WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – Located in the heart of Fayette County, the Northern end of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, along with the famous New River Gorge Bridge draws in thousands each year to explore the area’s natural beauty and splendor.
Those visitor numbers are only continuing to grow ever since the New River Gorge was rededicated as a national park last year.
With all of the many recreational activities and sights to see in the area, it’s often easy to forget that there is much more to see and do in this national park.
“The Southern end of the park is a beautiful area. Traditionally it has not been as heavily visited as the Northern end of the park,” Chief of Interpretation for the National Park Service, Eve West says. “You’ve probably heard the term, you’ve got the wild, which is the Northern end of the park, and then you’ve got the mild, which is the Southern end of the park.”
The South District stretches from Grandview to Sandstone and all the way down to its Southern-most point in Hinton, where both Bluestone and Pipestem State Parks can be found nearby.
A scenic riverside driving tour that begins at the Sandstone Visitor Center ushers visitors to beautiful views, historic sites, and even more recreational opportunities.
From the largest waterfall in the New River at Sandstone Falls to the Brooks Island Overlook that peers over the mile-long Brooks Island– a perennial bald eagle nesting site– there is plenty to be seen on the southern end.
There’s also much to do, such as hiking on the couple-mile Gwin Ridge Trail and Big Branch Trail, and plenty of kayaking and boating opportunities in Bluestone Lake. Then, arriving in Hinton, designated as the Southern Gateway to the gorge, visitors will be greeted with even more to do in this quaint, historical town.
“You’re only exploring the tip of the iceberg when you explore the northern end. The New River is over 72,000 acres of national park and preserve,” she says.
Heading back up north a bit, Grandview is another prime location within the national park. From 1,400 feet above the river at the main overlook, here visitors are greeted with some of the best views in the park.
“Grandview is of course a former state park that became part of the national park, at the time of course it was a national river in the early 90’s, and its always been really popular, it’s a great place to bring families,” West says.
The National Park Service now has an app that provides tools for exploring over 400 national parks. People interested in exploring New River Gorge’s South District can find it on the app, along with more information about the area, an interactive map, and virtual tours.