New River Gorge National Park is the newest national park located in West Virginia, and home to the world’s second oldest river- New River. This place did not disappoint! It was unbelievably gorgeous and there is enough to do there to last you quite a few visits- over 100 miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, swimming, boating, fishing, and mountain biking, just to name a few! I can’t believe only recently(December 2020) this place became a National Park! I have provided a 4 day itinerary below. Let me know if you have any questions or if you are staying shorter or longer than 4 days and I can get you an itinerary more specific😊
Entrance Fee: FREE
Lodging: There are many lodging options in the surrounding towns of Beckley, Fayetteville, and Hinton. We stayed in Beckley but visited both Fayetteville and Hinton- any of these three communities have great lodging options. If camping is more your family’s style, this park offers primitive camping only at 9 different locations throughout the park. We did not check out all of the camping sites but the one at Stone Cliff was really lovely and right on the beach next to the water. All camping sites are on a first-come, first-served basis. For more camping onsite info, check out this link.
Dining: The only food options onsite are snacks and drinks from vending machines in the visitor centers. Just outside park boundaries there are plenty of dining options. Recommendations- Secret Sandwich Society (Fayetteville) , Smokey’s on the Gorge (Lansing), Lucky Rivers Cafe (Hinton). There are hundreds of restaurants near the park, the above recommendations were just three of our favorites! On full hiking days, we almost always pack our lunch and eat either on the trail or the closest picnic area!
*If you go this spring, SSS is closed r/t a fire. Reopening summer 2022.
Must Know Before You Go:
1. Many of these trails have several sections with steep drop offs. We had many discussions about cliff ledge safety with our older two and almost always had our youngest in the carrier or holding her hand near any edge.
2. There is not one single road that will take you straight through the park. So when traveling between areas you will always have to drive out of the park and around to the next area which will take you some extra time.
Cell Service: We had very sporadic cell service throughout the park, unless otherwise noted below.
4 Day Itinerary
Lansing and Fayetteville Area
Canyon Rim Visitor Center- This visitor center is a great first stop on this visit. There are park rangers to speak with and they have all the maps and handouts you will need for your trip. I would recommend picking up the Trails Guide if nothing else. It will be extremely helpful since the park map does not have any trails on it like most park maps do. We found getting to the trailheads at this park easiest, if you just put the trailhead into Google Maps.
Canyon Rim Boardwalk Trail- This 0.2-mile roundtrip trail is considered strenuous because of the 178 steps you have to climb down and then back up to return to your car from the second look out point. If you had kiddos in a stroller you could still just walk the boardwalk to the first look out right before the stairs. Both have gorgeous views of the New River Gorge Bridge. If you are able, the second lookout is worth all the stairs!
Burnwood Trail- This 1.2-mile loop trail is an easy walk through a forest area. It is beautiful and filled with so many rhododendrons. If you are planning to go in May or June, I am sure the entire forest looks pink! Two things to note: 1. Cross back over US 19 near the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and park in the Burnwood Day Use Area. It looks like a maintenance area that you are not supposed to be in until you drive around the maintenance buildings to get to the parking lot. It is not well labeled. But the trailhead is right next to the restrooms. 2. Once on the trail, go left on the first trail split (about 0.5 miles in) to get to the loop part of the Burnwood Trail. It is not labeled and going right will dead end you into an open field and cemetery. Also, keep a look out for wildlife! We saw so many deer on this trail😊
Endless Wall Trail- This trail is 2.4 miles and is then another 0.5 mile walk to whichever parking lot you parked in (there are 2- Fern Creek and Nuttall). If there are open parking spots, I would recommend parking at Fern Creek so the 0.5 mile walk back to your car will be downhill instead of up. Most of this trail is through the forest and along Fern Creek with several look out points in the middle. The lookout points on this trail are breathtaking! However, the lookouts are on the edge of a cliff so for safety, every time we went out, I had a very tight hold on our kiddos! All three of them had no problem walking the entirety of this trail themselves but it was nice to have our youngest in a carrier on my husband’s back for the vista lookouts.
Fayette Station Road Scenic Drive– You do not want to miss this one-way scenic drive! It is also a nice rest for your legs between the Endless Wall Trail and the Long Point Trail. If you make a left out of either parking lot for the Endless Wall Trail on Lansing-Edmond road and then follow signs for Fayette Station Rd/82 you will get right on the winding road that starts right before the New River Gorge Bridge. The first part of this road is a bit tricky so make sure you are heading towards the water when the road twists and turns. Right before the Fayette Station Road bridge there is a little pull off. Park your car there and walk across this bridge for stunning views of the New River and New River Gorge Bridge. Once you are back in the car, drive across the Fayette Station Road Bridge and park in the larger parking lot. This is a great time to get out and let the kids play in Wolf Creek and skip rocks. There is also restrooms here if needed. There will be multiple scenic pull offs the rest of the way, and more waterfalls than you can count! At the end, you can put Long Point Trailhead into the GPS and it is not far from the end of the scenic drive😊
Long Point Trail– This trail is 3.2 miles roundtrip (1.6 miles there and 1.6 miles back). This trail is moderate in difficulty and is mostly through forest until the very end when you get to the beautiful 360 views at the lookout point. Again, you are on the very edge of a steep cliff so you will need to watch your step and keep your kids close at the lookout point since there are no guardrails at the cliff edges. If you rented or brought mountain bikes with you this is a great trail to take them on. There is a place to park them near the end, where you will need to walk the last 0.2 miles. While this trail is spectacular, the end may not be for those who are afraid of heights. Also, when you are enjoying the view of the bridge at the lookout point make sure you find all the waterfalls in the distance on the other cliff edges!
