If you are planning your New River Gorge National Park itinerary, this is a great place to start. There are many different ways to plan the “perfect New River Gorge itinerary,” depending on your interests and how much time you have.
The things to do in New River Gorge National Park are scattered along the New River. To get from place to place, you will do a fair amount of driving, so it takes several days to thoroughly explore this park. Adding on adventures like whitewater rafting and rock climbing adds on even more time, as does several great destinations right outside of the national park.
In this guide, we provide several New River Gorge itineraries, ranging from one day to three days. If you only have one day, learn how to visit the highlights. And if you are lucky to have more time, we have suggestions for that, too.
About this New River Gorge National Park Itinerary
New River Gorge National Park can be visited all year, but these itineraries work the best from April through October. During this time, the visitor centers are open and whitewater rafting tours are operating, not to mention that the weather is warm.
You will need to rent a car in order to get around the park. A standard vehicle is sufficient and there is no need to rent a 4×4 or SUV, as all of the roads are paved.
If you plan to go whitewater rafting, do the Bridge Walk, or go rock climbing with a guide, these need to be reserved in advance.
How to Plan Your New River Gorge National Park Itinerary
A Quick Geography Lesson
Best Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
How Many Days Do You Need?
How to Get to New River Gorge National Park
One Day in New River Gorge: The Highlights
Two Days in New River Gorge
Three Days in New River Gorge
Tips for Planning Your Trip
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Where are You Going Next?
While in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.
A Quick Geography Lesson
The main sights in New River Gorge sit in clusters along the New River. It may not look like it, but these sights are located a fair distance from one another. Plus, there are several great state parks that are located on the New River and these make great additions to your New River Gorge itinerary.
Here are the main sections of the park and the sights you can visit in each of them.
CANYON RIM: Located at the north end of New River Gorge National Park, this is where you will find New River Gorge Bridge, numerous hiking and biking trails, one very scenic drive (Fayette Station Road), and several historic coal mining sights. If you only have one day in New River Gorge National Park, this is a great place to spend your time.
THURMOND HISTORIC DISTRICT: With one overlook and an abandoned mining town, this area is only worth visiting if you have an interest in the history of the area and/or a lot of time.
GRANDVIEW: This is our favorite area of the park. With one of the best views of the New River and two of the best hiking trails in the park, this is a great place to spend half of a day in New River Gorge National Park.
SANDSTONE: Sandstone Falls is the most impressive waterfall in the park. Located at the southern end of New River Gorge National Park, not only can you visit this waterfall but you can also go on another scenic drive and visit the historic town of Hinton.
NEARBY STATE PARKS: Hawks Nest State Park and Babcock State Park sit just outside of the national park boundary and make great additions to your visit to New River Gorge National Park.
On this map from the National Park Service, I highlighted the main areas of New River Gorge National Park and nearby destinations.
Best Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
Here is a list of the best things to do in New River Gorge National Park:
- New River Gorge Bridge Walk: Walk on a 24 inch wide catwalk under the New River Gorge Bridge, one of the highest bridges in the USA.
- Go whitewater rafting on the New River
- Go mountain biking or rock climbing
- Visit the overlooks at Canyon Rim Visitor Center
- Hike the Endless Wall Trail
- Hike the Kaymoor Miners Trail
- Hike to Long Point for one of the best views of the New River Gorge Bridge
- Visit the park on Bridge Day
- Drive Fayette Station Road
- Visit Grandview Overlook
- Hike the Castle Rock Trail
- Visit Sandstone Falls
For a detailed list of the best things to do in New River Gorge, and many more photos, take a look at our article 20 Amazing Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park.
How Many Days Do You Need in New River Gorge National Park?
If you want to visit the three main areas of New River Gorge National Park (Canyon Rim, Grandview and Sandstone) and have enough time to go whitewater rafting, you will need a minimum of three days.
The hikes are short and it does not take much time to visit the overlooks, but because the park is so spread out and divided up into individual sections, you will spend a lot of time driving from place to place.
