What to Do In and Around New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

Before beginning my journey at the Institute for Advanced Analytics, I took a trip to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. New River Gorge was designated a national park in 2020, making it the United State’s newest national park. It’s located in West Virginia, and it’s only about a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Raleigh, NC. If you enjoy outdoor activities and are looking for your next long weekend getaway, I highly recommend going to the New River Gorge. Below, I’ve listed some of the activities you can enjoy while you’re there.

White Water Rafting

The section of the New River that flows through the New River Gorge National Park is well-known for its whitewater rafting. Many outfitters will take you rafting down the New River from spring through the early fall. The upper section of the New River has milder rapids (class I through III), while the lower section is a bit more intense with some class IV and even class V rapids! I rafted the lower section and had a great time!

If you’re a thrill seeker, you can raft a nearby river, the Gauley, for six weeks in September and October every year. The Gauley is often considered one of the country’s best whitewater rivers and has world-class whitewater rafting.


There are many great hiking trails in and around New River Gorge. My favorite hikes within the park were the Endless Wall Trail, the Long-Point Trail, and the Sandstone Falls Boardwalk. The Endless Wall Trail has fantastic views of the gorge. The Long-Point Trail has a great view of the New River Gorge Bridge. The Sandstone Falls has a view of a unique-looking waterfall. Below is a picture of me on the Long-Point Trial! 

We also did several great hikes in nearby West Virginia state parks. I recommend checking out Babcock State Park and Hawks Nest State Park while you’re in the area if you have the time.

Rock Climbing 

The New River Gorge is a popular destination for rock climbers. It has over 1,400 established rock climbing routes. If you’re a seasoned climber, I recommend checking out the established routes that fit your experience level. If you’re a beginner (like me!), I recommend climbing with a guide so they can provide the gear and point you to the easier routes.


There are many places to go ziplining around New River Gorge National Park. Many offer views of the gorge as you fly through the air, some are over 200 feet above the ground, and others can reach speeds up to 65 mph! We opted for the speedy Gravity Ziplines; the last zipline is 3,150 feet long.

Bridge Walk

The New River Gorge Bridge is an iconic feature of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. If you’re feeling up to it, you can take a guided tour on a catwalk 25 feet beneath the bridge. It’s very safe; there are sturdy railings to hold onto, and you’re fastened onto a security cable. As you walk over 800 feet above the river, your tour guide will explain the history and features of the bridge. It’s also a great way to face your fear of heights. The picture below shows the catwalk.

There’s so much to do in and around New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Keep this area in mind for your next outdoor adventure!

Columnist: Angela Gasdaska