|In this view, you can see some of the best rock climbing, hiking, river running and mountain biking in the country. Courtesy of West Virginia|
Visiting the New River Gorge for the first time was, in a word, overwhelming. There's just too much to do. Too many adventures to go on. Too many places that require week-long excursions. Too many historical sites. Too many hikes. Too much singletrack... I instantly regretted that I only had two days here. What was I thinking?
I've said this about nearly every place I've been, but this is the #1 place that I want to return to on this trip. At this point, I've just simply accepted that this is just a first pass at the central and southern Appalachians and that it will take my entire life to see and do all that I want. It is a vast mountain range.
|Rhododendron "Tunnels" are an enchanting feature on the mountain biking trails|
Starting from the south on Route 64, I stopped in the Sandstone Visitor's Center and received a great deal of assistance from the rangers. They helped me plan a grand and exhaustive two days!
Grandview was the closest to the southern potion of the part and I spent plenty of time here. There's a trail which traverses the rim, much like the Grand Canyon. The Castle Wall Trail, in particular, dips below the rim and is a thrilling hike! Cliffs tower on one side and fall off into oblivion on the other making for a scary but scenic hike. It continues to other rim trails and ends at Turkey Point, a panorama.
|View from Grandview Trail|
|Castle Wall Trail|
The next day, I started off with a biking trip along the Stone Cliff Trail of Thurmond, West Virginia. This area is a real hotspot for rafting and is a popular put-in/take-out area. This trail follows the river for 2.7 miles before dead-ending. It is a deep and narrow section of the gorge with plenty of photo opportunities. The road from the rim to the river is also pretty well maintained. I was also happy to hear that the Amtrack Cardinal rides right to here from Chicago! Very fortunate news. As far as the mountain biking goes here, the trail was somewhat maintained and the riding was of moderate difficulty. Even on the weekend, I did not see anyone else.
|The Clovis Trail- an easy and delightful warm-up|
The system has been designed as a classic "stacked loops" which offers an exponential number of ways to design your ride. There's an easy loop, a medium loop and a medium-hard loop. None of it was true "double black diamond" single track but it was plenty challenging. There's bailout points from several parts of each loop. Additionally, there are offshoots and side trails which add additional challenge. The elevation gain and loss isn't massive but it is very hilly so be prepared for a workout even on the smaller trails.
|Plenty of technical challenges|
|Singletrack for miles...|
As an Eagle Scout myself and a member of the Order of the Arrow, I felt an extra bit of pride knowing that these trails were designed and maintained by youth volunteers as one of the largest service projects in National Park History. The nearby Summit Bechtel Family Reserve is a testament to scouting's lasting commitment to the adventure and preservation of the New River Gorge Area. (I can't wait to take my kids there!!)
|Ahhh the famous bridge from Long Point|
|The million dollar view from the appropriately named "Diamond Point"|
|So much I want to climb...|
Read. Plan. Get Out There!