If you only have one day in New River Gorge National Park, I recommend visiting the overlooks at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, hiking the Endless Wall Trail or the Long Point Trail, maybe doing the Bridge Walk, and then ending the day at Grandview.
If you have two days in New River Gorge National Park, spend your first day at Canyon Rim. Visit the overlooks, hike one or two trails, do the Bridge Walk, and drive Fayette Station Road. On day 2, go whitewater rafting or mountain biking in the morning and spend the afternoon in Grandview and/or Sandstone.
With three days in New River Gorge National Park, hike the Long Point Trail and Endless Wall Trail, visit Babcock State Park, visit the overlooks at Canyon Rim Visitor Center, and then drive Fayette Station Road. If it interests you, visit Concho Rim Overlook and the Thurmond Historic District. On day 2, go whitewater rafting, rock climbing, or mountain biking in the morning and walk the Bridge Walk or go hiking in the afternoon. On day 3, visit the Grandview and Sandstone areas of the park.
How to Get to New River Gorge National Park
The closest airport is in Charleston, West Virginia, which is 60 miles from the park.
Combining New River Gorge National Park with other nearby sights makes a great road trip. Here are the driving distances and times to nearby destinations:
- Charleston, West Virginia: 60 miles, 1.25 hours
- Roanoke, Virginia: 110 miles, 2 hours
- Natural Bridge, Virginia: 122 miles, 2 hours
- Shenandoah National Park (southern entrance): 150 miles, 2.25 hours
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 250 miles, 4 hours
- Asheville, North Carolina: 240 miles, 4 hours
One Day in New River Gorge: The Highlights
If you only have one day in New River Gorge, I recommend starting on Canyon Rim. Ideally, get an early start (no later than 8 am), to give yourself plenty of time.
In the morning, take your pick from the Endless Wall Trail (2.8 miles, 1 to 2hours) and the Long Point Trail (3 miles, 1 to 2 hours). Both hikes offer great views of the New River Gorge and they are two of the most popular hikes in the park. For many visitors, the Endless Wall Trail tends to be the favorite, because of its great overlooks of the New River Gorge. But if you want an awesome view of the New River Gorge Bridge, then put the Long Point Trail on your to-do list.
Endless Wall Trail
The view of the New River Gorge Bridge from the Long Point Trail
After your hike, visit the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and walk out to the overlooks for great views of the New River Gorge Bridge.
From the Visitor Center, drive Fayette Station Road. This road starts on the rim and drops down to the New River. From the shore of the New River, you get unbeatable views of the New River Gorge Bridge. Fayette Station road then winds up the opposite side of the rim, ending near Fayetteville. Note: Fayette Station Road is one-way only, starting near the Visitor Center and ending near Fayetteville.
Have lunch in Fayetteville. We recommend the Cathedral Café (if you didn’t have breakfast here earlier today), Wanderlust Creativefoods, and Station Market and Bistro. Just note that some of these restaurants can be closed Monday, Tuesday and/or Wednesday.
In the afternoon, you can either do the Bridge Walk (a 3 hour guided walk of the catwalk underneath the New River Gorge Bridge) or visit Grandview. At Grandview, visit Grandview Overlook for one of the best views of the New River, hike the Castle Rock Trail Loop (our favorite hike in the park), and the Tunnel Trail.
If you are really doing well on time, end the day at Sandstone Falls.
Two Day New River Gorge Itinerary
Follow the one day itinerary listed above.
Pick your adventure. In the morning, go whitewater rafting, rent mountain bikes and bike the trails, or go rock climbing.
In the afternoon, you can do the Bridge Walk (if you did not do that on day one), or visit Grandview and/or Sandstone (if you did not do that on day one).
Three Day New River Gorge Itinerary
Below we list a detailed three day New River Gorge itinerary. This covers the highlights in the park plus visits to both Babcock State Park and Hawks Nest State Park.
The listed times are approximate and give you an idea of how much time to spend at each place.
How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (places to go and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Day 1: Canyon Rim & Babcock State Park
This itinerary has time set aside for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, you can either pack a picnic lunch or detour to Fayetteville midday. The detour to Fayetteville will add a little extra driving distance and time to the day (the best time to add in lunch in Fayetteville is between the Endless Wall Trail hike and Babcock State Park).
