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Lafayette Flats
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New River Gorge Eco Tours: Guided Forest Walks

May 5, 2023

Sunset in the New River Gorge National Park with fog rolling through the canyon.

We’re sure you’ve heard: The New River is one of the oldest in the world. But do you know what that means – how this ancient river has affected the area we now call New River Gorge National Park? Well, for one thing, the river created an area so rich in plant and animal life that it ranks fourth among ALL the national parks in biodiversity. FOURTH!

The path the New River has for millions of years cut through the Appalachian Mountains has caused two fascinating conditions that contribute to this rich biodiversity. First, the unusual north-south flow of the river creates a lone corridor through the mountains which allowed northern species to escape the ice age and now allows southern species to escape warming temperatures. Second, the deep canyon left behind from the river’s erosion creates many different habitats with temperatures and moisture levels that reflect the varied elevations. Stand on the rim of the Gorge in April and you can see this phenomenon – the forest around you will still be leafless while the riverbank below is in full bloom.

The river is just one of the many reasons the New River Gorge was designated a national park. While whitewater rafting and rock climbing get a lot of well-deserved attention, it’s the often-overlooked natural and cultural treasures contained within the park that make it so important and unique.

New River Gorge Eco Tour Leaders Amy McLaughlin & Shawn Means standing above a large mushroom.

Through our many years of hiking and master naturalist studies, we’ve been delighted and sometimes shocked by all that we’ve learned about the natural history of our home. We’ve shared our appreciation of this special place with our vacation rental guests for almost a decade – by providing in-depth information and trail advice – but in 2023 we decided to provide a more personal touch.

When you book a stay at Lafayette Flats, you will have the opportunity to include a private New River Gorge Eco Tour with us as your guides; we are now permitted, trained, and insured to guide tours in the National Park! New River Gorge Eco Tours are open to the public, but Lafayette Flats guests receive a special discount on private tours.

After booking we will ask you to complete a five-question survey, the answers to which we will use to carefully select the perfect trail for your eco tour. Having walked virtually every mile of the New River Gorge National Park’s trail system, we know which trails best fit your specific interests and abilities. And as locals, we know the optimal times and seasons to experience them.

During your New River Gorge Eco Tour, we’ll tell you the story of this place from the geological history of the Gorge to the human activity that has become an integral part of its ecology. Together we’ll leisurely explore different forest communities and the complex network of plants and fungi that make up the “Wood Wide Web.” We promise – you’ll walk out from under this lush forest canopy with a deep appreciation of all the beautiful places and tiny treasures that make this place exceptional.

Small natural treasures from New River Gorge National Park including red trillium, cortinarius mushroom, tulip polar flower, oyster mushrooms, red-spotted newt, turkey tail mushroom, pink lady slippers, yellow-frindged orchid and ghost pipes.

Through New River Gorge Eco Tours, we will continue the commitment to sustainable tourism we show at Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals by observing the following principles:

  1. Environmental Sustainability – By focusing on very small groups and less traveled trails (you won’t find us on Endless Wall or Long Point), we will help reduce the impact tourism has on the natural landscape. Additionally, we will educate the public on current issues facing our environment.
  2. Social Sustainability – We will provide well-informed and high-quality advice to guests which will help reduce traffic congestion and parking shortages in overexposed places. Our goal is to foster better cooperation between tourists and local residents so we all can enjoy the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits that come from experiencing nature.
  3. Economic Sustainability – As native West Virginian entrepreneurs ourselves, we support other local businesses through the items and services we purchase and promote. By providing guided activities, we are encouraging visitors to stay longer in the area, which helps further stimulate our economy.

Ready to walk in the woods? Book your New River Gorge Eco Tour – public, private, and group tours are available. Guests of Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals are extended a discount for private tours. Make your vacation rental reservation here (adding an eco tour is an option at the time of booking), or contact us for more information.

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171 N. Court Street
Fayetteville, WV 25840
(304) 900-3301