New River Gorge, WV
By Mary Reed, photos by Attila Horvath
There is only one problem with the New River Gorge: option paralysis. Will it be whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, photography or even BASE jumping? All right, that last one’s only allowed on Bridge Day – the third weekend of October – but what a day.
“The fun thing about bridge day is the contact buzz you get from being next to those (BASE jumpers),” says Maura Kistler, co-owner of Fayetteville’s Waterstone Outdoors, who advises biking or walking down to river level to watch the jumpers land. But the New is much more than Bridge Day. “We absolutely have international-class rock climbing and paddling here, that’s for sure,” Maura points out – accurately.
The lower New River (actually one of the oldest rivers in North America) runs through a gorge that’s 1,000 feet deep; it is always running and usually warm, making it a haven for rafting class III-V whitewater, and there is no shortage of outfitters ready to take you. The upper New has class I-III paddling for guided or DIY trips. With more than a thousand sandstone routes of all levels and types – sport, trad, toproping – the climbing at the New might be best described by the name of its classic crag: Endless. For quality singletrack mountain biking or a hike to the expansive and unique view from Long Point, hit the trails that start at Fayetteville Town Park.
“The people are friendly, the terrain is friendly, there’s something for everybody,” Maura says, adding, “You can do all these different things in a tight little locale.”
Where it’s at: Four hours south of Pittsburgh; from Charleston, WV, take US 60 east to WV 16 south to US 19 in Fayetteville. Turn north and cross the gorge to the Canyon Rim Visitors Center on the right.
Contact: New River Gorge National River, www.nps.gov/neri or (304) 574-2115
Digs: Chestnut Creek for camping ($9/person), (304) 574-3136; River Rock Retreat and Hostel ($20/person), www.riverrockretreatandhostel.com or (304) 574-0394; Opossum Creek cabins ($160/night and up per cabin), www.opossumcreek.com or 888-488-4836