8:00 am: Breakfast at Cathedral Café in Fayetteville
Start your day with breakfast at the Cathedral Café. This small restaurant is located inside of a historic cathedral and they are the top rated restaurant in Fayetteville for breakfast and lunch. Everything we ate here was wonderful and my favorite thing on the menu was the Chai tea.
Note: If you prefer to hike the trails without the crowds, skip breakfast and start at the Long Point Trail. The two hikes we list today, the Long Point Trail and the Endless Wall Trail, are the two most popular trails in the park, so it can be challenging to find a parking space from late morning to early afternoon. You can hike the Long Point Trail at 7:30 am and have brunch at Cathedral Café after the hike.
9:00 am: Drive to Long Point Trailhead
From Fayetteville, it takes 15 minutes to drive to the Long Point trailhead.
9:15 am: Hike Long Point Trail
This hike is 3 miles out-and-back and offers one of the best views of the New River Gorge Bridge. For great lighting, wait until mid-morning to do this hike (that’s the main reason why we recommend starting off your day with a breakfast…but the food is great too 😊).
Long Point Trail
11:00 am: Drive to Endless Wall Trailhead
From the Long Point trailhead, it takes 15 minutes to drive to the Endless Wall trailhead.
11:15 am: Hike Endless Wall Trail
You can hike the Endless Wall Trail as a loop (3 miles) or out-and-back (2.2 miles). We recommend hiking it out-and-back. You still get to see the awesome views of the New River Gorge but hiking it out-and-back saves you a boring 0.5-mile walk along Lansing-Edmond Road.
There are two trailheads for this hike. The Endless Wall Trail is the more popular of the two trailheads and finding a parking space here can be challenging. Alternatively, park at the Nuttall Parking lot. Fewer people park here and it is the same distance out to Diamond Point, the main overlook on the Endless Wall Trail. See our New River Gorge Hiking Guide for maps and more information.
12:45 pm: Drive to Babcock State Park
From the Endless Wall Trail, it takes 30 minutes to drive to Babcock State Park.
1:15 pm: See Glade Creek Grist Mill
Once at Babcock State Park, park in the main parking lot and it is a very short walk to viewpoints of the Glade Creek Grist Mill. It takes just 15 minutes to enjoy the view but you can stay longer, of course.
Glade Creek Grist Mill
1:30 pm: Drive to Canyon Rim Visitor Center
From Babcock State Park, it takes 30 minutes to drive to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center.
2:00 pm: Canyon Rim Visitor Center
There are two overlooks at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. To get to the overlooks, follow the signs to “Scenic View” from the parking lot.
The upper overlook is just a short, easy walk from the parking lot. Here is the view.
To get to the lower overlook, you will walk down 178 steps for an even better view of the New River Gorge Bridge. Just remember, it’s a stair climb back to the parking lot.
View from the lower overlook.
The Visitor Center is a great place to talk to a park ranger if you have any questions, need to use the restroom, or buy some souvenirs. You can also pick up a CD for the Fayette Station Road drive, which you will do next.
2:30 pm: Drive Fayette Station Road
This narrow, one-way road starts near the Visitor Center and ends on the opposite side of the New River.
As it descends down to the New River, the road crosses under the New River Gorge Bridge, makes several tight turns, and offers nice views of the bridge and the river.
You will cross the New River on the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge and at Fayette Station, you can park and walk out onto the rocks for awesome views of the New River Gorge Bridge.
Beyond Fayette Station, the road climbs back up to the rim.
With stops, this drive takes between an hour and an hour and a half. This road is not suitable for RV’s, trailers, or large vehicles.
The remainder of this one day itinerary is optional. Visiting Concho Rim and the Thurmond Historic District adds a lot of driving to the day, and for some people, this may not be worth it. But if you want to visit these places, today is the best day to do it, since they are located closer to Canyon Rim than other sights in the park.
