Spring break at New River Gorge, the newest U.S. national park

The name is a bit ironic, seeing as New River Gorge is actually one of the oldest rivers in the world — coming in at a cool 360 million years old. Although it has graced our landscape with beauty for an unfathomable amount of time, not until early 2021 did New River Gorge become the country’s newest national park. And after reading up on it, we’re pretty sold that it’s one of the best non-tropical spring break destinations around.



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Between hosting the world’s biggest BASE jumping festival, a spaghetti-like network of sprawling trails, and the third-highest bridge in the United States, this wondrous place is fit for daredevils and leisure wanderers alike. Here’s the full scoop:


Rock climbing

It should come as no surprise that the rocky bluffs and sandstone cliffs at New River Gorge provide absolutely killer climbing spots — over 1,400 of them on the map, to be exact. For beginners and beyond, these are a few of our faves:


  • Endless Wall: This popular climbing spot is easily accessible by short hike, with beginner-friendly and expert-level climbs throughout the cliff face.


  • Junkyard Wall: This one’s the perfect place for new climbers to learn and practice, although the area does feature some harder climbs for more experienced climbers.


  • Beauty Mountain: The name says it all… This spot has unmatched overlooks of the New River Gorge, and is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the US. Climbers of all levels can hang here.




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Admittedly, it was pretty hard to narrow this down into three hikes. This small sampling covers towering bridge views, bird’s eye sights of the gorge itself, forested jaunts, and even coal town ruins. We recommend ‘em all (and then some) for your visit.


  • Endless Wall (again)
    • See many stunning views of the bridge along the gorge and the river below
    • The winter offers more amazing views of the sandstone cliffs that line the gorge and oftentimes waterfalls along the cliffline not visible in the summertime 
    • Easy 2.4 mile 


  • Long Point Trail
    • Offers panoramic a view of the gorge and bridge 
    • Moderate – most of the 1.6 mile trail is a relaxed walk through the forest 


  • Nuttallburg Loop
    • One of the most extensive coal town ruins in the country
    • Moderate 2.6 mile loop 


Rafting & kayaking

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Take your pick (and test your fear) with rapids from Class I all the way to Class V. Opt for the relaxing drifts if you’re feeling low-key and lazy — we’ve been there plenty of times — or speed it up to strong currents and waves for a boost of adrenaline. Here’s who to go with:


  • Adventures on the Gorge
    • Lower: 
      • The gist: Most popular from first timers to whitewater enthusiasts
      • Classes: II – V
      • Cost: $98.10  
      • Season: May – November
    • Upper: 
      • The gist: Gentle rapids and scenic views 
      • Cost: $107.10 


  • Ace Adventures
    • Lower: 
      • Classes: III – IV
      • Season: March – November
      • Cost: $79, $99, $279 (Half Day, Full Day, Overnight) 
    • Upper: 
      • The gist: Perfect beginner-friendly whitewater rafting trip 
      • Season: May – October 
      • Cost: $99 – $249 (Full Day and Overnight) 


  • New & Gauley River Adventures
    • Lower: 
      • Season: All Year 
      • Classes: III – V 
      • Cost: $75 – $160 (Weekdays, Weekends, & Other for Half Day & Full Day)
    • Upper: 
      • Season: All Year 
      • Classes: I – III
      • Cost: $75 – $120 (Weekday, Saturday, and Express) 


Where to camp

Snooze right by New River Gorge Bridge at one of these popular campsites. You’ll be feeling pretty fresh in no time with showers and legit bathrooms — a luxury in the camping world, we think!


  • Chestnut Creek Campground 
    • Closest campground to the New River Gorge Bridge (0.5 mile) 
    • Showers, bathroom stalls, sinks, and wash basin 
    • $10 – 11 




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