National Parks

You expect beauty and tranquility from a National or State Park.

Sandstone Falls - New River Gorge National River

Sandstone Falls – New River Gorge National River

Southern West Virginia’s parks have all the stunning views and the remote scenery— but there are a few surprises, too.

Here are a few things you can experience in Southern WV’s State and National parks that you didn’t expect:

1. One of the top 10 rafting rivers in the world

The Gauley River National Recreation Area features one of the top 10 whitewater rivers you can run, period. But during the few fall weekends known as Gauley Season, it is actually the single best running in the world. Scheduled dam releases bring this wild river to life with predictable, perfect boating conditions.

The Upper Gauley is the famous section, with its epic “Big 5” rapids— all unique, and ending in a 14-foot waterfall. Yes, you can boat over a waterfall. Expert guides will lead you, so you don’t have to be a seasoned paddler, but a warm-up run on Lower Gauley or the nearby New River will teach you the skills you need. Make a weekend of it.


Glade Creek Grist Mill – Babcock State Park

2. Architectural icons

The single most photographed site in this jaw-dropping state is the Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park. And the mill still works! Stop in for an old-fashioned treat: freshly ground cornmeal and buckwheat.

Another architectural marvel, the New River Gorge Bridge, is a just short drive away in the New River Gorge National Park. You can stroll the catwalk under the bridge for a perfect vantage point of the river 876 feet below.

3. Unique Aerial Rides

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Wild Blue Adventure Company

If you want a leisurely view of the mountainscape, simply have a seat. Both Pipestem Resort State Park and Hawk’s Nest State Park have aerial trams that will sweep you right above the canopy.

If you’re looking for more adventure, though, Wild Blue Adventure Company‘s got a thrill ride in store. Hop aboard the restored WWII biplane, and soar into the skies for a scenic view with looping stunts.

4. An Amazing Assortment of Waterfalls

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Twin Falls – Marsh Fork

Spanning a full 1,500 feet across, Sandstone Falls create a dramatic landscape. The dual cascades at Twin Falls Resort State Park are so alluring the entire park is named after their beauty. Camp Creek State Park is another great spot to visit for your waterfall viewing pleasure.

And, of course, there’s that 14-foot whitewater fall you can take a boat over on The Gauley River. It’s the Gauley River National Recreation Area’s unofficial natural amphitheater— and it’s one unique show!

5. Some of the East Coast’s Best Fishing

Southern West Virginia is the East Coast’s premier spot for smallmouth bass and trout fishing. But to discover the best of the best, you have to head out there— really out there— to the rugged Bluestone National Scenic River.  This remote wilderness is really only accessible through its neighboring State Parks: Bluestone State Park and Pipestem Resort State Park, which offers guided trips to lead you to the best locales to catch a bite.

In the fall, the massive striped bass in the nearby Bluestone Lake get nippy. It’s where the state record trophy was caught: 45+ pounds!

6. Hidden History

Although the parks seem to be pristine natural wonders now, many of them harbor a storied, industrial past.

Hike to ghost towns from the coal boom in the New River Gorge National Park, with towering coal tipples, rail lines and even old coke ovens. A mysterious ‘island’ by the abandoned town of Red Ash gives only hints of its ill-fated past. Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park was the site of a key Civil War skirmish, which period actors recreate every other year. For a leisurely historic trip, bike the easy-riding scenic Greenbrier River Trail.

7. One of the Only Legal Sites in the World for B.A.S.E. jumping

One day a year, B.A.S.E. jumpers from all over the world head to the New River Gorge National Park for Bridge Day. They parachute 876 feet from the bridge as thousands of onlookers watch in awe. Adding to the adventure, skydivers perform stunts overhead, rappellers descend into the canyon and various performers demo high-flying stunts.

Watch these wild adventurers as you browse the local food and craft vendors at this family-friendly (and free) festival, which takes place during the peak of fall mountain color for a fiery background of natural beauty.

8. Rare & Regal Wildlife

Lucky birdwatchers, foragers and nature lovers sometimes get a once-on-a-lifetime treat in Southern West Virginia’s parks. Huge, often-hidden hellbender salamanders swim the creekbeds. Look up, and you might just catch a glimpse of the country’s rarest songbirds like the bobolink or elusive Swainson’s warbler.

You’re likely to see a peregrine falcon soaring near the New River Gorge Bridge, where they like to perch. Majestic eagles are also returning to the area, especially in the secluded Bluestone National Scenic River.

Otters, deer, foxes and other playful creatures are more commonplace— but no less exciting to watch!

9. Free Access

None of Southern West Virginia’s parks— state or national— have an entry fee. They’re all open to the public, and you can visit several easily in a day. They’re all close by, and several even border one another, creating vast expanses of unparalleled natural beauty. Discover them all at

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