Don’t have much time? There’s a hike you can squeeze in. Feeling flabby? There’s one that will make you sweat. Want to see relics of coal history? There’s one for that, too. Read on for 11 of the best trails in the New River Gorge Area that offer something different for everybody.
Best Trail for Landscape Variety
Endless Wall/ Fern Creek Trail: 2.4 miles
One of the most recommended trails and for good reason. This three-mile loop starts in a cozy forest of pine trees. Cross Fern Creek and continue on to the rim of the Gorge, where you’ll be treated to some of the best views in Appalachia. Watch the boaters below on the New River or roll out the yoga mat you brought along and find some balance. The end of the loop is a brief walk on Lansing Road.
NOTE: Use caution near the cliff edges.
Best Trail for Waterfall Viewing
Ansted–Hawks Nest Rail Trail, 3.8 miles out and back
If you want to see waterfalls, go to Ansted for a hike along this rail trail, more commonly known as Mill Creek Trail. Not only can you get a great view of the 20-foot Mill Creek Falls, but you can walk out right next to it. This 1.9-mile trail is great for all-terrain strollers and even bikes with training wheels.
Don’t let the easy downhill grade fool you, though. You’ll feel the gradient of what was once the country’s steepest narrow gauge railway when you start back up.
Best Trail That Ends With a View of the Bridge
Long Point: 3.2 miles out and back
Longpoint hike is an easy 1.6 miles one way to its termination, which is a skinny sliver of exposed sandstone directly facing the New River Gorge Bridge. Watch your step, it’s a sheer drop on both sides. But you will be rewarded with nearly 360-degree views of glorious West Virginia.
The hike back always feels shorter. Should you want to extend your hike, the Long Point trail connects with the Fayetteville Trails and the Kaymoor Trails. Choose a spur route at one of the signs and you’re off.
Best Trail to Take Your Sweetheart
Beauty Mountain: Length varies
From an off-road parking area very close to the Gorge, take a trail that weaves in and out of rhododendron thickets. It forks in several places. Choose just about any path and follow it for several hundred yards. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular cliff-top views of the Gorge. A camera is a must-have when you go. Earn extra points with your honey (or potential honey), by pulling their favorite picnic treats out of your backpack.
Best Trail for a Workout
Kaymoor Miners Trail: 1 mile including 800+ steps
The Kaymoor trails are a long system of trails running from Cunard to Fayetteville—basically the length of the commercial whitewater section of the New River—on the southeast side of the river. Along the trails are various branches to explore.
If it’s a calf-burn you crave, choose the branch that begins at the Kaymoor Miners Trail from the Kaymoor #1 road. This trail goes directly to the top of the stairs. You’ll even go past an old mine opening. Ruins from the old town of Kaymoor Bottom are…yep, at the bottom of the stairs. Another, less challenging but also beautiful Kaymoor Trail section begins at the Wolf Creek trailhead off Fayette Station Road.
Best Hunter-Free Zone
Babcock State Park, lengths vary
No hunting is allowed in Babcock, so head there during hunting season. The photogenic grist mill brings people from all over (and so does the fishing). Don’t be surprised to find quite a few others wandering around, but don’t worry—once you leave the pavement, you’ll leave the crowds as well.
There are several great trails to choose from here. Try the hike along Glade Creek. Starting at the gristmill, you can take the old roadbed all the way to the New River on creek left, 4.5 miles one way. For a technical scramble, veer off the road and cross the creek on the swinging bridge (look for the sign among the cabins). A fisherman’s trail parallels the creek downstream on creek right.
Best Trail for A Quick Fix
Burnwood Trail: 1.2 miles
Choose this trail if you only have a little time. It’s amazing how quickly the noise from Highway 19 disappears once you leave the car. The trail, lined with blackberries and wildflowers, passes through a field before it enters the woods and circles under the hardwood splendor and big beech trees. This one-mile jaunt is also a children’s wildlife study area. No hunting is allowed here and happy deer abound.
Best Trail for Following the River
Southside Junction Trail, 7 miles
This trail follows the New River from Cunard—a National Park Service-run public river landing complete with parking lot and toilets—to Thurmond, a former bustling town during the coal boom. Southside Junction Trail is skinny and very flat with only 25 to 30 feet of elevation gain for its entire 7-mile length. Plenty of relics from the coal boom still remain along the trail—look for coke ovens and old stone foundations.
Best Trail for Getting Right Under the Bridge
Bridge Trail: 0.9 miles
To get to this trail, travel down Fayette Station Road and park at the trailhead across from Ace Adventure Store. The steep climb up the first hill will get you focused for this moderately technical trail that goes right under the bridge. This is a favorite trail because it’s lightly traveled and can be quick exercise in and out. It also connects with the Fayetteville park trails and the Kaymoor system of trails for a good long outing. Out of towners, go here to get a close-up look under the bridge.
Best Trail for Just Wandering
Hawks Nest Dam: 0.7 miles
This “trail” at Hawks Nest is really just a road, perfect for folks who don’t make a habit of walking. At the end of the 0.7 miles is a short trail down to the dam. The bedrock on the New River Dries below the dam creates a marvelous playground. There’s lots of good bouldering, fishing and wondering about the dam’s engineering.
Best Trail with Close-to-Town Convenience
Town Park Trail: 1.1 miles
The town park Trail is just 3 minutes from downtown Fayetteville, a location that means you can grab a coffee from Cathedral and dive straight into the woods while it’s still piping hot. The main loop is 1 mile. Stick to just that, or use the loop as an entrance point to connect to other trails that enter the New River Gorge.