridge Day on the National Park’s site here.

Whitewater Rafting on the New River

Aside from the Bridge, the biggest attraction to New River Gorge is the river itself. The New River is home to some of the best whitewater rafting around. Local guides operate rafting tours for all skill levels. The Upper New River features more gentle Class I-III rapids, while the Lower New River has IV+ rapids for those seeking more of a challenge.

Information on the many companies authorized to guide inside the Park can be found on the NPS website. Trips range from half-day rapid run excursions to multi-day rafting adventures.

Can you spot the orange dots? Those are whitewater rafters approaching the rapids on the New River.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to enjoy the river on our short visit – and we totally regretted it! You can bet we’re already talking about how soon we can head back and explore the Park from water.

The Best Hikes in New River Gorge

For many trails in New River, you will have to drive through the small town of Fayetteville and residential areas to access the trailhead. Please be courteous of the neighbors who live next to the trail. Only park in designated parking spots, keep noise to a minimum and practice Leave No Trace principles.

Canyon Rim Visitor Center and Canyon Rim Boardwalk

0.1 mi / Easy / 30 min / Fully Accessible to the First Viewing Point

Canyon Rim Visitor Center in New River Gorge National Park

I always recommend the first stop at any National Park is the visitor center. I’ll admit, this is mostly because I’m a huge museum geek, but the Visitor Center is also an important stop to collect maps and ask advice from Park Rangers about trail conditions, weather, and any other important information you’ll need before heading out. I can’t tell you how many disasters I’ve avoided by chatting with a Park Ranger.

The Canyon Rim visitor center has a small gift shop to stock up on your stickers, mugs, magnets and of course National Park Passport Stamps.

Stamps, stickers and journals are the perfect way to document your National Park Travels. I collect all my stamps and memories in my trusty Field Notes Memo Book and National Park Journal.

Parking and Directions

A large parking lot is located at the Visitor Center and Trailhead entrance. The Visitor Center also has water and bathroom facilities.

Visitor Center Address: 162 Visitor Center Rd, Lansing, WV 25862

After checking out the visitor center, step outside for the shortest, but still one of the best hikes in New River Gorge National Park – the Canyon Rim Boardwalk.

An easy wooden boardwalk descends from the Visitor Center parking lot to the Gorge’s edge. Two viewing platforms give spectacular views of the New River Gorge Bridge. The ramp is fully accessible up to the first viewing platform.

After the viewing platform, descend 178 wooden stairs down to the lower point for even better views of the bridge and gorge. Just remember that going down is optional – but coming back up is not! There are several benches along the staircase to catch your breath, especially during the hot and humid West Virginian summer!

Long Point Trail

3.2 mi / 250’ Gain / Easy to Moderate / 1.5 – 2 Hours

The Long Point trail is a 3.2 mile round trip walk through rhododendron forests to a rocky outlook with magnificent views of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge.

Stunning View of the New River Bridge from Long Point make this one of the best hikes in New River Gorge

Parking and Directions

From Fayetteville, follow Gatewood Road and Turn Left on Newton Road. A designated parking area is available on the left.

Hiking the Long Point Trail

From the Parking lot, the trail descends gently on a gravel trail through sunny forest. The trail passes a few clearings early on with designated bird watching platforms.

Bikes are permitted on the trail until the last 0.2 miles. Be aware and practice good trail etiquette to avoid potential run-ins with bikers.

After about 0.9 miles, the trail enters the rhododendron forest that is native to the area. Rhododendrons bloom in shades of white to bright purple, usually in mid-June to early July. The Great Rhododendron is the state flower of West Virginia and can be found all along the trail.

Long Point is a great spot for sunset or just enjoying views of the Park’s most famous icon

The trail continues winding gently down the dirt and gravel path for 1.4 miles. At this point a sign indicates that bikes are no longer allowed, and a small bike rack is available to park.

The last 0.2 miles through thick rhododendron tunnels are a moderately steep descent out to Long Point. Keep an eye out for slick sandstone rock and tree roots that are a trip hazard.

