No matter what the weather or season, we love our gorgeous surrounding national parks of Southern West Virginia. The three national gems we call home are all part of the National Park Service, so the natural and cultural resources and values are preserved for this and future generations.
With 10.5 miles of pristine wilderness and mild flowing water, the Bluestone National Scenic River is simply a tranquil place to escape and has been protected since 1988 by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Bald eagles have moved into the gorge over the past ten years and during the last count, 56 individual birds have been found. Free, year-round access is offered via the Bluestone or Pipestem Resort State Parks for fishing, hiking, biking, and more. The historic town of Hinton is nearby for a bite to eat or learn about some historical coal heritage.
Bluestone’s history can still be experienced through the Bluestone Turnpike Trail. The trail follows the scenic river for 9.5 miles from Bluestone State Park to Pipestem State Park. This moderate hike reveals the now-reclaimed culture of early settlers. The occasional foundation can be glimpsed, though it is hard to imagine full-fledged towns in this now serene river gorge. Guided tours are available for anyone interested in the full historical accounts.
The Gauley River National Recreation Area has been soaking up the whitewater spotlight since the early 1970's. For 22 days, paddlers ride the class-IV and class-V rapids of The Beast of the East. The wild, rugged landscape creates an adventure of a lifetime making is one of the Top 10 whitewater rivers in the world. The remoteness adds to the adventure since there are only a few access points and they mostly require paddling hard and listening to your guide. Commercial tours led by the most experienced guides run from September through mid-October (sorry, you just missed #GauleySeason for 2015). Guaranteed high water flows from the dam below Summersville Lake into the Upper section creating a heart-pounding ride through ten foot waves starting with Insignificant (which is anything but that) then Pillow Rock - the best ten seconds in whitewater. Lost Paddle follows with three rapid drops over a quarter-mile wave train, then Iron Ring and Sweet's Falls (a 14-foot waterfall with a full audience watching from the shore). Further downstream, the Lower section offers stunning scenery of the gorge at Kuntz Flume and Canyon Doors - a rocky cliff colored with coal streaks and blues and red minerals. Since the destructive logging during the 1900s, the forest has taken back the landscape and the water is back to the way Mother Nature intended.
Lastly, the New River Gorge National Park (often called "The Grand Canyon of the East") offers a one-of-a-kind historical and recreational refuge lined with mines, railroads, bridges and ghost towns. This intimate Appalachian Beauty has several access points for adventure recreation like whitewater rafting, climbing/rappelling, hiking, ziplining, stand-up paddle boarding, biplane rides, BASE jumping, camping and even scenic drives. The first commercial rafting trip began in 1968 and grew into dozens of outfitters over the next decade, making whitewater rafting a major economic contributor in the area.
While the lower section offers 8 miles of class-iV and class-III whitewater rapids, the Upper section is more family-friendly with mild current and class-II rapids. The bullet-hard sandstone cliffs along the rim of the gorge create one of the most world-renowned climbing area in the nation. Also, since 1979 the New River Gorge Bridge has hosted Bridge Day where parachuters jump off the 876-foot-high single arch bridge. The Arrowhead trail system boasts over 12-miles of loops, manicured jumps and banks. Even a simple hike up the Kaymoor Stairs and scenic walk out to Long Point offers gorgeous views of the bridge. The Endless Wall Trail was recently named the #1 National Park hike by USA Today.
Plan your trip and get to know our neck of the woods this fall while the colors are changing, then come back in the spring for waterfall hikes and high water on the New River. While summertime activities abound, you will enjoy our National Parks any time of the year.
Visit findyourpark.com for over 400 national parks, plus thousands of historic and recreational lands across the country.