Fayetteville– A cute little town you will pass through on the way to the Long Point Trail and would be a great place to grab dinner before heading back to your lodging for the night!
This day’s activities are dependent on your kids ages.
Walk the Bridge- If your crew isn’t afraid of heights and 8 years old and over you can actually walk the New River Gorge Bridge on a catwalk while fastened to a safety cable. Reservations can be made here- Bridge Walk.
Rock Climbing/Rafting- Again, if you have children 8 and over, you definitely need to either get on the water via rafting or kayaking or up on the cliffs, rock climbing. Adventures on the Gorge has a great website and lovely adventure specialists to help you book the perfect activity.
Summerville Lake- If you have little ones under 8, I would recommend Summerville Lake. There is a swimming area at Battle Run Beach.
Nuttallburg Trails Area
Headhouse Trail– If you were looking to get a hike in today this is the area I would choose. This trail is 1.4 miles roundtrip and the NPS map has it marked as moderate, which I agree with on the way down to the mine site but getting back to the parking lot is 0.7 miles uphill. Even though this trail is short, I would be prepared for taking your time on the way back up.
Tipple Trail- This 1.2-mile round trip trail is an easy trail and is another great place to learn about and see the Nuttallburg coal mining structures.
Cunard, Thurmond, Stone Cliff Area
25/Dunloup Creek- On the way to the Stone Cliff Area you will be driving several miles along the beautiful Dunloup Creek. It is sometimes difficult to see down into the creek from your car so you will want to take advantage of the small pull off areas because there are several falls and bridges you won’t want to miss! Also, this was the only area and trails where we had absolutely no cell service. We lost service about 3/4ths of the way down WV 25 and never had service back until we left the area the same way we came later that day. Also, just before you would cross over New River on the bridge, stay straight on the gravel road instead of turning left onto the bridge (the map says turn right but that would take you straight into rock). Just stay straight on the gravel road and go down the hill where you can park at the farthest part of the parking lot. There you should see signs for Stone Cliff Trail. This area is pretty isolated compared to every other area we visited. We only saw one couple the entire 5 hours we were there.
Stone Cliff Trail- This easy to moderate trail is 5.4 miles roundtrip. My kids easily walked this on their own. It was honestly one of my favorite trails. You have forest on one side of you and the New River on the other. Also, if you didn’t have time for the whole 5.4 miles, it’s an out and back trail so you could easily walk however far you wanted and then turn around at any point😊
Beach/Lunch– After you hike the Stone Cliff Trail there is a short boardwalk off of the parking lot, by the picnic tables, with stairs leading down to a beach area. We ate lunch and let the kids play in the sand and water here for quite some time! There are also restrooms near the parking lot.
Grandview Rim Trail– This trail is 3.2 miles, and you can pick it up in either the Main Overlook parking lot or the Turkey Spur parking lot. We parked at the Main Overlook parking lot because the Tunnel Trail Trailhead is also located there. This trail is moderate in difficulty because of a few steep sections but the overlooks on this trail are spectacular!
Tunnel Trail- You can pick up this trail right near the main lookout area at Grandview. It is a 0.5-mile loop that is moderate in difficulty and mostly shaded and cool, even when it is warm out otherwise. My kids loved this trail! It has lots of rocks to climb and tunnels to peek into😊
Glade Creek Area
Glade Creek Trail/Kates Falls Trail- This combo trail is just under 9 miles roundtrip. If you did all of the Glade Creek Trail with the Kates Falls Trail it would be closer to 12 miles, but we started at the northern trailhead and hiked as far as the Kates Falls Trail and then hiked back out. The Glade Creek Trail is moderate in difficulty but very doable with small children. My kiddos love water and with this trail you follow the creek the whole way and get to see plenty of waterfalls! We packed our lunch and brought plenty of water and snacks so we could eat on the trail since this is a half day adventure with little ones in tow. The Kates Falls Trail portion of this hike is marked strenuous but is very short (0.2 miles) and takes you to the beautiful Kates Falls😊
Brooks and Sandstone Area
This area was a much longer drive than any of the other areas we visited but it should not be skipped. Plus, you will have great views of New River the whole way and get to drive through the charming little town of Hinton!
Sandstone Falls Overlook- This scenic overlook is a must see! There is a small pull off on WV 20 and a small sign that says scenic overlook. You will have to walk down a steep hill to the overlook area, but the falls below are amazing!
Sandstone Falls Boardwalk-This short trail at 0.2 miles is easy and stroller accessible. This was everyone’s favorite trail. You get phenomenal views of New River’s largest waterfall!
Island Loop Trail– This easy 0.5-mile trail can be hopped on straight from the boardwalk. This trail is not stroller accessible but easy enough for any little ones.
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!