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Our 10 Favorite Trails in New River Gorge National Park

April 7, 2024

We’ve been on every trail in New River National Park, and while we love the most popular trails like Endless Wall and Long Point, we find ourselves drawn to the quiet beauty of the lesser-hiked trails. We’ve included a link in each trail description for directions to the trailhead so you can check them out for yourself.

A sturdy metail bridge arching across Glade Creek. Rocks and water fill the creekbed with green foliage on both side.
Glade Creek Trail

Glade Creek Trail

“Absolutely gorgeous” is what most of our New River Gorge Eco Tour guests say when we take them to this trail. Glade Creek Trail is a long trail (5.6 miles one way, 11.2 miles total), so sometimes we only hike half, but the trail is wide and gently slopped and perfect for an all-day adventure. Glade Creek has a beautiful waterfall and the best swimming hole in the New River Gorge. Near the southern trailhead, there’s a short access trail to Kate’s Falls which is a real stunner!

Dark green rhododendron bush arch together to create an enchanting tunnel along Polls Palteau Trail - one of the most remote trails in New River Gorge National Park.
Polls Plateau Trail

Polls Plateau Trail

This is a very remote trail and that’s exactly why we love it! Polls Plateau Trail goes through an upland forest, passing through an old farmstead along the way. This 4.9-mile loop trail is great for wildlife viewing. Make sure to study and download your map of this area. We once got lost – extending our hike by almost 2 hours – because one of the signs was missing at a confusing intersection with another trail.

A narrow trail cuts through a grove of tall, slender silver-barked trees along Gwinn Ridge Trail.
Gwinn Ridge Trail

Gwinn Ridge Trail

A beautiful 3-mile loop trail around a ridge line, the Gwinn Ridge Trail features the biodiversity of an older forest, interspersed with former pasture lands in transition. You’ll love this secluded and quiet trail near Sandstone Falls. You can also call the nearby Three Rivers Avian Center to see if they can provide a tour of their facility for rescued birds (304-466-4683).

A white rushing waterfall in the center of the photo is surrounds by bright green trees along the Big Branch Trail in the southern section of the New River Gorge National Park.
Near Big Branch Trail

Big Branch Trail

Also in the southern section of the New River Gorge, near Sandstone Falls, you’ll find Big Branch Trail. This short (2-mile loop) trail is strenuous and timing your hike can be tricky. The trail is difficult to hike when the ground is wet, but the waterfalls won’t be flowing if it’s too dry. But if you hit it just right, the payoff is outstanding! We love traveling through this cove forest, enjoying the numerous waterfalls, and exploring the ruins of an old farmstead.

Thick masses of rhododendron with hundreds of whitish-pink blooms surround the rushing water of Butcher Branch waterfall.
Butcher Branch Trail

Butcher Branch Trail

Short but so sweet, Butcher Branch Trail passes through a tranquil pine forest and contains a short but steep spur to a beautiful waterfall and active climbing area.

Park Loop Trail

The main reason we love Park Loop Trail is its proximity to Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals. The trailhead is within Fayetteville Town Park which is only a 10-minute walk away. But the short 1.1 mile loop trail has other big perks. First, when it rains, this trail is FULL of a huge variety of mushrooms. Second, Park Loop Trail connects to the Fayetteville Trail which affords you access to almost the entire trail system in the northern section of the New River Gorge.

An old railroad line in the foreground leads to a wooden staircase that wraps around an enormous bolder in the middle of the Rend Trail.
Rend Trail

Rend Trail

Rend Trail provides views of the historic town of Thurmond and the New River, and crosses several old train trestles. A house-size sandstone boulder that detached from the nearby cliff now blocks the old railroad bed, and steps have been permanently constructed to bypass the bolder. Special note: the trail is currently closed at 1.9 miles due to structural damage to a bridge, but we still recommend hiking the open section.

The sky and New River are the same shade of deep blue in this picture from the Stone Cliff Trail.
Stone Cliff Trail

Stone Cliff Trail

The Stone Cliff Trail has a lot to offer: it parallels the New River, leads to an old-growth forest, and has an impressive display of ferns and wildflowers. But it ranks as one of our favorite trails for a very specific reason – Mary Drapers Ingles almost certainly walked along this same route on her epic voyage home from captivity by the Shawnee Indians. Of course, this trail is only 3 miles long (6 miles out and back) and Mary Draper Ingles walked 500-600 miles, but we still love to imagine the route through her eyes and think about how the forest has changed since her 1755 trek.

Spring Beauties blooming along the Southside Trail with the New River in the background.
Southside Trail

Southside Trail

Southside Trail is an easy seven-mile riverside trail that provides great views of the New River and passes through several abandoned mining towns. It’s one of the few trails in the New River Gorge National Park that travels along the river, and numerous side trails lead to the river’s edge. We hike Southside Trail several times a year and it’s our favorite trail for wildflower viewing.

An old dirt road cuts through the forest canopy with blue sky in the background along the Terry Top Trail in the New River Gorge.
Terry Top Trail

Terry Top Trail

This trail is a bit of a mystery. It is on National Park property, is well-maintained, and several years ago it was promoted as a trail option. But in the past few years, it has disappeared from NPS information. We inquired with the rangers at Canyon Rim Visitors Center, and they assured us that it is still safe and legal to hike, but since trailhead parking is limited, they don’t promote it.

We love this trail because it is VERY quiet, passes an impressive vernal pool (frog pond), and leads to a cemetery full of yucca plants (once used as grave markers due to their longevity and hardiness). The trail is 1.8 miles long (3.6 miles round trip).

Directions from Fayetteville to Terry Top trailhead: Take US-19 South toward Beckley for 10.8 miles. Exit left toward Glen Jean (you will see an Exxon/Subway on the left). Turn right immediately at the stop sign onto WV-6 S/WV-61 S.  Travel for 2.7 miles and then turn left onto WV-61 South.  Travel 1.9 miles and turn left at the large Summit Bechtel sign. Drive 1.1 miles along this road and take the first PAVED road on the right (Mill Creek Rd).  The road soon turns to a gravel-surfaced one. Drive 1.6 miles, passing the National Park boundary sign on the left. The trailhead will be .4 miles inside the boundary on the right (look for a gate). It is marked by a 4’ pole sign (easy to miss).

Which New River Gorge National Park Hiking Trail is right for YOU? Find your trail here.

Who are we? Amy & Shawn, New River Gorge hikers, WV Master Naturalists, and owners of Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals in downtown Fayetteville, WV – the heart of New River Gorge National Park.

Craving more data for your New River Gorge exploration? Read “Our 10 Favorite Waterfalls in the New River Gorge” and “New River Gorge Explorer: A 5-Day Itinerary.”

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