Adventure Us: New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
At the very beginning of 2021, a new natural wonder was added to the National Park System: the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It’s America’s 63rd National Park and the first addition to the National Park System since 2019… and it’s located just a 2 to 3 hour drive from Roanoke!
If you’ve never explored the New River Gorge National Park area in our neighboring state, the best place to start is at the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. This 3,030 foot steel bridge carries U.S. Route 19 across the New River Gorge. Its single-span arch is 1,700 feet long, making it the nation’s longest single-span arch bridge. At 876 feet above the New River, it’s also one of America’s top 3 tallest bridges.
View the bridge from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center located just off U.S. Route 19, a trip of approximately 2.5 hours from Roanoke. If you’ve been to the visitor center before, consider adding the bridgewalk experience to your next visit. There’s nothing quite like actually walking along 3,000 feet of 870 foot high steel girding, with not much but air between you and the New River far below!
Another excellent stop in the New River Gorge National Park that’s even closer to Roanoke (around a 2 hour drive) is Sandstone Falls outside of Hinton, West Virginia. This 1500 foot wide waterfall spans the New River from bank to bank in an impressive display of roaring whitewater, plummeting 10-25 feet over a steep sandstone ledge.
There are several ways to experience Sandstone Falls for yourself, including a stop at the Sandstone Falls Visitor Center for more information about the area.
If you’re a history buff drawn to the area because of its coal mining heritage, then Thurmond, West Virginia is a spot you’ll want to see. The site of a nearly abandoned coal mining town that was once accessible only by train, Thurmond now features a small museum at the old train depot as well as a self-guided walking tour available from the National Park website.
The gorge is bursting with coal mining history; other ruins in the area that you might enjoy include the abandoned communities of Nuttallburg and Kaymoor. Both ruins are accessible by various hiking trails that wind through the National Park, and Kaymoor also features a waterfall.
Don’t have plans to visit the New River Gorge in person anytime soon? You can take several virtual tours of this beautiful area on the National Park website here.
Name: New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia
Time from Roanoke: 2-3 hours
Activity Options: Hiking, white-water rafting, rock climbing, history, ruins, views, waterfalls
Nearby Food: many options no matter which part of the gorge you visit! To eat like a local, track down a WV-style hot dog or a pepperoni roll.
Nearby Attractions: ACE Adventure Resort, many other activity and lodging options in Fayetteville (New River Gorge Bridge area) and Hinton (Sandstone Falls area), West Virginia.
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