We stumbled upon New River Gorge by simply mapping out what areas would make a good weekend getaway from Cincinnati. After seeing the stunning photos of the gorge and our minds were made up. Not only did we fall head over heels in love with this little spot in West Virginia but loved the surrounding areas as well. Here are a few reasons why you need to make New River Gorge your next adventure.
THE NEW RIVER GORGE BRIDGE
The most iconic symbol of the New River Gorge is the Bridge. It is the fourth longest single span arch bridge in the world and can be seen on quarters representing West Virginia. The folks of West Virginia celebrate this historic icon with many celebrations and events. You can do the Bridge Walk which takes you on along the catwalk under the bridge. Check it out here. If walking across a bridge over 3,000 feet in the air strapped in a harness isn’t your idea of good time, you might want to come for Bridge Day. Each October base jumpers gather to propel themselves off the bridge and into the gorge below. Truly a sight to behold. The weekend celebration includes a music festival, 5 K, food and more.
Long Point Trail
The astonishing and striking views of the gorge will make you forget you are in West Virginia. Having a wide variety of trails for all levels and abilities makes seeing the gorge a must on any bucket list. We opted to hike Long Point Trail for our first hike with a baby. The trail is relatively easy with the last .2 miles being ROUGH! However, you need to do it to get the most speculator views of the bridge and the New River Gorge. The end is literally on the edge of a rock hanging over a cliff. If you feel you will trip over your feet and tumble to your death you may want to hang back in the safety of the trees. You can plan your hiking adventures and trails by looking at the park’s website. The keys are dead on to what to expect so plan accordingly.
Deep in the New River Gorge, you will find the abandoned coal mining town of Nuttallburg. Once a booming coal operation started in 1873 by John Nuttall, it came to ruin shortly after 1920. Nuttall sold the mines to the Fordson Coal Company to help supply coal to the Ford Motor Company. The railroad regulations made shipping coal extremely difficult and they ended up selling off the mines. The estate fell to ruin and was only recently acquired by the state park.
Now those who want to venture into the heart of West Virginia can wind down the one lane road to get to this forgotten town. Visitors to this ghost town can still see the tipple, coke ovens and the old conveyor that was used in the 1800s. You can even hike to the entrance of the coal mine and see the remains of the coal cars. The drive to get there is very scenic but can be slightly bumpy and unnerving for those who are not used to traveling in mountains or on gravel roads. Don’t be scared and take the drive, because the reward is one that you will remember for a lifetime.
Ghost Town of Thurmond
I can never turn down a good ghost town and Thurmond does not disappoint. It is so remarkable in that it appears to be occupied by more than the 5 inhabitants. Established in 1903 by Captain William D. Thurmond this small town had more coal running through it than Cincinnati in the 1920s. The town is also known to be the spot of the longest poker game ever at 14 years according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The town began to decline once diesel locomotives hit the scene and coal was not the primary source of fuel. Today visitors can walk through what’s left of the preserved town including the Depot, Commissary and the National Bank of Thurmond. The National Park owns many of the housing units and other buildings that are preserved. Amtrak does still service Thurmond, it is the second least used station. However, the train tracks are very active so keep alert! Be sure to check this hidden gem out if you are passing through. Oh, and be cautious if there is construction going on because you may have to get into town by driving on the train tracks, facing down a cement truck. A terrifying and potentially pants wetting situation.
Hawk’s Nest State Park
If you are still hungry for more views of the amazing gorge swing into Hawk’s Nest State Park. This park is full of amazing things to do. They have an aerial tramway, nature museum, whitewater rafting and more. They also have a lodge that offers luxury rooms in the middle of the wilderness. The overlooks provide amazing views of the river and the dam! I would allocate a whole day or more to exploring this amazing park. I look forward to coming back to and experiencing more of this state treasure. Check out their website here.
Visit the Mystery Hole!
What is the mystery hole? Well, I guess it is going to remain a mystery until you go and find out for yourself. I am not in the business of ruining the surprises that this place has in store for its patrons. If you really must know, google it. Just know that it is a classic Americana roadside attraction. Even if you don’t want to know what is inside, the outside is such an eclectic hot mess you wouldn’t want to miss it.
