New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia

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Staff member
Dec 30, 2008
I met my son in Beckley, WV for a trip to a National Park we've never been to, New River Gorge. For those who don't know, this is coal country. It's our newest NP gaining that status in Dec. of 2020. We figured to start at the north and work our way south. We got there before the visitor's center opened so we took the narrow one way road down into the gorge.

The Park is just full of these one way one lane bridges.

Waterfalls everywhere, and it's been dry. Must be even prettier after rains.

This was just a trickle next to the falls, but it shows the fall leaves well.

We then drove to the Thurmond Historical District. Interesting place, but no particular pics of interest of the old town. You do appreciate how difficult it must have been just getting here, and that's after the railroad was built! This is some rugged remote country! One lane car bridge next to the still active RR tracks.

This is how close the tracks are to the gravel road you drive in/out on. You can see my car on the left. The tanker car is stationary. The tracks closest to the road are what a train had just come thru on.

Another narrow bridge with views from both sides.

Now, should we head down McKendree Road? I wish I'd have taken a pic of a big yellow sign that said ROUGH ROAD. How bad could it be? It is in a NP, you know. You only live once, so...

It's a very narrow 2 way road carved into the mountainside over the New River. It can be quite a drop being there are no guardrails. Actually, we did see about a 50' section of rail in the middle of nowhere we got a kick out of. Let's just say you're not going to go very fast on this Jeep trail. I'm in a Nissan Rogue BTW. After you go about 2 miles down this trail you begin to question your judgement. "Maybe we should have taken your car" I said to my son who owns a very low sporty Kia Stinger. Riiight. About 4 miles in I'm asking how much longer this trail's going to last.

There comes a time when you finally say that just maybe this wasn't such a swell idea after all. How much longer? In my 4x4 PU this would have been a piece of cake. In my full sized van with off road 10 ply tires--piece of cake because of the ground clearance, but let's do it in a Nissan Rogue? 🤣 My son's not used to anything like this and said: "Um, Dad, you're getting awfully close to the edge, I feel like I'm about to go over." Like I'm not going for the ride with you? LOL

It was an obstacle course of getting around mud puddles and permanent rocks you have to decide whether to drive over or straddle. What if someone else comes from the other direction? There's no way you can pass. I told him to remember every place we come to where I could pull into to let another 4x4 pass if I had to back up. That would have been fun LOL I decided to turn my headlights on so another vehicle could see us coming thru the trees, maybe.

I have no idea how long this road really is, maybe 15 miles? It's hard to say. About the 2/3 point we see a vehicle coming :oops: I hadn't seen a pull off for a mile or so so I kept going. It was a Jeep, a real trail Jeep, not an SUV. They saw us and pulled off on a small flat place. Talk about lucky! They were pure WV natives out for some fun. We asked if the road got any worse and they said "not really" with sort of a smile.

Of course we made it to the end. That we made it without any body damage is a miracle. If you ever go to this NP make sure you take McKendree Rd. Just make sure you have a vehicle with ground clearance, 4x4 not really needed. I wouldn't recommend taking this road after a lot of rain or in the rain. I seriously doubt even the locals would be foolish to do that.

I don't have any really good pics of the road because I was just trying to get thru it. There are a ton of YouTube videos on this road as well as countless articles if you prefer to read about it first.

Barn Owl that flew in front of us.

Easy place.

Coming out the southern end. The road is not this wide much past this point.

We then went to the Sandstone Visitor Center. A sweet woman working the desk said: "Oh, you took McKendree road in a Nissan Rogue? That must have been exciting! LOL She said to never take that road in the rain! That's like saying to not drink the contents of a car battery.

Sandstone Falls were beautiful. We met a friendly couple from India who had gorgeous pics of the entire river falls, but there wasn't a trail. They said you just have to find your way. It was way too rocky for me, but my son tried and gave up. I could have asked them to send their pics to my phone, but why? We hadn't gone there.

Early the next day we went back to the northern part of the Park to take the dirt road to the Nuttallburg mining site. All of these mining towns were patterned the same. You come to work here with your family and we will work you to death. We will pay you with our special $ which is only good in our company stores. We rent you a house we own. These bast***ds just keep on taking your $ over and over again and you can't take any with you to find a life somewhere else :mad: Oh, they were even nicer to the black folks who were just like any other human being on the planet in just wanting a better life. Their company houses were down the road from the white's and European's, along with their black only church. How kind...

Henry Ford ended up buying into this mine because it served him in his auto business. He gave up because he couldn't control the RR. He was a streamlining genius, though, much like Bill Ruger was when it came to guns. Nuttallburg was famous for taking coal and turning it into coke explained here:

Coke ovens:

Just a really cool pic looking up thru a coke oven:

I love our National Parks! This makes 37-38 I've visited. I still have a few to see in the lower 48. This one's a little out of the way, but like all of our NP's, it's worth a full day of your life.


Jan 26, 2011
That was my back yard until I moved to Florida. Was just there last week. Love the fall there and no place I would rather be during Thanksgiving week. That is opening week of rifle season.


Dec 4, 2021
Looks like another great trip Cholo. Fantastic pics. I especially liked the falls and the owl.


Jan 26, 2000
I was 100% against it becoming a National Park. It enabled them to stop hunting in what's now "Park" land.


Nov 9, 2012
The New River Gorge is some rough country. And so is the Cheat River at Camp Dawson, where they test Delta try outs. I've been to Dawson, and the mountains are real up that way.
Jan 16, 2009
SE Michigan
Reminds me of our one day rafting trip down the New River in July. (hot-humid). We exited at the New River Gorge bridge. We loaded on the buses and began the climb up the narrow white-knuckle road. Our guide said "Remember when we went through the class 5 rapids? I forgot to tell you the bus trip back to the top is a class 6!!"