Usually, if you want to check an adrenaline-rushing, heart-pumping natural adventure off your bucket list, you have to travel to a place that doesn’t have much else to offer except that specific excursion. But what if I told you there is a town where you don’t have to sacrifice one thrill for another; a town with some of the best mountain biking trails, diverse miles of rock climbing, class V whitewater expeditions, hiking, zip lining, and even base jumping? Located toward the southern part of West Virginia, the small town of Fayetteville is making a big mark on the outdoor lover’s map. Use our guide to plan your perfect stay in one of the coolest towns in America.
Experience the Beautiful New River
Fayette County is lucky in that two large rivers flowing through town with rapids of all different classes. The high volume, lower section of the New River provides a spectacular opportunity for whitewater adventure. It is anywhere from four to six hours (depending on the water level) of nonstop excitement as you raft through enormous waves, shelf drops, and class IV rapids.
If that’s not your cup of tea then grab a crash pad and boulder in the New River Dries. The multitude of problems and unique formations make this section a favorite for beginners and expert climbers. For ideas of where to climb on the New River or for a wide range of quality climbing gear, stop in at Waterstone Outdoors and talk to their knowledgeable staff of experienced climbers and outdoor lovers.
Photo by Jess Daddio
See Why The Gauley is World Class Whitewater
If you’re in town in the fall and want to experience one of the top rivers in the world, try your luck rafting the Upper Gauley River. This is not for the inexperienced. Its constant class IV and V rapids are paired with technical maneuvering and tight squeezes. Drop over 335 feet in a little over 12 miles and see why the Upper Gauley is one of the top whitewater sections in the nation. Also in the fall when water is being released into the Gauley, the lower section provides a slightly less intimidating choice for eager rafters. The 17-mile stretch comes accompanied with astounding scenery, relaxing pools, and gut wrenching class III-IV rapids. Book your trip on one of these amazing sections with Adventures on the Gorge, ACE Adventure Resort, West Virginia Adventures, or many others!
Photo by Jess Daddio
For a More Tame Water Experience…
In the beginning of the 20th century, a rock-fill dam on the Gauley River was flooded to create West Virginia’s largest lake, Summersville Lake. Encapsulating the clean and clear freshwater lake are miles of sandstone cliffs perfect for rock climbing, along with quiet coves that make it easy to see why this lake is so special. Popular activities on the lake include excellent fishing, swimming at the public beach, scuba diving, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Adventures on the Gorge even offers stand up paddleboard instruction right on the lake tailored to your needs and experience. They also offer paddleboard and kayak rentals as well as guided climbing.
Photo By Jess Daddio
Bike the Arrowhead Trails
The Arrowhead Trails offers mountain bikers 12.8 miles of singletrack, stacked loop riding. These four well-maintained, flowing trails range from the easier and beginner welcoming Clovis Trail and Adena Trail to the intermediate LeCroy Trail and Dalton Trail built for experienced mountain bikers. Enjoy rolling hills with tremendous flow, exciting turns, and obstacles such as rocky sections, tight switchbacks, and a rock bridge leading over a small drainage. Thanks to the hard work and many hours put into construction and maintenance, the trail provides great maps and excellent markings that will have you coming back for more. For bike repairs and parts, rentals, or guided tours, head to New River Bikes and let their friendly staff assist you.
Hike the Kaymoor Miners Trail and See a Part of History
The Kaymoor Miners Trail provides hikers with a short but strenuous one mile hike with unparalleled views and old structures of a historic mine site. The hike descends from the top of the New River Gorge and provides a magnificent view of the gorge just a short ways down from the trailhead. Once you reach the mine site, you will be greeted by the 821 stairs that carry you down to see what is left of one of the largest coal processing plants in the gorge. You’ll be fascinated at the mine openings, remnants of old coal cars and buildings, and signs to take you back in time over 100 years ago to when the plant was booming with coal.
