See the Best of the New River Gorge from the Passenger’s Seat
The New River Gorge stretches along for miles, full of natural Appalachian wonders. The bridge is a breathtaking must-see, but don't miss out on the rest of the natural beauty that's draped across the entire run of the Gorge. It's chilly out now for a full-day hike, but that doesn't mean you can't explore from the comfort of your car. You can cover more ground with a scenic drive, and catch more of the view peering through your car windows (with maybe a stop or two along the way to gaze a while longer).
Here are a few roads to hit to get the most for your milage:
The Midland Trail, following U.S. Route 60, hits several highlights on its path through the Gorge. Highlighted as a top scenic drive by TLC channel, the road twists through the adventure centers of the West Virginia wilderness, passing by the whitewater rafting hubs of the New and Gauley Rivers and the Lost World Caverns. Hawk's Nest State Park, another stopping point, also offers great outdoor attractions, including hiking trails. In the spring, you can ride the aerial tramway down to Jet Boats that take you out on the New River.
A valuable warpath during the Civil War, the Midland Trail is littered with historically significant markers, from the battlegrounds of the war to to influential sites from the fight for equal rights. Booker T. Washington's life as an abolitionist unfolds along the various roadside landmarks.
The Trail also dips through several quaint country towns like Ansted, the home of Blue Smoke Salsa, old-fashioned craft quilting and the African American Heritage Family Tree Museum. Stop off to explore any community within the Gorge to uncover their unique culture and small-town surprises. You'll be welcomed and shown around by the friendly folks of the area, eager to share their heritage.
FAYETTE STATION ROAD AUTO LOOP
The Fayette Station Loop tour road runs you over a replica of the original Fayette Station Bridge, which served as the remote crossing point before the New River Gorge Bridge was constructed. The path rounds the National Park, swinging past the most beautiful points in the Gorge, including Grandview overlook, a much-captured scene in paintings and photographs, which of course can do it no justice. Grandview is dotted with hundreds of rhododendrons, the West Virginia state flower, in April and May.
The Loop also passes the jagged Sandstone Falls and Babcock State Park, where the most-photographed point in the state lies. The Glade Creek Grist Mill's aged wood and bright churning wheel lie along the creekside backdrop of a tree-speckled mountainside. The ruins of now-ghost town Thurmond also sit along the Loop's path. The old railway depot is now a visitor's center for the sleepy town, preserving a piece of its glory days.
AUTO TOUR CONNECTOR
Beginning on the Loop path, you can choose to slice through the center instead of continuing all the way around the park. Wind around the ancient, towering trees past waterfalls and rolling terrain. This midview of the Gorge traces the pristine wilderness.
The connector also hits small towns like coal town Quintmont and rail town Glade Creek. The first load of coal to leave the Gorge was loaded from Quintmont, and Glade Creek was one of the earliest settlements in the area. Glade is now abandoned, but the popular fishing destination still features the looming stone foundation pillars of a now-missing bridge.
Those are a few great starting drives, but feel free to swing off a side road to explore. Every rounded twist will expose something interesting to explore!