SPECIAL UPDATE – Legislation passed by Congress on 12/21/20 has designated the New River Gorge the 63rd national park in the United States! It is now known as the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
Without a doubt, the best view of the New River Gorge Bridge is from the end of the Long Point Trail.
While it is the Instagram-worthy spot at the trail’s terminus that gets most of the attention, the journey has other merits, and there are a few things you should know in preparation for this 3-mile hike (1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back).
We’ve enjoyed the Long Point Trail too many times to remember. The view at the terminus never gets old. We also recommend this trail to all of our guests at Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals because we know they will be thrilled by the experience. Read on for our practical advice, insider info, and safety tips.
Things to Know Before You Go on Long Point Trail
- This is not a trail where you will find solitude for much of the year. Its well-deserved popularity means that you will encounter many other hikers and you’ll have to wait your turn to get the best spots at the vista. Be patient. Enjoy the journey! Long Point is a beautiful trail for its entire length, not just at the end.
- There is another Long Point trail at Summersville Lake. While this is also a gorgeous trail, don’t let Google sidetrack you with directions that take you 20 minutes outside of Fayetteville. When we explore, we use Bryan Simon’s “Hiking and Biking in the New River Gorge: A Trail Users Guide“. It contains so much great information about the hundreds of miles of trail in this beautiful part of West Virginia.
- You will have cell phone service for the duration of this hike. We aren’t suggesting you engage your technology while enjoying nature, but it is a nice thing to know if you are worried about emergencies.
- This easy hike doesn’t require special shoes or gear for most people during good weather.
- It usually takes us about two hours to hike the entire trail at a casual pace and that includes plenty of time to enjoy the view and take photos.
Finding the Long Point Trailhead
Most casual hikers will park at the Long Point trailhead just off Gatewood Road about 2 miles from downtown Fayetteville. From the Fayette County Courthouse, head east on Court St. As you are leaving town you will turn left on Gatewood Road (up the hill).
The National Park Service has recently upgraded the parking at the trailhead, but it still can fill up on weekends. Resist the urge to park along the road if you find the parking lot full. The local police will tow illegally parked cars.
The Long Point Trail is also accessible from Kaymoor Top (via the Fayetteville Trail and Butcher’s Branch Trail) and Town Park. Starting from the Long Point trailhead, though, provides the opportunity to check out the new (in 2018) wildlife viewing platform near the beginning of the trail. Overlooking a large field covered with milkweed and goldenrod (stunning in the early fall!), this is a great place to birdwatch or spot a deer or two.
The Terrain of the Long Point Trail
Once the trail passes the wildlife viewing area, it descends slightly into the forest. Recent subtle changes in the trail’s path have bypassed some low spots that in the past have been muddy even during dry weather.
Like most of the hiking trails in the New River Gorge, Long Point goes through a forest that is a mixture of Hemlock, pine, and deciduous trees. They provide a shady canopy for most of its length.
Nature lovers will enjoy the diverse plant and fungi in the mature forest. The high number of visitors, however, keep most of the wildlife running scared and staying out of sight of the trail except in the early morning.
The trail remains fairly level for the first mile as it crosses the Fayetteville Trail and intersects with Butcher’s Branch trail with only a few short ups and downs. You will begin to hear the river rushing below, and during wet weather, you can hear the roar of Fern Creek Falls across the Gorge.
The next half mile is a slow descent towards the Gorge. The last few hundred yards are fairly steep, but the trail is nicely stepped so it’s not hard to negotiate.
The last segment of the trail winds down to the point through a tunnel of Rhododendron maximum. These rhododendron’s blooms are the state flower of West Virginia. Going through this tunnel in mid-June when the “rhodies” are in bloom is an especially nice treat.
The New River Gorge Bridge is the Draw, but Photo-worthy Scenes are Everywhere
Once you reach the rocky landing of Long Point, you will be distracted by the magnificent view of the New River Gorge Bridge straight in front of you, but don’t miss looking to your right, across the Gorge to see Fern Creek Falls. These three distinctive falls are highly visible in early spring and any time during wet weather. The water from Fern Creek cascades nearly 900 feet to its meeting with the New River.
It’s not uncommon for the overlook to be crowded, so you might have to wait your turn to take that perfect selfie with the bridge in the background. Luckily there are numerous places along the edge of the cliffs where you can take in other vistas while you wait. Off to the left is the Wolf Creek drainage and even though you can’t see it, you can hear Wolf Creek Falls thundering below. Back to the right side of Long Point, you can see The Endless Wall area. You can often spot distant climbers high on the sheer rock face on the Fern Creek Buttress.
Many Phones, Cameras, and a Few People Have Been Lost Over the Edge
We will caution you: Long Point is surrounded by severe drops of more than 50’ on three sides. Be careful and watch your children. People have fallen and required large-scale rescue operations to bring them up.
Once you’ve satisfied with your views and photos, head back the way you came. To extend your hike by about a mile and a half, turn left on the Butcher’s Branch Trail and follow it back to Kaymoor Top. From there, hop back on the Fayetteville Trail and reconnect with the Long Point Trail, turning left to head back to the Long Point trailhead parking area.
Tips to Help You Enjoy Long Point Trail
- The view from Long Point is different in every season. You will especially want to make the trip in the fall to see the amazing display of colors provided by the diverse species of hardwoods and conifers in the gorge.
- There are new bathroom facilities at the Long Point Trailhead parking area.
- Mountain bikes are permitted on all but the last 0.2 miles of the trail. The spot where you should get off your bike is clearly marked by a National Park Service sign. You can rent mountain bikes to take on the trail at New River Bikes in downtown Fayetteville, and at Arrowhead Bike Farm near the Long Point Trailhead on Gatewood Road.
Arrowhead Bike Farm has much more than just bike rentals. After your hike, stop by this kid and dog-friendly farm for brats and cold craft beer. You’ll find friendly folks, a campground, bike shop, Biergarten and small farm animals.
Learn more about Fayetteville’s fabulous food scene in our Insider’s Food Guide. We’ve compiled all the local restaurants’ info into a one-page flier that includes location, contact info, hours of operation, special diet offerings, alcohol availability, our favorite entrees and more!
Craving more info for your New River Gorge getaway? Learn about enjoying nature and adventure activities in this magical place, and for insider information, sign up for our email list. We’ll help you plan a perfect getaway to this magical place!