After Asheville, the next stop on our way to the Misty Mountain Music Festival was Fayetteville, WV. Fayetteville is a fun little town, crammed with bikers, climbers, and hikers, and many food and drink and gear places to support all those active people. And Fayetteville has the New River Gorge and THE BRIDGE. The New River Gorge Bridge is the star of the West Virginia state quarter, and for many years it was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge (it’s still the western hemisphere’s). I may have been borderline obsessed with that bridge. My feelings toward it reminded me of how I felt about the Arch. Could not get enough.
Speaking of the bridge, you may have heard of Bridge Day: every third Saturday in October a zillion people descend upon Fayetteville to watch BASE jumpers throw themselves off the bridge. It’s a unique festival at a gorgeous time of year, but you’ll need to book your campsite way in advance, and hiking options will be limited as the highway across the bridge is shut down all day Saturday for the cuckoo jumpers. Just something to be aware of if you’re planning a fall visit to Fayetteville.
Rifrafters Campground was a delight. It’s shady, quiet, and friendly, and only about a five-minute drive from the center of Fayetteville, and less than ten to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and the bridge. We would definitely stay there again.
Exploring the New River Gorge
Your first stop in Fayetteville should be at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center to get your bearings and any maps or advice you need from the rangers, and to stamp your National Parks passport if you’re cool like me. Get your first big view of the bridge from the visitor center overlook! The National Park Service manages the land around the gorge as the New River Gorge National River, but fear not: your dog is welcome on the hiking trails.
This short list of hiking trails is aimed at hikers with limited time in the area in search of maximum bang for the buck. We chose Long Point and Endless Wall and would recommend both. The trailheads are short drives from town, and both trails are easy well-groomed paths through the woods with big views of the gorge.
Long Point Trail is a three-mile out-and-back with an incredible view of the bridge from the rocky end of Long Point, high over the river. Somehow we had the point all to ourselves (except for yellow jackets, watch out) and could take our time snacking and posing Bugsy for 800 photos.
Endless Wall weaves in and out of the woods along the rim of the gorge, popping you out to overlooks here and there from where you can see the gorge cliffs snaking along the river. We thought Diamond Point Overlook was the best. We hiked Endless Wall as an out-and-back along the top of the cliff, but if you don’t have your dog with you, consider taking the climbing access ladders down to the base of the cliffs as described in this trail guide. Adventure!
For our last hike we wanted something different, so chose a waterfall hike to Upper Butcher Branch Falls. It’s a short out-and-back, under a mile, but it’s steep… and our reward was a dry creek! A popular climbing wall is just beyond the “falls” and it was neat to watch the climbers as we mentally prepared to climb back up to the car. The rhododendrons on this trail are impressive; I bet this would be a spectacular late Spring hike.
If you’re a hardcore hiker, you may think a driving tour is lame, but this one is cool. Pick up the map for the Fayette Station Road Tour at the Visitor Center and experience what it was like to drive across the gorge before the big bridge. It’s eight winding miles (do NOT take your trailer) down to the New River and across the old Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (I was surprised to see when I googled Tunney Hunsaker that he was Cassius Clay’s first professional boxing opponent!). The remains of the mining towns Fayette and South Fayette are on either side of the old bridge (we couldn’t spot anything beneath the heavy riverside vegetation though). We enjoyed climbing around on the big boulders in the river and looking up at the big bridge high above us. Driving up the other side of the gorge, look for Marr Branch Falls and Wolf Creek Falls just off the road.
Eating and Drinking in Fayetteville
Drinking: Beer and coffee
We were in Fayetteville at the tail end of high tourist season, so most places–eating, drinking, and hiking–were on the quiet side. I imagine when the crowds are around, Arrowhead Bike Farm is hopping. They’ll feed you, beer you, rent you bikes, guide you on rides on their own trail network or into the Gorge, and rent you a tent site. We stopped for a beer after hiking nearby and dug the dog-friendly, laid-back vibe as we drank a good IPA from WV brewery Weathered Ground.
The new outdoor tasting room at Bridge Brew Works was empty on the weekday afternoon we visited, but it’s a pretty setting outside of town and would be a fun place to relax on a nice day. There’s no indoors to the taproom, so visiting in the winter may not be ideal. We liked the place more than the beer: the IPA and pale ale we tried were just ok.
Freefolk Brewery is in town and has both indoor (it’s cool in there) and outdoor (it’s small out there) seating and a bunch of their beers on tap. We tried two IPAs, but I didn’t try what I really wanted due to dinner plans: FISH TACOS.
To fuel our wanderings around town we popped into Rangefinder Coffee in the back of Water Stone Outdoors. It was fun to browse the outdoor gear (including a dog belay harness! Bugsy says no way.) while waiting, and the people there are experts on the adventure opportunities in the area… but holy cow my latte was expensive.
If you’re taking your coffee for a walk, cross the street to perhaps the most striking building in Fayetteville, the Fayette County Courthouse, and pose your dog/cat/child/spouse in front of one of the murals around town.
Eating: Food and more beer
Every article and post I read about Fayetteville said to go to Secret Sandwich Society. Now this one does too: go to Secret Sandwich Society. My veggie burger and fries were delicious. J was less crazy about his meatloaf sandwich, but his chips were yummy. SSS has outdoor seating, but no dogs are allowed.
As soon as I saw the name Burrito Bar I knew we had to go, but in addition to burritos you also get sunsets, local beer, and live music on the big deck. The curry burrito special was out of this world, as was drinking a beer while watching the sun set (pictured at the top of the food and drink section).
A few people told us to go to Pies & Pints; we didn’t have any eating spots left in our schedule so we popped by for a beverage to check it out. The Fayetteville location is the original store of a chain spreading throughout the southeast, and was bustling at dinnertime. The pizzas looked great and they have lots of beers and ciders in bottles and on tap, including a good number from WV, but the brightly lit pizza-parlor feel wasn’t for us.
And finally, on our last morning in Fayetteville, we HAD to get breakfast from Biscuit World! You may be aware of our feelings about Biscuitville, a regional chain based in NC; Biscuit World is also a small chain, with locations in WV, OH, and KY, and the two businesses seem to have a lot in common. Of course we had to try it. The verdict: YUM, similar to BV, but the biscuits are doughier. BV wins! (I might have liked BW’s coffee a bit better though… shhhhhh…)