Get a Grip on Rock Climbing
Have you always had an itch to learn how to climb or to take the next step in becoming a better rock climber? New River Mountain Guides provide private instruction that is sure to enhance your abilities. They will take you to their favorite spots in the region and share their passion for climbing with you. See the New River and surrounding areas from a unique angle that unleashes even more beauty than you thought possible. Also offered are kids’ rock climbing summer camps, AMGA Single Pitch Instructor certification courses, and yoga retreats.
Photo By Jess Daddio
Pies and Pints Pizzeria– Featured on the Cooking Channel and Food Network, Pies and Pints offers uniquely crafted pizzas and only the best handcrafted beers, a match made in heaven.
Cathedral Café– This eccentric old church is where all the locals go for the best coffee, handmade pastries and desserts, and breakfasts.
Secret Sandwich Society– The secret is out. Look no further than this small gourmet sandwich shop for a mouthwatering meal made from fresh ingredients.
Photo Courtesy of the Secret Sandwich Society
Gumbo’s Cajun Restaurant– Head to downtown Fayetteville for a mix of Cajun, American, and Creole for dinner. With an effort to use only the freshest ingredients, they source as much local produce and meats as possible.
Studio B Gallery & Gifts– If you’re looking to pick up a bottle of fine wine or six pack of craft beer to go along with your campfire under the stars, stop in Studio B for a diverse selection. Grab a souvenir of Bridge Brew, Fayetteville’s small craft brewery ran by only two hard workers making sure each beer is crafted to perfection.
Smokey’s On The Gorge– Smokey’s is the best mix of superb, quality food, casual dining, and breath taking views of the New River Gorge. What better way to enjoy a glass of wine than sitting outside watching the sunset bask in all its glory over the tranquil river and echoing mountains?
Charlie’s Pub– With over 75 craft beers and 160 liquor choices, unbelievable happy hour prices, and a welcoming, friendly atmosphere, it’s no surprise this is the bar of choice for all the locals.
American Alpine Club Campground– Located within walking distance of the New River Gorge, this newer, well-kept campground is only $5 per night for AAC members!
Adventures on the Gorge– The perfect place to stay after a day spent on one of their many guided adventures. Adventures on the Gorge lodging rentals include something for every type of camper with simple and small cabins, deluxe four bedroom cabins, wooded camping, or field camping.
Photo Courtesy of Adventures on the Gorge
ACE Adventure Resort– Located on a lake in Minden, West Virginia not far from the New River, ACE offers fantastic dining, a plethora of outdoor activities, and plenty of lodging. Choose from spacey cabins with hot tubs, RV camping, or old fashioned tent camping.
Gauley Fest– This four day whitewater festival gathers river rats from far and near to boast their boating abilities, swap gear, dance to some funky live music, and meet other passionate nature lovers. All proceeds from the event go to American Whitewater’s river conservation. September 17th-20th Summersville, West Virginia
Craggin’ Classic is a weekend long celebration of the area’s premiere climbing destination. Climbing is only a dent in the list of activities and excursions: Live music, ping-pong tournament, trail work, film screening of “Metanoia”, clinics, gear demos, and much more.
New River Gorge SUP Race– SUP athletes battle it out on the upstream attainment race or downriver whitewater race with up to class IV rapids. Watch the only paddleboard competition in the state and stay for free demos, instruction, and a raging celebration at the after party. September 20th Lansing, West Virginia.
Bridge Day gathers over 50,000 spectators whose jaws are sure to drop as the hundreds of base jumpers take a leap of faith on the 876’ New River Gorge Bridge. This event is one of the largest extreme sports events in the world on the second longest single arch bridge. October 17th Fayette County, West Virginia
“Fayetteville is located on the border of a national park. You can ride right from downtown and be in the woods in less than 5 minutes. There’s plenty of lodging, trails, food, and other activities. Picking a favorite biking trail is hard. I like to think of it more as a loop. In town to Arrowhead and back is super fun. Leave town via Fayetteville trail to Kaymoor Top and Arrowhead, ride the Arrowhead system, and return via Timber Ridge. So many folks drive to the Arrowhead trailhead and miss two amazing downhills!” – Andrew Forron, Owner of New River Bikes