Visiting New River Gorge National Park In West Virginia
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in the southern portion of West Virginia is set apart from other national parks due to the beauty and uniqueness of the Appalachian Mountains. It is one of the most popular rock-climbing areas in the country, with over 1,400 established rock climbs.
This national park is a nature lover’s paradise, with over 53 miles of the New River to explore and 100 miles of trails within the park. There is also a walking tour that takes you under the New River Gorge Bridge via the catwalk to gain spectacular views of the natural beauty of West Virginia.
Within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, there are six campgrounds that are accessible by small and medium RVs. Each of these campgrounds are set up to host no more than 20 RVs, with select ones only able to accommodate small RVs. Here’s a look at each campground.
Army Camp Campground
This campground permits smaller RVs to park here. There are no pull-thru sites in this primitive campground. One wheelchair accessible campsite is on the grounds, with accessible restrooms as well. Located on an unmarked dirt road, there are 11 sites available, some with partial shade.
Stone Cliff Beach Campground
Near Thurmond, the Stone Cliff Beach Campground is located off Route 25. It features six walk-in sites and one vehicle site that can accommodate one small RV. At this primitive campground, there are no hookups available.
This campground also is the starting point to the Stone Cliff Trail, an easy-to-moderate trail that spans 2.7 miles one way. Along this hiking and biking trail, visitors can expect great river views with easy access to the river.
War Ridge/Backus Mountain Campground
This is another primitive area that features eight drive-in sites for small RVs. Situated about a half-mile off Backus Road, this primitive camping area is not ADA accessible.
Gauley Tailwaters Campground
This is the largest campground that features RV sites. The primitive camping setup is located just below the Summersville Dam and offers 18 drive-in sites that are close together.
For this reason, only small RVs and trailers are able to be accommodated. While there are no hookups or running water, this campsite does provide a pit toilet restroom.
Glade Creek Campground
The Glade Creek Campground provides five drive-in sites that can accommodate small-to-medium sized RVs. One of these sites provides wheelchair access. The campground also includes a picnic area, fishing area, restrooms, and a small part of the Glade Creek Trail.
Grandview Sandbar Campground
Grandview Sandbar Campground offers ten wooded sites for small-to-medium-sized RVs as well as two accessible sites by the river.
Know before you go
Also, take note that there is a limit of 14 days within a 28-day period at any of the campgrounds within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
All these fee-free sites are open on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations are not accepted. Two vehicles are permitted on each site, with a maximum of eight people per site. Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash. Quiet hours are from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
All of these campgrounds are open year-round, holidays included. While there is no internet service available, there is year-round cell phone capabilities.
The warmest month each year is July, which also sees the maximum amount of average precipitation annually. Weather in this area can change quickly and is famous for being unpredictable. The possibility of sudden storms should be something to be prepared for. Also, keep in mind that weather in the mountains is often cooler than the neighboring areas.
Activities within New River Gorge National Park
Aside from scenic campground sites throughout the park, there are a few other activities for the most daring as well as for the reserved outdoorsman.
- Whitewater rafting: Trips are available year-round, but the season begins in April and ends in October. With a handful of various access points along the New River, trips can be as short as a few hours or as long as several days. Visit the park’s website here to learn more about this adventure.
- Rock climbing: With over 1,600 established routes, its easy to see why New River Gorge is one of the most popular climbing areas throughout the country.
- Fishing/Hunting: Both activities are allowed throughout most of the park, on federally owned land sections. Visit this page for more information.
- Hiking/Biking trails: Many trails are available and range from easy rail trails to more difficult trails for the experienced hiker or biker rider.
- Scenic drives: This park offers a lot of opportunities for scenic drives. Take in the beauty of the park and spot wildlife, all from the safety of your car.
Must-see locations within the park
Once the campsite is set and you’ve had a chance to unwind from the drive, be sure to visit some, or all, of these breathtaking sights. They won’t disappoint.
New River Gorge Bridge
Spanning the New River Gorge, hovering 876 feet above the river, this bridge is one of the most photographed landmarks within the state of Virginia. It is also the longest steel span bridge in the western hemisphere.
This is the largest waterfall on the river. There is a series of islands that divide the river, creating drops of 10 to 25 feet. While there is some driving time to reach the falls, the journey leads down two of the most scenic roads within the park. Both roads provide several historic sites, overlooks, river access points, and natural areas.
This is a peaceful location to enjoy beautiful views of the New River. Situated 1,400 feet above the river at Main Overlook, this overlook provides some of the most breathtaking views within the park. On a cloudless day, visitors can view seven miles of the river as well as some of the cultural history unique to the Gorge.
Other locations to explore
- Fayette Station Road: Exploring this road allows for a glimpse back in time. Experience what travelers saw daily before the modern bridge was built back in 1977.
- Prince: This small town features an operational railroad depot and is the starting point of the trip to Glade Creek.
- Glade Creek: The Glade Creek Bridge is long gone, but the piers still stand. This marks the site of a former lumber mill as well as the remains of a few company logging towns.
- Richmond Hamilton Farm: Gain a sense of life for early settlers in the region at this early subsistence farm.
- Trump-Lilly Farm: This offers another look back at what life was like in the Appalachians for subsistence farming.
- Nuttallburg: This area tells the story of one of the Gorge’s most significant coal mining towns, with the remains of a coal conveyor, a tipple, coke ovens, and a few buildings.
A pet-friendly national park
Pets are able to join in the hiking fun on all the trails within New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. There are a few rules to follow, so pets can accompany guests in a safe manner for all.
Always keep pets on a leash, no longer than six feet. They aren’t allowed in any of the parks’ buildings or visitor centers. Clean up after your pet and bring extra water for your pet during hikes. Streams may contain parasites or bacteria harmful to your pets. At every visitor center, there are water fountains or water bottle filling stations, but there is no drinking water accessible at the many trailheads.
The seasons all vary at this popular national park, and each distinct season provides beautiful scenery and a new way to view the natural landscapes. There is really no wrong time to visit.
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Debra Pamplin has worn her freelancing writing hat proudly since 2007. She has covered a range of topics in many industries and regularly contributes articles on destination sites, cities, and travel-themed products for the RV LIFE network of sites.