A Hidden Gem No More: 5 Things You Need to Know About Our Newest National Park- New River Gorge

An outdoor recreator’s playground

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Just in time for the start of the New Year, we welcome our country’s 63rd official national park. New River Gorge (referred to as “The New” by locals) is located in the southeastern part of West Virginia. Though adventurers have come to enjoy the myriad of outdoor activities since the 1960s, its recently earned dual status as a national park and preserve is predicted to fuel a major spike in tourism and park activity. It’s the only site outside of Alaska to receive this type of dual-designation. All 7,021 acres of riverfront will be stringently protected as dictated by its national park status while the remaining 65,165 acres of preserve land will be accessible for hunting and fishing. The main gains from this dual-status include that of land protection and the potential influx of visitors. 

Geologists say ‘The New’ is among the oldest rivers on the continent-- its history and grandeur undeniable. Once you see it, you likely won’t forget it. Here are some things you should know about New River Gorge, especially if you’re planning on making a trip to experience the pure fulfilment and freedom of being in the thick of true wilderness.

Photo: National Park Service

White Water Rafting for Adrenaline-Chasers

    The park boasts 53 miles of rushing white-water- a true rafter’s or water enthusiast’s dream. The “Lower New” is among the most popular stretches. It includes 13 miles of Class IV to V rapids. Check out Adventures on the Gorge, one of the many well-known rafting companies, to book a white-water rafting adventure with family and friends. There’s no better way to experience the river’s full essence than to be right in the midst of its rapids. If you seek sheer thrill or love getting out of your comfort zone, you’ll want to hop on board and literally feel the rush.

    Photo: New River Climbing School

    Climbing and Conquering

      The river’s rapids aren’t the only great attraction at this park. Sand-stone cliffs rising 30-120 feet high offer rock climbers roughly 1,400 different routes to choose from. If you’re not a Tommy Caldwell (like most people) and maybe you’ve never climbed before, the New River Climbing School holds climbing and rappelling courses daily for those who want to find a new way to make the outdoors fun and rewarding. People of all ages and ability levels are encouraged to check it out. Full and half day private guided trips are available.

      Photo: Arrowhead Bike Farm

      Biking (and Brews)

        Mountain bikers have made the miles of winding trails surrounded by Appalachian forest their obstacle course for years. The Arrowhead section, a 12.8 mile stretch of beginner to intermediate mountain biking trails built by boy scouts, is one of the most popular biking hot spots. But what’s better than a ride followed by a well-earned bite to eat and something to wash it down with? Arrowhead Bike Farm is both a bike rental shop and beer garden. All adventurers are welcome to enjoy outdoor dining on the deck or at The Handle Bar Kitchen for hand-helds and craft beers.

        Photo: Jake Melara

        Free Guided Activities for All

          If you want to get outside, but don’t feel experienced enough to navigate the great expanse of wilderness on your own just yet, the National Park Service offers a number of free guided activities. You can join a ranger or park partner for hikes, talks, and tours. All programs are beginner friendly and low impact. If you come with friends, you can call or email the park to have a ranger create a specific program that fits the desires of you and your group. Those new to the outdoors or in search of low impact activities need not look any further. Park guides are willing to teach and lead in fun, engaging ways so that everyone can get outside!

          Photo: National Park Service

          History and Tradition

            Just like the river holds years of history in its free flowing rapids, West Virginians hope to contribute to its history by maintaining their own adrenaline-filled tradition. Bridge Day is an annual event held in the month of October. Parachuters jump the 876-foot distance from the New River Gorge Bridge, the third highest bridge in the US, to the river below. Though base jumping is banned at Park Service sites, legislation has been moved to protect this fun spectacle. Look on as colorful chutes unfold before your eyes.

            If you want to learn more about our newest national park-preserve combo, check out these resources.





            Cover photo contributor: Emily Keehan

            We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

            Do you love the outdoors?

            Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


            10 Awesome Hikes in West Virginia

            The Outbound Collective

            Take this ultimate Blue Ridge Parkway road trip

            The Outbound Collective

            8 Trails you must hike in Hocking Hills State Park

            Abby Shepard

            10 Photos That Will Convince You Hocking Hills Is Straight out of The Lord of the Rings

            Katie Y