We assemble for the tour in the nearest city of Charleston, West Virginia, then follow the Kanawha upriver, past the confluence of the Gauley and the New River, to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. We start our hiking on Day 1 on the west mesa, above the river and descend steeply to the old Kaymoore Mine site. Kaymoor mined millions of tons of coal and was home to hundreds of people. It is currently one of the most intact mine complexes remaining in the New River Gorge. Beyond the mine site, we continue a gently but steady descent down river to meet the original road crossing the New River. Here our views of the iconic New River Gorge Bridge opens up. This bridge is described as a work of structural art. It is the longest steel span in the western hemisphere, and the third highest bridge in the United States. Our hike takes us under the west side, for views from all angles, before ascending near the town of Fayetteville. Fayetteville is proud to have been voted one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America”, and will be our home for the first 3 nights of the tour.
On Day 2 we switch to mountain bikes to explore the Arrowhead network of trails. In one of the largest youth service projects ever performed in National Park History, over 1,000 boy scouts provided 30,000 hours of volunteer service to build 14 miles of new, single track mountain biking trails in the New River Gorge. The system was named Arrowhead Trails in honor of the Order of the Arrow. The trails are a stacked loop, which means there are loops inside of other loops. You can ride them in any combination, and with sections from just over 1 mile to 6.4 miles, you can ride as much or as little as you want.
For Day 3 we dive into the history, geology and plant and animal species of this ancient river with some hiking on the east bank. We start with the Endless Wall hike for which passes through rich forest, crosses Fern Creek, then zig-zags along the cliff edge. Great views of the New River, almost 1000 feet below, are abundant. We will transfer to the nearby Nuttallburg Trails area for an upclose exploration of the largest mine in the New River Coalfields of the late 1800s, and the supporting community of Nuttallburg. This trail includes a steep descent of switchbacks to reach the river level. Along the way, we experience a land of diverse topography and spectacular scenery. The New River’s origins can be traced back to the late Paleozoic Era, 500 million years ago, so its habitats and wildlife have persisted in the area for millenium. The New River cuts from east to west across the Appalachians, and we find species that are typically Atlantic coastal plain and piedmont, living with northern mountain species. At the river’s edge, we can explore both the industrial and community side of Nuttallburg through structures and exhibits along the trail.
River rafting is the activity on Day 4, and you can choose a gentle and scenic float through the upper gorge, or an exciting, white-water trip through the rapids of the lower New River Gorge. After this adventure, we will transfer to The Resort at Glade Springs, where we can enjoy the natural beauty, local cuisine, small town hospitality and charm of West Virginia in this luxurious escape.
For Day 5 we will travel farther upstream to Pipestem Resort State Park, above the Bluestone National Scenic River. Here we will pick up mountain bikes again. We start with some warm up trails in the park before taking the River Trail down to the Bluestone River where we pick up the Bluestone Turnpike Trail. This trail follows the National Scenic River on a gentle trail, down to the confluence with the New River. There the Timberline van will pick us up for our return to the Resort at Glade Springs for our final night.
For our last day we head to the Grandview area of New River Gorge, offering unsurpassed views of the deepest section of New River Gorge. We start off on the shady Tunnel Trail passing several tunnels and overhangs in the rock. We double back to take the Castlerock trail, continuing out to Turkey Spur overlook, enjoying many breathtaking views of the gorge and river far below. Our return to the car on the Grandview Rim Trail completes the loop. We’ll have a picnic on the rim and one last photo across the river gorge, then we head back to Charleston for the conclusion of our multisport tour.