If you’re planning a trip to West Virginia’s New River Gorge National Park and Preserve this summer, park management has some important news for you.
Superintendent Lizzie Watts announced Monday that ranger-guided walks and talks are beginning at the park, along with guided hikes, bike rides, paddle board programs, and other activities. You can find a calendar of guided park events here.
Visitor centers are now operating under extended summer hours. During these new hours, the Canyon Rim Visitor Center and the Sandstone Visitor Center will remain open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Thurmond Visitor Center will be open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the Grandview Visitor Center will be open seven days a week, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
A New National Park
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, which draws approximately one million visitors each year, was named the United States’ 63rd national park earlier this year.
Located in a once-remote area of West Virginia in the southeast corner of the state, the park is just north of Fayetteville in Fayette County, West Virginia. Conserving more than 70,000 acres of land along the New River between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville, it stretches for 53 miles along the New River.
Considering its size and remote location, it’s only natural that the scenic area is known for its hiking, camping, and rock climbing. Plus, since whitewater flows through the gorge, the New River is well known for kayaking and whitewater rafting.
Planning Ahead Is Imperative
As COVID-19 vaccination rates climb and the school year ends, attendance at all national parks has grown rapidly. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is no different.
“The park is especially busy this year,” Watts said. “Please plan ahead, and if you’re hiking, make sure you have an alternate trail in mind should your first choice be too busy. Also, with the higher numbers of visitors we have using the park, helping us protect it by practicing Leave No Trace principles during your visit is extra important.”
Watts also encourages visiting the park during less busy times of the week and day. She also notes that “responsible recreation” is especially important this year.
There are three pillars to the National Park Service’s Recreate Responsibly program. The first is “Protecting You.” Since more than 300 million people visit national parks each year, it’s important to protect your own health.
“Protecting Us” is equally important because the tens of thousands of NPS employees, plus volunteers, partners, and others who keep the parks and facilities operating, want to stay healthy as well.
The final part of Recreate Responsibly is “Protecting America’s Treasures.” As the National Park Service explains, “National parks are home to some of the nation’s most treasured and irreplaceable resources, including wildlife, scenery, and historic places.”
You can find tips you can use to Recreate Responsibly here.
Know Before You Go
Keep in mind that following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visitors who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces at all national parks. Additionally, masks are required for everyone on all forms of public transportation.