The first time we visited Fayetteville, WV, in 2019, New River Gorge National Park wasn’t yet a national park! Previously designated a National River, the 70,000 acres surrounding the New River (actually one of the oldest in the world) was promoted to national park in 2020.
There’s a lot of natural and human history in the park, and of course the river and the gorge offer a slew of entertainment options from rafting to climbing to hiking to biking.
And, of course, there’s the BRIDGE. I love that bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge was built from 1974 to 1977, soaring almost 900 feet over the river. With a span of 3030 feet and an arch length of 1700 feet, it’s the longest single-span arch bridge outside of China. Every October, the bridge is shut down for Bridge Day, the only day it’s open to pedestrians–and also to BASE jumpers parachuting into the gorge below. It’s both WV’s largest one-day festival, and the world’s largest extreme sports event.
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. Get your first big view of the bridge from the visitor center overlook! While this *is* a national park, good news: your dog is welcome on the hiking trails.
If you’re staying in Fayetteville while visiting the gorge, get some eating/drinking/camping ideas from our Fayetteville posts:
This short list of hiking trails is aimed at hikers with limited time in the area in search of maximum bang for the buck. Over a few visits, we’ve hiked several different trails, with one clear favorite, Long Point. The trailheads are generally short drives from town, and most trails are easy well-groomed paths through the woods, often 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.
This is the trail we try to do each time we visit Fayetteville! If you read our various Fayetteville posts, you’ll see that a favorite activity for our family of three is to get a biscuit at Biscuit World and hike out to Long Point for a picnic breakfast.
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!
Grandview section: Rim Trail + Castle Rock Trail
Grandview is a detached section of the park forty-five minutes south of Fayetteville, with a few gorge overlooks, several hiking trails, a big picnic/playground area, and lots of parking (we were easily able to park the Airstream there).
A loop of the Rim Trail to Turkey Spur Rock, returning on Castle Rock Trail, is a pleasant, if not secluded (the Rim Trail runs along the park road for much of its length) 4.5ish miles with vistas of a different section of the gorge than you’re used to from the main section of the park. Castle Rock Trail was much more of a “real” hike than the Rim Trail.
Upper Butcher Branch Falls
Looking for something different from a hike with a view of the gorge (why?), we 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, but otherwise we don’t recommend it.
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.
Rafting and biking
These are on our New River Gorge to-do list! We’ll report back!