FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va.—Visiting America’s Newest National Park? There are countless trails to hike, rocks to climb, and streams to paddle, but there are four places every visitor should see in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in southern West Virginia.
According to park ranger Jodi French-Burr, the following four locations are must-see destinations, whether you’re visiting the park for an afternoon, a weekend, or an entire week.
“I would say the top four hotspots to visit are the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, Thurmond Historic District, Grandview, and Sandstone Falls,” French-Burr says.
“For deeper dives in the parks, people need to have the right vehicle to handle often smaller, thinner roads – even though I put Thurmond on this top three list with its smaller road – and be physically able to do things like hiking or boating.”
French-Burr points out that the national park contains countless waterfalls, lookouts, and historical landmarks. “Be aware that there are other easily accessible hotspots, but if I had to pick just four, these would be all four.”
Canyon Rim/New River Gorge Bridge Visitor Center
Located at the edge of the New River Gorge, the Canyon Rim Visitor Center overlooks the gorge in one of its most scenic locations and includes a boardwalk and stairway leading to a spectacular view of the New River Bridge. River Gorge. The center is perhaps the most visited resource in the national park.
“The Canyon Rim Visitor Center is definitely the best year-round orientation stop for the national park and a view of the bridge,” Burr says.
Just off Highway US-19 near Fayetteville, West Virginia, the Visitor Center is easily accessible. It offers state-of-the-art facilities including windows overlooking the gorge with views that are comfortable and wheelchair accessible all year round.
Thurmond National Historic District
Now a ghost town with a population of five permanent residents, historic Thurmond sits in the heart of the gorge and allows park visitors to more clearly imagine what life was like here at the turn of the 20th century.
“The Thurmond Historic District is the ultimate sample of history for the park,” says French-Burr.
A seasonal attraction, the Thurmond Visitor Center opens during warmer months in the town’s historic train station. However, visitors are welcome to explore the town and the handful of historic buildings overlooking the New River all year round.
“I think it’s the most fun to park in the parking lot on the Dun Glen side of the river and walk across the New River Bridge to the depot and into town,” she says.
Thurmond is an eight mile drive from the US-19 highway in Glen Jean. Visitors should allow 20 minutes for the journey, which follows a winding and somewhat narrow route through the gorge. Larger vehicles such as motorhomes should exercise caution when accessing the site.
At scenic Grandview, park visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the New River Gorge at its deepest and widest.
“The Grandview section of the park is great for views of the gorge, and it’s an easy, short walk on a trail,” says French-Burr.
Among the national park’s best-known destinations, Grandview features a seasonal visitor center and miles of scenic trails, including a famous paved path to its main lookout and a spiral staircase to the top of Turkey Spur Rock.
The 1.6-mile Grandview Rim Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park and follows the rim of the canyon along a series of spectacular lookout points. Grandview is also home to the Cliffside Amphitheater, home to the historic outdoor dramas “Hatfields and McCoys” and “Honey in the Rock.”
Another must-see destination in the park, at scenic Sandstone Falls, the New River descends over a riverwide waterfall and through a network of small islands through which the park service has constructed a series of wheelchair accessible walks. A half-mile trail also allows for an easy walk through the woods around the falls.
The falls are a favorite destination for anglers, waders, and tourists, though visitors planning to swim should be aware that the higher falls are powerful and deadly. The small streams and minor falls near the islands are relatively safe when the water is low in summer, but strong currents near the falls can easily drag swimmers and boaters into dangerous cataracts.
There is so much more to see and do!
If these four top attractions aren’t enough to satiate your appetite on a visit to the park, there’s plenty more to see. The Endless Wall Trail, Long Point Trail, and Glade Creek Trail are some of the park’s best-known highlights.
“Be aware that there are other easily accessible hotspots, but if I had to pick just four, then Thurmond, Grandview and Canyon Rim would be at the top of the list,” French-Burr said.
For more information, visit the national park website or call visitor information at (304) 574-2115.
Mysterious stone face attracting the curious to New River Gorge
An enigmatic stone face carved into mossy sandstone along the edge of the New River Gorge is attracting more and more attention as tourism grows in the New River Gorge National Park and Reserve. Although its origins are generally considered a mystery, the bas-relief face was likely carved in the 1950s and the son of its creator may still live in the Fayetteville, West Virginia area. READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
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