4:00 pm: Drive to Concho Rim Overlook
From the end of Fayette Station Road, it takes 30 minutes to drive to the Concho Rim Overlook.
4:30 pm: Concho Rim Overlook
This viewpoint is very quick to visit. From here, you get a nice view of a horseshoe bend in the New River and a view of the Thurmond Historic District.
Concho Rim Overlook
4:45 pm: Drive to Thurmond
From Concho Rim Overlook, it takes 30 minutes to drive to the Thurmond Historic District.
5:15 pm: Visit Thurmond
In the early 1900’s, Thurmond was a bustling, busy town. Coal was brought in from the nearby mines and shipped out via the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. This was one of the richest towns in West Virginia and in 1910 it was the main railroad center on the C & O Railway.
Later, as coal production began to decline, the town closed down. Now what remains are the historic buildings…boarding houses, the banks, saloons, and hotels.
Once in Thurmond, it takes about 30 minutes to walk along the train tracks, viewing these buildings. For the best experience, the National Park Service website has a walking tour with nine sites to visit.
5:45 pm: Dinner and Return to Your Hotel or Campsite
End your day with dinner. Fayetteville and Beckley both have some great restaurants to choose from. We have recommended restaurants for lunch and dinner at the end of this itinerary, or you can skip ahead now.
Day 2: Choose Your Adventure(s)
Below we list six different things to do and places to explore. Most of these can be done in half of a day, so you can combine two of them into one action packed day.
#1 Go Whitewater Rafting
Well before New River Gorge became a national park, the New River has been a top spot for whitewater rafters.
There are two sections to the New River. The upper section (southern part of the river) of the New River is slower and more tranquil. The river is wider and has easy rapids up to Class III. If you are new to whitewater rafting, this is a good place to start. The Lower Gorge, which is the northern section of the river, has much larger rapids, from Class III to Class V, with many more obstacles.
The main season runs from April through October but there are rafting trips all year.
There are several commercial companies that offer guided whitewater rafting trips. For the full list, click here.
#2 Do the Bridge Walk
For one of the most thrilling experiences in New River Gorge National Park, you can walk on the catwalk that is located 25 feet below the New River Gorge Bridge.
This can only be done on a tour. Tours last 3 hours and are offered throughout the day. To do this, visitors wear a harness which is attached to a safety line that spans the length of the bridge. As you slowly walk under the bridge, your guide gives interesting facts about the bridge and the area.
Tours are offered by Bridge Walk and start at $72. Book your tour in advance because this is one of the most popular things to do in New River Gorge National Park.
#3 Hike the Kaymoor Miner’s Trail
Distance: 1.6 miles out-and-back | Difficulty: Strenuous | Total Ascent: 1,000 feet | Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
This hiking trail starts on the upper rim of the gorge and rapidly descends towards the river. It takes you to a historic coal mine, the Kaymoor One Mining Complex.
The Kaymoor Miner’s Trail is one of the toughest hikes in the park. It starts off with a steep descent to the top of the mining complex. And then you’ll walk down 819 steps to coal processing plant.
Since this is an out-and-back trail, to get back to your car, you will walk back up nearly 1,000 steps (there are also a few short series of stairs on the upper hiking trail as well). Maybe we are crazy, but there was something fun about hiking back up those endless staircases.
#4 Go Mountain Biking
Mountain biking is one of the best things to do in New River Gorge National Park.
The Arrowhead Trails are a network of 13 miles of trails that loop through the Craig Branch Area, which sits right next to the Long Point Trail and Kaymoor Miners Trail. These were constructed by Order of the Arrow (the Boy Scouts of America national honor society) in 2011.
For a full list of mountain biking trails in the park, visit the National Park Service website.
If you need to rent a bike, the best place to do so is at the Arrowhead Bike Farm and Campground. This bike rental facility has a convenient location near the Arrowhead trails. They also run a campground and a restaurant (the Handle Bar). Their outdoor patio is a great place to hang out at the end of the day.
#5 Go Rock Climbing
The sandstone cliffs at New River Gorge National Park create one of the top rock climbing destinations in the United States. There are over 1,400 established climbing sites here.