The Secret Sandwich Society
Any place called the Secret Sandwich Society is definitely going to get a visit from me. The unique sandwiches that they offer will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. In a little town with not much other than fast food, this place is much needed. They have a nice bar above the restaurant and great outdoor dining space. Come here when you have finished being active for the day because you won’t want to do much afterward.
Swing into this little church now cafe to grab a cup of coffee, a cocktail or some grub. This place has it all. We loved the hippie vibe that this place gives off and left feeling full and with good mojo. Take your time, grab a book or a game and enjoy the company of the folks you are with. Heads up their desserts are to die for. Check out their menu and decide what you will be ordering when you stop in.
Where To Stay
We opted to book a whole house through Airbnb and it was an amazing experience. It was right on the hiking/ bike trails and was incredibly affordable. Our host Colleen had thought of everything and the little details did not go unnoticed. I would highly recommend checking out her rental home here.
There are other cabin rentals through various companies throughout New River Gorge that seemed nice, but I felt we hit gold with our rental. For those who enjoy the comforts of a hotel, there are a few around but the pickings are slim.
No road trip is complete without some classic roadside attractions. On our way to the gorge from Cincinnati, we hit a few captivating places that might grab your attention. Here are a few stops that you need to add to your bucket list!
As many of you know it is our mission to seek out the weirdest and most bizarre attractions and this my friends will not disappoint. The urban legend of the Mothman is worth looking up if curiosity hasn’t already gotten the best of you. A shortened version is that it is a mysterious winged creature that terrorized the small town of Point Pleasant. It is believed to be an omen for disasters such as the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River that killed 46 people. Sightings of the creature are reported to this day with claims of it being an alien as well. Anything that freakishly fantastic is something I gotta see with my own eyes!
Admission to the museum is dirt cheap and they even offer a virtual tour online. It is astonishing the number of newspaper articles and clippings they have related to eyewitnesses encounters. The notorious recordings of police being chased by the Mothman are under lock and key along with various other artifacts. The folks at the museum were incredibly nice and so friendly. Soph got to leave with her own Mothman sticker and plenty of photo ops.
The town has embraced the legend of the Mothman which has made it a must-see destination for many. Join them for their annual Mothman festival, visit the museum, get that a selfie with the Mothman statue; there is even a Mothman 5K!!
Fer a bit of good ole West Virginia grub git yerselves to Hillbilly Hot dogs!! This hillbilly hollar is truly a sight to behold. Don’t worry they aren’t serving up possum at this joint, but rather some out of this world hot dogs and chicken! So put on the feedbag and belly up to your table in the bus for the best hot dogs you will ever snarf.
If you bring your receipt from the Mothman Museum you get 10% off your entire order or a free Mothman dog!! We opted for the free dog since we wanted to try as many as we could without making having to make a mad dash for the nearest outhouse! You can’t go wrong with the Ala cheesy beefy weenie which is covered in Nacho cheese sauce, macaroni and cheese, and chili. Others claim that the weenie topped with fried spam reigned supreme. See their full menu here.
You can up your weenie game and opt to do the Homewrecker challenge. It’s a mountain of weenie goodness you must consume in 12 minutes to receive your free shirt and hillbilly glory. Fair warning you will be miserable the entire rest of the day and will need someone to drive you to your final destination. You will also want to also get that shirt in the next size up.
The State Capitol Building in Charleston, West Virginia
If you ever have to drive through Charleston, WV you can’t help but notice the massive golden-domed capitol building. Anything that commands attention like that is surely worth a stop. A visit to any state capitol building is free and will often provide guided tours at no additional costs. The public can often go on their own self-guided tours, just prepare to go through security and a scanner to enter. Even though the capitol buildings massive dome was under construction the building and the grounds were gorgeous and worth the stop. It was an added bonus for us that the capitol was in bloom! If you are looking a great lunch spot head over to Black Sheep Burritos and Brews! The tacos and beers won’t disappoint.
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