A spring getaway to the New River Gorge National Park is always magical. This time of year provides the perfect opportunity to share memorable experiences against the beautiful backdrop of nature coming to life. Additionally, springtime crowds are smaller, allowing serenity on even the most popular trails (like Endless Wall and Long Point).
While exploring these ancient mountains in the springtime, you’ll hear the melodic song of wood frogs and be awe-struck by the thunderous roar of waterfalls. You’ll find spring wildflowers everywhere – from delicate native orchids to enormous bouquets of rhododendron. And if you’re lucky, you’ll taste freshly foraged morel mushrooms and ramps as they serendipitously pop up on the menus of local eateries.
Yes, spring might just be the best time to explore the New River Gorge. Here are some of our suggestions for making the most of it.
The New River Gorge is filled with a dizzying array of spring wildflowers from April through May. For a preview – or if you’d like to start learning the most common ones – check out the National Park Service’s Wildflowers of the New River Gorge Photo Gallery.
Put your i.d. skills to the test on the Southside Trail, our go-to trail for spring wildflower viewing. This trail runs for 6.4 miles along the New River, making several wide meanders. This causes each segment of the trail to have a slightly different ecosystem. Some parts are in complete shadow and some are in full sunlight. The result is an amazingly diverse assortment of wildflowers.
You can find our absolute favorite West Virginia wildflower – the Pink Lady’s Slipper – around the third weekend in May. Hike the gorgeous Skyline Trail at nearby Babcock State Park and look for it behind the Mann’s Creek picnic area. And at about the same time, you can view an enormous display of blooming Catawba Rhododendrons in the Grandview section of the park.
There are more waterfalls in the New River Gorge than we could ever list. You will find them in every section of the park on numerous trails. All the negative ions released by these flowing waterfalls will give you a little boost of energy during your adventure. In fact, some scientists believe negative ions can even increase serotonin levels!
You’ll find our favorite waterfall, Kate’s Falls, near the southern trailhead of the Glade Creek Trail. And you certainly don’t want to miss Sandstone Falls near Hinton. But if you don’t have time for a hike, check out our helpful post, Waterfalls You Can Drive To.
If you are feeling a little more ambitious, we HIGHLY recommend a paddleboarding excursion with Mountain Surf Paddle Sports. We absolutely loved our time paddling with them at Kanawha Falls. Getting up close and even under the waterfalls was one of the most memorable activities we’ve ever done in the New River Gorge! Their trips to Summersville Lake also offer up-close waterfall interactions.
The New River Gorge is home to some of the best whitewater in the eastern United States, and local outfitters begin offering raft trips in April. These professionals know how to make a memorable experience. They take thousands of people down the deep gorge each year. And don’t worry if it’s chilly – wetsuits are available.
If rafting is not your thing, but you still like a little adrenaline rush, check out our Choose Your Own Adventure blog post. We highly recommend Bridge Walk – the guided tour of the catwalk UNDER the New River Gorge Bridge. We also love AOTG’s Treetop Canopy Tours because their ziplining adventure is more about experiencing the forest from a bird’s eye view than just speed.
New River Gorge National Park’s Spring Fling
From April to mid-May every year, the National Park Service organizes spring programs and events at New River Gorge sites, nearby WV State Parks, and other community locations. Check out the Spring Fling schedule for a full list of activities ranging from art shows to Warbler Walks.
We think one of the most fascinating events is “Hike into Spring.” This guided hike leads you on a trail that descends over 1,000 feet into the Gorge. It really showcases the dramatic effect that elevation has on climate. You will depart from the top in a forest that shows very little sign of spring but by the time you reach the bottom, you will be treated to trees bursting with foliage and a green understory. Thankfully, the National Park Service shuttles you back, eliminating the super challenging uphill hike to the trailhead.
Who are we? Amy & Shawn, New River Gorge hikers, WV Master Naturalists, and owners of Lafayette Flats Boutique Vacation Rentals.
If you enjoyed this post you might also like Enjoying Nature in the New River Gorge and Anniversary Getaway: New River Gorge National Park.