The main climbing season runs from April through October, although it is possible to climb all year.
#6 Visit Hawks Nest State Park
Hawks Nest State Park is located on the New River just north of New River Gorge National Park. With a half of a day, you can visit the overlooks, ride on the jet boat for a view of the New River Gorge Bridge, and hike the Cliff Side Trail.
JET BOAT RIDE ON THE NEW RIVER: On a 30-minute tour, ride on a jet boat on the New River to a viewpoint of the New River Gorge Bridge. Tours are offered Thursday through Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) from June through October. Tickets cost $25 for adults. They run on a first-come first-serve basis and tickets can be purchased at the Hawks Nest State Park Lodge or at the dock. For updated pricing and hours, visit the official website.
View of the New River Gorge Bridge from the jet boat ride.
OVERLOOKS OF THE NEW RIVER: Lover’s Leap Overlook is located at the Hawks Nest Visitor Center and from here you have a nice view of the New River, although you can’t quite see the New River Gorge Bridge. From Hawks Nest Overlook, you get a view of the New River and Hawks Nest Dam.
Hawks Nest Overlook
CLIFF SIDE TRAIL: This 1.8 mile loop hike takes you along sandstone cliffs, similar to the Castle Rock Trail, and offers views over the New River and Hawks Nest Dam.
Cliff Side Trail
Day 3: Explore the Southern End of New River Gorge National Park
9:00 am: Castle Rock Trail to Grandview Rim Trail Loop
Day three of this New River Gorge itinerary starts off in the Grandview section of the park.
The Castle Rock Trail and Grandview Rim Trail Loop is a 1-mile loop hike that takes you along sandstone ledges and viewpoints of the New River. It’s an underrated hike and our favorite hike in the park. For more information, and more photos, check out our New River Gorge Hiking Guide.
Castle Rock Trail
Rhododendrons along the Grandview Rim Trail
9:45 am: Hike the Tunnel Trail
This hike starts next to the Castle Trail and Grandview Rim Trail Loop. It’s just 0.6 miles long, easy, and takes you out to more beautiful sandstone ledges.
10:15 am: Grandview Overlook
The Grandview Overlook is an awesome viewpoint of the New River Gorge. It is located very close to the trailheads for the two hiking trails listed above, so you can do this before and/or after hiking the Castle Trail and Tunnel Trail. If you wait until mid-morning, the sun will be higher in the sky, a better time to take photographs from this spot.
10:30 am: Turkey Spur Overlook
From the Grandview parking lot, get back into your car and drive Turkey Spur Road to the very end (about 5 minutes). Park in the lot and walk the viewpoints over the New River. There are several series of steps and boardwalk trails that lead to several different overlooks.
Boardwalk Trails at Turkey Spur Overlook
11:00 am: Drive to Sandstone
Next, drive to the Sandstone area of New River Gorge National Park. On the drive to Sandstone, you will pass a few scenic overlooks and have the chance to stop in Hinton for lunch.
The only way to get to Sandstone Falls is to drive WV-20 south to Hinton, cross the New River, and then take New River Road north towards Sandstone Falls. This drive takes just over an hour without stops.
At the start of this drive, you have the option to stop in at the Sandstone Visitor Center, which has information about the New River watershed and the cultural history of the indigenous people in this area.
11:30 am: Sandstone Falls Overlook
This is the first overlook on WV-20 as you drive towards Hinton. From here, you will look out over Sandstone Falls.
11:40 am: Drive to Brooks Overlook
The second overlook is Brooks Overlook. It takes just 5 minutes to drive here and from this overlook, you have a view of Brooks Island, an eagle nesting site.
11:50 am: Drive to Hinton Historic District
From Brooks Overlook, it takes 15 minutes to drive to Hinton.
12:05 pm: Lunch in Hinton
There are several restaurants in Hinton where you can take a break and stop for lunch. We ate at Market on Courthouse Square and recommend it.
1:00 pm: Drive to Sandstone Falls
From Hinton, cross the New River and drive New River Road north to Sandstone Falls (15 minutes).