After emerging from the thicket, the last 0.1 miles of the trail skirt the canyon’s edge and finally open up on a flat rocky outcropping known as Long Point.

Be aware of the steep canyon drop offs at many points along this section of the trail. There are no signs or guardrails along the canyon, so it is up to you to stay alert and keep a watchful eye on children and pets.

Long Point provides a spectacular view of the New River Gorge bridge and surrounding canyon.  I strongly suggest visiting Long Point for sunset – just don’t forget to bring a headlamp for your return hike.

Endless Wall Trail to Diamond Point

2 mi / Easy / 1 to 2 Hours

This easy trail to Diamond Point has some of the best views of the New River Gorge and is easily my favorite trail we did while visiting the park. Climbers frequently use this trail to access the sandstone cliffs of the Endless Wall, some of the best rock climbing in the eastern U.S.

Parking and Directions

The trailhead parking lot for the Endless Wall Trail is located north of the Canyon Rim visitor center off Route 19. Take care when driving on narrow roads through this area.

There is limited parking at this trailhead and spots may not be available during crowded peak hours, 10 am to 3pm, or on weekends and holidays. Do NOT park on Lansing-Edmond Road if spots are not available. This is a residential area and you may be towed if not parked in the designated lot.

Hiking the Endless Wall Trail

From the parking lot, follow the signs for the Endless Wall trail. `The trail is relatively flat and shady as it winds through enchanting Eastern Hemlock and deciduous forests. After about a ½ mile, the trail crosses Fern Creek over a short wooden bridge.

The trail wanders for another 0.2 miles before you see a turnoff sign for Climbing Access. Climbers can access the rock walls via a series of ladders from this trail.

Follow trails signs for Overlook

Follow the sign to continue on the Endless Wall trail towards the Overlook. After a less than 0.5 miles you will start to see unmarked small side trails forking to the right off the main trail.

Follow these side trails through the thicket of rhododendron to walk along the cliffs edge towards the unmarked Beak Rock overlook.

You can follow the unmarked trails along the cliffs edge towards the large, unmarked outcrop of rock known as Diamond Point. Or, follow the main trail for a more direct route.

Like other trails on this list, the area around Diamond point follows steep canyon drop offs into the canyon, many hundreds of feet deep. A fall from this area would almost certainly be fatal. Please exercise caution and good common sense when hiking in this area. There are no signs or guardrails along the cliff rim. Keep a close eye on children and pets when visiting this area.

Take your time and enjoy the expansive views of the New River Gorge from Diamond Point. The views here easily make this one of the best hikes in New River Gorge National Park. From this point you can see more than a mile upstream and downstream of the New River. The Endless Wall derives its name from the Nuttall Sandstone cliffs that stretch around the bend in either direction.

Keep an eye out for rock climbers scaling the sandstone on the many established routes that line the cliffs.

Looking down at the river below, keep an eye on the river for orange and yellow objects – those are whitewater rafters making their way down the New River!

The Endless Wall from Diamond Point

When you’ve had your fill of the view, return to the parking lot via the same trail.

What to Pack for a Hike in New River Gorge

Ready to hit the trails on the best hikes in New River Gorge? Don’t forget to pack the right gear for a safe and enjoyable hike:

Hiking Shoes and Socks: Sturdy hiking shoes or boots with solid traction are a must for any trail, especially when navigating near cliff edges.

I swear by the Merrell Moab 2, available both as a hiking boot and hiking shoe. If you’re looking to upgrade to a more hardcore boot, I love my Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid boot.

Remember, the best hiking shoes are only as good as the socks you wear. Darn Tough socks come in a variety of fun colors and have never let me down! Trust me, these bad boys are worth it to avoid blisters and comfortably break in any boot.

Bug spray: As someone who has some kind of invisible “All You Can Eat Buffet” sign above my head that only mosquitos can see, I use repellant sprays with DEET or Picaridin. Many other hikers prefer a DEET-free spray made with essential oils such as lemon and eucalyptus.

