New River Gorge National Park: A Wanderfully Lost Experience

We spent a weekend at the USA’s newest National Park and it was dreamy!

While New River Gorge National Park (NRG) was only established as a National Park in 2020, the New River is actually amongst the oldest in the whole world. Deep in the gorge below, the river is scattered with gorgeous white waters and absolutely stunning views.

At the time of our visit our girls were six months and two years old. Keep in mind as you plan your own trip to NRG. If your children are older, you may find many other adventures beyond the capabilities of an infant and small toddler.

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Road Trip with Two Babies

We arrived late Friday night and checked into our Holiday Inn in Beckley, WV. We’d been driving for nine hours so we unloaded the essentials from our jam-packed van and crashed hard.

PRO TIP – This stop was part of a longer road trip for us, so not our final destination. We packed a bag for the things we would need for our time in West Virginia so we wouldn’t have to unload the entire contents of the van. HIGHLY RECOMMEND! Especially if you’ll be arriving late at night. And even if your stop is your final destination, having one bag of the things you’ll need right away is so helpful when everyone is exhausted.

Discovering the New River

We woke up bright and early the next morning ready to explore. Our first stop was at the cutest little café in Fayetteville called Cathedral Café. We filled our bellies and walked around Fayetteville for a bit. They have a fun little downtown area with lots of little shops and restaurants. It’s only a few blocks so it won’t take you long to explore, but it’s worth seeing the charm.

Next stop, Canyon Rim Visitor Center. We always make a point to find a visitor center when we explore a National Park. They’re always fun to browse and we collect magnets from every park we visit! The views from the deck at the visitor center were absolutely stunning. As we made our way out the back door, we got our first view of why New River needed to be a National Park.

We then took a short trail off the far corner of the parking lot to get the most iconic views of the New River Gorge Bridge, the focal point of the entire park. Beware, while this trail was short it was A LOT of stairs. But then, there it was. The bridge. One thing we noted about the bridge was as we drove over it, it seemed like nothing. You couldn’t see the bridge’s beauty or even the canyon below. But as we stood there underneath it, we were mesmerized by its magnificence. It’s truly a sight! Low and behold though, with a toddler in tow, opportunities to pause and take in Mother Nature’s beauty are fleeting. Back up the stairs we climbed.

When Babies Nap on Vacation

By this time the girls were ready for a nap. So, we hopped back in the car and drove the hairpin turn Fayette Station Road. At the visitor center there is a sign posted out front with instructions to listen to an audio guide as you drive this road. The guide provided a lot of history of the area. The drive itself felt a bit hazardous and we found ourselves wondering if we were supposed to be on it. But nonetheless it was a beautiful drive. We were fully surrounded by lush green vegetation as we wound down the canyon.

PRO TIP – Our girls sleep well in the car so when we are traveling and getting back to where we’re staying for naps is cumbersome, we plan for naps in the car. We will either plan to be driving to another destination around nap time or we’ll simply drive around and explore the area. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little quiet time and adult conversation in the car too.

There was a stop about halfway down with parking spots where you could get out and take in the bridge’s beauty from directly underneath. This was far more entertaining than it sounds. The New River Gorge bridge is a massive structure and to be standing directly underneath it was mesmerizing. There was also an area here where people were rappelling down rock face, which was really fun to watch. And I’m sure even more fun to participate in. If you’re traveling with bigger kids, or sans kids, this would be worth looking into!

At the bottom of Fayette Station Road we crossed a railroad and then a small one-way bridge over the river. We were so close to the river here and could closely see the rafters below. White water rafting is the biggest attraction at New River Gorge NP. We obviously weren’t taking our babies white water rafting, but if you’re kiddos are capable, don’t miss the opportunity to raft the New River!

Hiking with Babies

When the girls woke up from their nap, we were all antsy to get out of the car and found this to be a perfect time to stretch our legs with a good long hike. We chose Endless Wall Trail because we prefer a loop trail to an out and back and because three miles is about where the girls decide they’re done.

PRO TIP – We use the All Trails app to find trails everywhere we go. They tell you the distance and difficulty, how to get to the trailhead and what to expect along the way. You can see photos and reviews from other hikers as well. We always know what to expect and if a trail is going to be appropriate for our family.

When we hike, we each wear a baby. Chad puts the Osprey Poco Plus on his back with Stella in it and I wear Sunny in the Baby Bjorn One Air. Stella will get out and walk at times too but three miles is too much for her right now.

Endless Wall Trail was a lovely trail. It was mostly tree covered the entire time with fabulous greens everywhere we looked. There was some incline early on that led us to stunning lookouts over the river. In spots we could even hear the rafters hollering and laughing below. The trail was pretty crowded when we were on it and the parking lot was full when we got there as well. We found this hike to be enjoyable anyway. Our girlies both fell asleep in their carriers by the end of the trail. Hiking is exhausting!

There were hundreds of hikes to choose from at the park and I have no doubt you’ll find the right one for your family.

After our hike we were all starving and had several people recommend Pies and Pints to us. Pizza is our favorite anyway and this place was very kid friendly. They had outdoor seating and little playground right there by the tables which Stella loved! The pizza was fantastic too! Their menu provided some fun topping combinations we were excited to try and their spicy margarita did not disappoint.

We decided to call it a day once we’d stuffed our faces with pizza. We headed back to the hotel for some downtime. The girls were exhausted so we put on a movie, cuddled and got a good night’s sleep.

One Last Stop

On Sunday we were making the trek to our next destination, Charleston, South Carolina. But we wanted to see more of the park and get everyone some fresh air before the long drive. We stopped on our way out at Sandstone Falls for another short hike.

The drive there was breathtaking in itself. We drove about a half hour alongside the river and took in more of the park’s beauty. Sandstone Falls trail is only about a half mile so Stella was able to walk this one. The falls themselves, although small, were truly spectacular. We were able to walk a little way out onto the river on rocks and take in views of the gorge all around us and the falls in front of us. Such a cool experience!

We enjoyed our time at New River Gorge National Park. It was the perfect halfway point from home to the beach and we love any opportunity to spend outdoors taking in Mother Nature’s splendor. I would suggest, however, this park would be most suitable for a family with older kids. If your babies are old enough for things like white water rafting, rock climbing and rappelling this would be an awesome destination for your family. And especially if you love camping! There was ample opportunity for camping and cabin rentals. Another popular attraction at New River Gorge is the Bridge Walk. Be sure to check that out too if you’re able.


-The Gilbreths

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