Have you visited WV’s National Parks? We bet you didn’t do this…

Southern West Virginia’s National Parks are known for their natural beauty and outdoor recreation. The New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River have 100s of miles of hiking, nature and rivers to enjoy— but you’ll also find a variety of unique, off-the-beaten-path activities and attractions in these wild,wonderful parks.

Here are 8 unique things to explore:

1. Wild Blue Adventure Company

What could be better than a view of the New River Gorge and River? A view from a WWII biplane!

Take a ride in a fully restored, museum-quality, WWII-era training airplane. You can take to the skies on a variety of rides, ranging from a standard sightseeing tour of the New River Gorge to a true thrill ride complete with barrel rolls. Wild Blue Adventure Company is definitely a unique way to see this National Park.

2. Sweets Falls, Gauley River

Fall Gauley Season is one of the most exciting times of year for whitewater paddlers. Rafting this national treasure is not for the faint of heart, but with several Class V rapids– including the infamous Sweets Falls, a 14-foot waterfall– you can’t resist the call of the river.

3. SCUBA Diving at Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake has SCUBA diving and snorkeling in the clearest freshwater lake east of the Mississippi. You can see 20 to 45 feet away, and the waters are nice and warm in the summer.

With 28,000 acres of water, sandstone cliffs and an assortment of fish life including bass, walleye and catfish, it’s no wonder that this manmade lake is known as the “Little Bahamas of the East.”

4. New River Gorge Bridge Walk

The New River Gorge Bridge stands at 876 feet above the New River and spans 3,030 feet across the Gorge. Who wouldn’t want to walk across that?

Bridge Walk has daily tours across the catwalk beneath the bridge, which take you 1.25 miles from one end to the other. The trip lasts 2 to 3 hours, meaning plenty of time to ask questions, snap photos and take in the beauty of the New River Gorge.

5. New River Jet Boats

The New River is world famous for its whitewater rafting, but did you know you can also zip along on a breezy jet boat through the rapids?

Ride the aerial tram at Hawks Nest State Park Lodge to the bottom of the gorge to board a New River Jet Boat and ride upstream to take in the majesty of the New River Gorge Bridge.

6. Bald Eagle Watching

The American bald eagle– once thought extinct from Southern West Virginia—is back and flourishing. Join park naturalists to spot them in the wild during the Pipestem Eagle Survey every winter and spring along the New and Bluestone rivers.

In recent years, surveyors have counted nearly 60 bald eagles. You can also view these magnificent birds and other raptors at Three Rivers Avian Center on select days.

7. Sandstone Falls

The star of the New River Gorge might be the iconic New River Gorge Bridge, but Sandstone Falls to the south is equally breathtaking. The largest waterfall on the New River spans the width of the river at 1,500 feet and drops 10 to 25 feet over a series of islands.

The Sandstone Falls Overlook will give you a view from 600 feet above the river, while the Brooks Overlook looks down on Brooks Island, a popular bald eagle nesting site.

8. Bluestone Turnpike Trail

In the early 20th century farmers and loggers used the Bluestone Turnpike along the Bluestone River. Now, the route is known as the Bluestone Turnpike Trail, a 10-mile scenic trek that links 2 state parks.

Hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, anglers and hunters can use the trail. You can access it through Bluestone State Park’s Old Mill Campground or Pipestem Resort State Park’s Mountain Creek Lodge— which you get to by taking an aerial tram ride over the gorge.

What’s your passion? You are sure to find it here in Southern West Virginia’s National Parks.

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This post was last updated on July 21, 2020