1:15 pm: Sandstone Falls Boardwalk and Trails
Sandstone Falls is the largest waterfall on the New River. From a series of boardwalk trails and bridges, you get views of both the upper and lower falls.
From the parking lot, follow the boardwalk trail to the very end. There are several viewpoints from the boardwalk that are very nice.
Just before you reach the end of the boardwalk, there will be steps that lead off of the boardwalk to the right. This connects you to the trails that lead you to the lower and upper falls. We spent about an hour here, hiking to the viewpoints and taking photos. In our New River Gorge Hiking Guide, we have more information about the viewpoints and more photos of Sandstone Falls.
There is another trail in this area, the Island Loop Trail, which we did not hike, since it leads away from the falls and looks like it just winds through a forest.
2:15 pm: Drive to Your Next Destination
From Sandstone Falls, you can return to Fayetteville, Beckley, or your campsite, or continue on to your next destination.
Tips for Planning Your Trip
National Park Fee: There is no fee to enter New River Gorge National Park.
Hours of Operation: The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Many visitor centers have seasonal hours of operation.
If you plan to go whitewater rafting, do the Bridge Walk, rent a mountain bike, or go rock climbing with a guide, make sure you book these activities in advance.
On the third Saturday in October, the New River Gorge Bridge closes for Bridge Day. This is one of the largest extreme sporting events in the world, as BASE jumpers leap from the bridge and rappellers descend from the catwalk. It’s a great time to visit the park, just be prepared for larger than normal crowds (over 100,000 people attend Bridge Day!!).
April through October is the best time for this New River Gorge itinerary, when the weather is warm and whitewater rafting trips are offered. We were here on October 18 to 21 and the fall colors were just getting started.
Get updates on road conditions and trail closures, as you plan your trip and just before your visit, on the National Park Service website.
Where to Stay
There is no lodging inside of the park. There are primitive camping sites in the park, but these have limited restroom facilities and no drinking water. Learn more about the campsites here. There are also camping sites at nearby state parks (Babcock and Hawks Nest).
Fayetteville is the gateway into New River Gorge National Park. This is the one of the most convenient locations to stay but lodging is limited. The Quality Inn New River Gorge gets the best reviews and it is just minutes from the New River Gorge Bridge.
We stayed in Beckley (because of its large number of hotels) and ate most of our meals in Fayetteville. In Beckley, we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott but the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn also get good reviews. From Beckley, it’s a 30 minute drive to most of the sights in the park.
Where to Eat
Fayetteville has a great location, both for lunch and for dinner, especially if you will be in the Canyon Rim area of the park. We had a great dinner at Wanderlust Creativefoods. Definitely check out Cathedral Café & Book Store, a great place for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Station Market and Bistro also makes a nice lunch spot. We also recommend Pies and Pints (great pizzas!) and Wood Iron Eatery.
Note: Many restaurants in Fayetteville are not open 7 days a week. Many were closed Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday.
Just outside of Fayetteville, the Handle Bar has an outdoor patio and offers lunch and dinner. This restaurant is part of the Arrowhead Bike Farm and Campground.
In Beckley, Campestre Mexican Grill, the Char, and Dobra Zupas get good reviews.
Where are You Going Next?
If your visit to New River Gorge National Park is part of a bigger road trip, here is some more information about nearby national parks and destinations.
NEW RIVER GORGE: 20 Best Things to Do in New River Gorge National Park
NEW RIVER GORGE: 6 Great Hikes to Do in New River Gorge National Park
GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS: A Weekend in Gatlinburg & Great Smoky Mountains National Park
ASHEVILLE: A Weekend Getaway to Asheville, North Carolina
SHENANDOAH: Best Things to Do in Shenandoah National Park
APPALACHIAN TRAIL: How to Hike the McAfee Knob Trail
KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL: Kentucky Bourbon Trail Itinerary: Suggestions for 1 Day to 1 Week
WASHINGTON DC: One Day Walking Tour of Washington, DC
If you have any questions about this New River Gorge itinerary, let us know in the comment section below.
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