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New River Gorge National Park Road Trip With Kids

Updated: May 8, 2023

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, the newest US National Park located in West Virginia, is a must see on the East Coast. Known for the "not so new" New River, which is actually considered the second OLDEST river in the world, it's a beautiful park with lots of opportunities for hiking, watersports, climbing, and scenic drives. The possibilities here are endless, we'll share our favorites here with you.

Home Base

Babcock State Park, located about 30 Minutes New River Gorge is where we stayed during our visit. Worth a visit all on it's own. This West Virginia State park has camping and cabins available, with dog friendly options. We loved our economy cabin stay in dog friendly cabin 26. Cabins are open seasonally, from April to October. It was a basic, rustic, studio setup with a bathroom, kitchen area and 2 sets of bunk beds, which was perfect for our needs. Our favorite part was the huge semi private back yard area with a fire pit and spots to hang a hammock.

Must see spots in Babcock State Park:

  • Glade Creek Grist Mill- the most photographed mill in the US, and a replica of the original Cooper's Mill. It's fully functional, you can tour the mill, learn about the process, and take home your very own mill ground cornmeal. There are also some pretty awesome waterfalls there, and yes you can swim in them!

  • Island-In-The-Sky Trail- For a short 0.7 mile hike, this trail has SO many cool features packed in. Rocky walls, ladders, crawlspaces, this place is a natural playground. Add in some rhododendrons and beautiful views, and you've got the perfect sunset hike.

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

With 53 miles of scenic spots along the river to explore, New River Gorge has plenty of opportunities for beautiful destinations and adventures. We've compiled our favorites in the northern section and hope to head back to explore the southern section soon. See what made our top list here and keep scrolling for our best tips for visiting each spot.

  1. Canyon Rim Visitor Center

  2. Endless Wall Trail

  3. Cathedral Falls

  4. Long Point Trail

  5. Hawks Nest Overlook

  6. Bonus Stops

Canyon Rim Visitor Center

New River Gorge has 4 visitors centers, but Canyon Rim is the only one open daily, year round. We stopped here first to pick up our Junior Ranger books and chat with the helpful rangers about the park. Be sure to take the short walk to see the New River Bridge, the longest steel span bridge in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.

Endless Wall Trail

This was our favorite trail here, hiking along the cliffside there are non stop views of the river. And, while there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views at the steep cliff sections, these are easily avoidable if you are hiking with little kids too. This is also an excellent rock climbing spot! We saw some climbers while we were there and hope to try that out one day soon.

We chose the out and back hike option, parking at the Fern Cliff parking lot. Parking here is limited so be sure to get there early, or park in the alternate Nuttall trailhead. Both will get you to the main overlook, Diamond Point. The hike is about 2.3 miles, but be sure to explore the additional overlooks while you're there.

Cathedral Falls

This was a happy surprise find! Located right off the main road, you'd never know there was a 60+ foot waterfall at this little stop. Found in a small park named Gauley Bridge, there are only a handful of parking spots here. But you'll find a short walk leads you to one of the tallest West Virginia waterfalls, and one of the prettiest ones we've seen. Beautiful scenery and shallow waters, this is a great place for big and little kids to cool off in the summer.

Long Point Trail

With iconic views of the New River Bridge, this is a must see. An out and back 3 mile hike, relatively easy walk through various meadows and woods until you reach the last part towards the overlook. Steep drop offs at the look out but definitely worth it for the views!!

Hawks Nest Overlook

An easy stop off with amazing views, Hawks Nest overlook is a great place to stretch your legs on your way to Cathedral Falls. Located just a few miles down the road from the main State Park area, you'll find the overlook right off the main road. An easy walk to amazing views. Bonus points for a bathroom that looks like a castle!

Looking for more epic stops on your New River Gorge road trip?

Here's a few more of our favorites along the way.

  1. Beartown State Park- hike through a rock maze at this hidden gem. A great stop off if you're coming from the North East.

  2. Humpback Rocks- One of our favorite hikes in the northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a great add on if you are coming from the South East.

  3. Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory- An easy hike to an observatory built upon the hanging rocks of the overlook. A great place to birdwatch and watch the sunrise AND sunset.


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