Photo: Sean Pavone

5 Great Hikes in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Almost heaven. Wild and wonderful.

These aren’t just empty tourist slogans for West Virginia; they accurately describe the Mountain State, which is full of seemingly endless forests, Class V whitewater rivers and world-class rock climbing. And all of these superlatives apply to one of the state’s single, signature destinations: the New River Gorge. 

Though it’s now America’s newest national park, the New has long been a popular destination for paddlers and climbers, with 53 miles of the river within the park and thousands of established rock climbing routes. Plus the relatively new mountain biking scene is continually growing. But the New River Gorge is no slouch when it comes to hiking. More than 100 miles of trails take you through forests, to beautiful waterfalls and to scenic vistas. Here are a few standout trails to get you started. 

1. Get a hikers-only view from Long Point

The Long Point Trail is the ultra-classic hike at the New. Coming in at 3.2 miles round-trip and relatively flat for West Virginia, it’s quite accessible to any reasonably fit person. Start at the trailhead parking on Newton Road and walk through a predominantly deciduous forest full of evergreen rhododendron bushes (come in June to see them flowering). The trail follows the ridgetop and gently descends to Long Point, a sandstone rock outcropping with a hikers-only view of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge. You are nearly 1,000 feet above the river, but you’re still close enough to hear the rushing whitewater and the whoops from the rafters below. Pack a lunch, because it’s worth hanging out at Long Point for a while. Be ready to step out of the way once you’ve scored the perfect selfie so others can do the same. For landscape photos, both sunrise and sunset are excellent here. 

2. Find out why it’s called Endless Wall

The Endless Wall trail is named after the seemingly unending cliffline of sandstone that’s up to 100 feet tall. Following the rim of the gorge, this trail is also relatively flat with sections that provide excellent views of Endless Wall itself and the New River below. Start at the Fern Creek trailhead on Lansing-Edmond Road—the parking lot is small, so on weekends, plan to arrive early or later in the afternoon. Begin by walking through a forest of giant hemlock trees and then cross a footbridge over the rocky, rushing Fern Creek. At about Mile 1, arrive at Diamond Point, which provides the most unobstructed views of Endless Wall and the New River. Turn back here or continue the full length of trail for a 4.6-mile round-trip hike. While hiking, you’ll see marked climbing access trails. You can take these trails to ladders that will lead to the bottom of Endless Wall where you can explore further. Exercise caution at all times on this trail, as drop-offs are deadly. And never kick or throw anything—there are rock climbers directly below. 

Photo: Ami Parikh

3. Soak up Sandstone Falls

Upstream of the gorge itself, Sandstone Falls is the biggest waterfall on the New River. If the height of the falls—between 10 and 25 feet—isn’t impressive enough, how about the fact that it’s 1,500 feet across. Combine the wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and the Island Loop Trail for an easy 1-mile hike. Take your time to experience all the sensory wonder this spot provides: sights of the waterfall, the river and the forested mountains in every direction; sounds of the crashing waterfall; the feeling of the sun and breeze on your skin; the smell of the fresh mountain air. 

4. Capture the grand view at Grandview

Starting at the Grandview Visitor Center, take the 1.8-mile Grandview Rim Trail for another classic New River Gorge hike. The payoff comes early; just a few hundred feet from the trailhead is the view of Horseshoe Bend, a giant oxbow in the New River where the gorge is about 1,400 feet deep. From here, hike along the ridge through deciduous forest to a few more great vistas. Rhododendrons are especially brilliant here and you can catch them at peak bloom in May (Catawba rhododendron) and June (great rhododendron, rosebay rhododendron). Check the park’s Facebook page for the rhodo report. End at Turkey Spur Overlook, atop a rock outcropping accessed by wooden stairs. You gain yet another spectacular view of the New River, this time in both directions due to yet another oxbow in the river. A car or bicycle shuttle is easy to set up since a road parallels the trail, but the 3.6-mile out-and-back hike is quite doable. 

5. Explore coal mining history

If you’re a fan of both history and the Stairmaster, the Kaymoor Miners Trail is for you. Start at the parking lot on Gatewood Road and look for the trailhead, marked with a kiosk (you’ll pass it just before the parking area). Then hike pretty much straight down for a half-mile, on switchbacks and the final stretch of 821 steps, to the old Kaymoor coal-mine site. Artifacts include old coke ovens, building remains, a gated mine entrance, old railroad tracks and interpretive signs. Save enough energy to make it back up! This coal mine turned hiking trail is a perfect example of the dramatic shift the West Virginia economy has taken away from coal mining and toward outdoor recreation. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.