Hiking Tops: No matter the weather, choose tops that are quick-drying and moisture wicking. Avoid cotton, especially in the winter as it stays wet and can cause hypothermia. Try the Patagonia Capilene Cool tanks and shirts, or check out more women’s performance tops on Backcountry.com.

Be AWARE! Poison Ivy and Ticks are found throughout the New River Gorge area. I would strongly advise wearing long pants and socks that cover your entire foot and ankle while hiking.

Hiking Pants: For long pants, check out the Columbia Saturday Trail Pant. If you’re more a leggings gal, I wore my trusty Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Pocket Legging.

Planning on hitting the water while visiting New River Gorge? Make sure to bring a sturdy pair of water sandals, like the KEEN Whisper Sandal and a bathing suit.

As a reminder: This post does contain some affiliate links, which means if you buy something, my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I will never recommend products or links on this blog that I have not personally used or fully endorse.

New River Gorge is open year round, but the most popular times to visit are late-spring through fall. Summers are crowded and Bridge Day, on the third Saturday in October, draws thousands of visitors to the Gorge.

If you visit in winter or early spring, be sure to be prepared for snowy and icy conditions. Be sure to check out my guide to winter hiking for beginners.

Planning a road trip to New River Gorge? Learn all my secrets to planning a no-stress National Parks road trip!

Where to Stay and Eat near New River Gorge

Where to Stay near New River Gorge

Most visitors to New River Gorge stay near the towns of Fayetteville and nearby Beckley. These towns are within 15 minutes of the Park and provides easy access to the main trails and attractions of the Park, including the New River Bridge.


Most hotels in the area are budget-friendly and motel-style accommodations, like the Country Inn & Suites and Fairfiend Inn & Suites.

We stayed at the  Holiday Lodge Hotel in Oak Hill, approximately 5 miles outside the park. While the accommodations were nothing to write home about, the room was clean and the hot breakfast in the morning was plenty to fuel us for the day’s adventures


Primitive campsites are available inside the park on a first-come first-serve basis. Campsites have no drinking water or hookups, and have limited restroom facilities. Learn more about primitive campsites within the park on the NPS website, here.

Multiple private campgrounds operate in or near Fayetteville, available for both tent and RV camping.  

Where to Eat

For a small town, Fayetteville has a decent list of restaurants to suit any hungry hiker’s appetite. Local favorites include the Southside Junction Tap House, the Pink Pig BBQ, Pies & Pints Pizzeria and more.

If you’re looking for a casual spot with an incredible craft beer selection and biergarten inspired menu, check out The Handle Bar, located at the Arrowhead Bike Farm and Campground. We stumbled on this spot while leaving the Long Point trailhead and had a perfect night enjoying a few local brews and curry bratwurst.

Despite its recently upgraded status to National Park, New River Gorge remains a relatively unknown gem outside of West Virginia. The best hikes in New River Gorge make for a perfect day trip or weekend adventure for those exploring central Appalachia. Between the easily accessible hiking trails and opportunities galore for adrenaline-junkies, New River Gorge is, simply, “almost heaven.”

Plan More Epic National Park Trips

Ready to start planning another epic National Park vacation? Check out these National Park guides:

Big Bend: Epic Big Bend Itinerary Guide

Cuyahoga Valley: 17 Best Things to Do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Great Smoky MountainsThe Ultimate Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary in 2 Days

Joshua Tree: The Perfect Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

New River Gorge: The Best Hikes in New River Gorge National Park

Yosemite: Epic Yosemite 2 Day Itinerary – How to Spend 2 Perfect Days in Yosemite

Zion: Epic Zion National Park Itinerary Guide

National Parks: Get the Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide (for free!) sent to your inbox, full of important planning information, printable packing lists, and the best things to do in all 63 National Parks.

As a reminder: This post does contain some affiliate links, which means if you buy something, my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I will never recommend products or links on this blog that I have not personally used or loved myself.

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As a reminder: This post does contain some affiliate links, which means if you buy something, my blog will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  I will never recommend products or links on this blog that I have not personally used or loved myself.