Say hello to America's newest national park - the New River Gorge National Park, in the forgotten state of West Virginia. This is a recount of my two days exploring everything the gorge and the surrounding parks has to offer. https://rccircuit93.wordpress.com/2021/05/31/west-virginia-the-new-river-becomes-a-new-national-park/
A comprehensive trail map of the New River Gorge area around the huge New River bridge: https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/fayetteville-area-hiking-trails-map.htm
A map of the New River Gorge Scenic Drive that contains all of the stops I made in this trip that lied outside the immediate New River bridge area: https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/scenic-drives-at-new-river-gorge.htm
I stayed at the town of Fayetteville, which I believe is the best home base since it's mere minutes from the famous bridge and the surrounding trails, and no more than ~1 hour away from the furthest attraction you could see (Sandstone Falls). There are multiple BBQ joints around here, the one I regularly ate at was Elliot's Whitewater Bar & Grill.
Day 1 (I visit peripheral locations in the national park due to weather):
Thurmond, WV (ghost town)
Thurmond was a bustling mining town before diesel powered locomotives went out of style. Today, it's a ghost town, with a last recorded population of 5. You can reach it by a nice looking railroad bridge (trains still run through this depot sometimes) that is situated over the New River and surrounding valleys. Great historic stop, and not bad for a natural stop because of its reclusive location in the forests.
Grandview is a park area that offers a very nice overlook of a portion of the New River. The Main Overlook showcases how it curves around a mountain pass and flows into the valleys beyond. There are other modest trails here, a good one being Castle Rock Trail, and another good overlook called Turkey Spur Overlook.
These falls look far wider and far stronger in person than they do in pictures. After a short boardwalk, you get to do some rock hopping and sit right next to the falls pounding into the river channels. The falls aren't tall, but there are so many of them that you won't even notice their lack of height. There are no guardrails once you get to the rocky falls area, so watch your footing and your distancing.
Babcock State Park
The main feature of this park is the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill, which has captivated photographers and adventurers alike with its "lost-in-time" feel. With a nice river/falls and a forest backdrop, you can go to Babcock just for this water mill alone. There are other trails in the park that I didn't explore, but there's no doubt this piece of history would net you all the pictures you need from here.
Day 2 (I visit trails/areas closer to the New River Bridge):
Nuttallburg, WV (ghost town)
Nuttalburg is another derelict mining town that only has a few historical artifacts left from its coal mining boom period. Particularly special is the Nuttallburg tipple, which is a big contraption that used to funnel coal from higher points in the surrounding mountains. There are a few short trails that will take you to these historical locations.
Hawk's Nest State Park
Although not technically part of the New River Gorge national preserve area, this park is a mere ~20 minutes away from the New River bridge. It features a nice overlook (which can be driven or hiked to) that overlooks a river valley with either a railroad bridge or a dam in the river below. Among the trails are the Cliffside Trail, which will have you walk right below the cliffs of Hawk's Nest, or further down at Fisherman's Trail, which allows you to walk right by the riverside.
Endless Wall Trail (New River bridge area)
This ~2 mile trail offers you some nice views of the valleys around the New River. In particular it offers you a glimpse of the stone bluffs located on the trail's side of the valley. These bluffs form a "wall" that can be seen stretching into the distance. It's hard to make out in pictures, but you can see that "wall" if you go in person.
Fayetteville Station Bridge (New River bridge area)
Technically I visited this when I first got to West Virginia, but I lumped it here since it's part of the gorge area around the big bridge. This bridge offers you a lower viewpoint of the New River bridge. You get a great angle at seeing how tall and wide the big bridge is.
Long Point Trail (New River bridge area)
This is in my opinion the best hiking trail in all of the national park. It requires a modest ~2 mile walk to get to Long Point Overlook, which gives you a distant view of the New River bridge that allows you to see just how expansive and wide both the valley and the bridge are. Don't leave the New River Gorge without seeing this. The scene offered here looks like something out of Europe than West Virginia.
Things I didn't have time for, but might interest you?
There are additional trails around the New River bridge that I didn't cover - take a look at the trail link I gave above. Aside from a few more small towns in the general area, I believe I covered just about everything. Take a close look at America's newest national park, and explore more of the underdog state of West Virginia while you're at it.