Uncover the Past in West Virginia’s Newest National Park
New River Gorge has silently witnessed centuries of change. Explore the story of the New River Gorge region from ancient waters to national park with these itineraries.
Discover Early Communities
Start your time at the park by learning about the gorge’s first inhabitants. Visit Sandstone Visitor Center to see an exhibit on the Native Americans who have lived here for generations and a Clovis point—a spear tip used by the area’s ancient hunters.
While you’re at the visitor center, talk to the park rangers about taking the scenic drive to Trump-Lilly Farm for a walking tour through the historical site. European settlers arrived in the 1700s with many becoming subsistence farmers like the family who worked this preserved homestead. On your drive, take in the panoramic views of Hinton and the New River. Make sure to stop at Sandstone Falls on your way south to the Trump-Lilly Farm.
Ride the Rails
When the C&O Railway laid tracks through the New River Gorge in the 1870s, it set the stage for the region to become a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution. Take a scenic train ride on Amtrak’s Cardinal line, an exceptional way to see fall colors in the park, to the still-functioning Prince Station. This Art Deco depot is also the perfect spot to take photos to remember your adventures.
The labor needed to build the rail lines came from a melting pot of new residents who settled in towns like Hinton. Visit the Hinton Railroad Museum, on the southern gateway of the park, which features model trains, exhibits and tools used during the time of folk legend John Henry, the Steel Drivin’ Man.
Take the African American Heritage Driving Tour
The lives, labors and culture of Black coal miners, railroad workers and other community residents helped shape the history of New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Hear their stories and experiences on a self-guided driving tour of 17 historic sites in Summers, Raleigh, Fayette and Nicholas counties. The tour is available on the National Park Service’s smartphone app.
Camp by the River
Dozens of mines peppered the region in the early 1900s, and company towns were built for workers and their families. Remains of these towns still linger throughout the park. Begin at Thurmond, now home to the Thurmond Depot Visitor Center, where you can see a re-creation of what the station would have looked like in its heyday. Then bike the Rend Trail for a big-picture view. Opt for a longer stay at nearby Stone Cliff Beach Campground. Picnic at the park recreation shelters or even camp at the riverside site.
Join a Legacy of Sporting
Hunting has long been a tradition in the New River Gorge. Deer, bear, turkey, rabbit and fowl are in season throughout the year. Consider The West Virginia Experience’s trip that combines float fishing and waterfowl hunting. A West Virginia hunting license is required. Learn how to obtain a license here.
Hike to Ancient History
Millions of years ago, what we now know as the New River, actually one of Earth’s oldest rivers, flowed into a massive inland sea covering central North America. The river carved a path through the emerging Appalachian Mountains, eventually creating the deep canyon we know as the gorge. Hike Castle Rock Trail near Grandview to see cross sections of the gorge’s ancient rock layers.
Exploring the history of this national park can leave anyone feeling nostalgic. If you’re still yearning for more historical experiences in Almost Heaven, be sure to check out another national park in the state: Harpers Ferry National Park & Preserve.Historical National Park Adventures
This post was last updated on May 12, 2023