New River Gorge, WV: Adventures in Whitewater Rafting (June 2020)

Quick Trip Itinerary: 

  • 4 Nights at Adventures on the Gorge, Lansing, WV
  • Whitewater rafting with Adventures on the Gorge
  • Kayaking at Summersville Lake
  • Hiking: Endless Wall Trail

There are a handful of things that I am terrified to try. Whitewater rafting has always been one of them. We go kayaking all the time, so people are sometimes confused by this. I can’t quite explain it, but I think it’s the lack of control that I don’t like. Brian went whitewater rafting a few years ago with some work friends at the New River Gorge in WV and has been talking about it ever since. I wanted to do something special this Father’s Day, so I figured I would face my fears and plan something that I knew Brian would enjoy. New River Gorge is only about 3 and a half hours away from us, so we booked a cabin for the weekend, loaded the kayaks on the roof, packed the kids (and the Great Dane!) in the car, and headed out.

We arrived in the evening and spent it settling into our cabin. I use the term “cabin” loosely, as this was a lovely house, settled into the woods. It had a hot tub, a small, well-equipped kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. We reserved a dog-friendly cabin, and so we were also able to bring our Great Dane, Minerva, along on this trip!

The next morning, we headed out bright and early to join our whitewater rafting group. This was also my first real glimpse of the Adventures on the Gorge resort. There are restaurants, coffee shops, supply and souvenir stores, and a gorgeous pool area that overlooks a stunning view of the gorge. Brian said that during non-Covid times, it was a lot more social with live music and much bigger crowds. Though I missed that, we never felt that we weren’t safe or distanced during this time of decreased capacity. 

Our lead guide gave us the safety run-down before we boarded the shuttle buses. This may be the most terrifying part of our trip! We were doing one of the milder, family-friendly paddles down the river, but they still need to prepare you for situations that may come up. One thing I cannot emphasize enough is that these guides are the experts, and you need to do exactly as they say for your own safety as well as the safety of those in your group. The bus ride over to the river was a little nerve-wracking. I tried to keep this in check because I could see that the kids were a little uneasy. Once we arrived at the rafts, our group was separated into a handful of rafts. Our family was assigned to Cassie’s raft. Cassie was an amazing guide! Smart, fun, silly, and sassy, she kept us in line, giving us direction with our rowing, and telling us about the area as we headed down the river. When we came upon bigger rapids, she did not hesitate to shout directions to us. By the time we were done, Grace said she wanted to be a river guide “like Cassie.” 

The rapids were never so overwhelming that we felt in danger, but they were enough to give us an adrenaline rush and make our arms sore from paddling like crazy. This was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had, and we are already planning another rafting trip with Adventures on the Gorge in the near future! After a day on the river, you can’t help but feel like a bad-ass, but also exhausted. We grabbed some dinner and headed back to the cabin to relax and enjoy the hot tub.

Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.

Emma Smith

The next day, we splashed around at the resort pool, and then headed to Summersville Lake for some kayaking. The put-in area was a little rough to get to, but the lake was beautiful, and there were a lot of friendly people out on the water. The boys found a cliff to jump from, and Grace managed to paddle Brian’s giant kayak while towing her two brothers’ kayaks behind… more amazing time spent on the water in WV!

The following day, we were a little tired, so we spent a lot of time just relaxing at the resort pool and restaurant. There was still more we wanted to do during our stay, and so after very little deliberation, Brian and I decided to extend our trip another day. We loved this place so much, and we were having such a wonderful time, that we just were not quite ready for it to end. We spent more time in the cabin hot tub that evening, and were ready to find a good hiking trail by the next morning.

Luckily, we happened to meet an incredibly nice mom and her two sons while we were walking around the resort. They gave us the names of their favorite trails in the area, and we decided to try the Endless Wall trail nearby. I am so glad that they made this suggestion, because it was one of the most beautiful hikes we’ve done. There were so many offshoots on the trail that led to scenic overviews of the river gorge below. The “endless wall” was the cliff-side that you could see through much of the hike. We saw quite a few spots that must be favorites for rock climbers. There are a few areas that made me nervous, and I called Seth back from the edge frequently. We also came across a wooden ladder that was hung on the side of the cliff. Brian and Seth started to climb down, but even Brian became a little skittish on this one! The views were breath-taking, and I took a panoramic photo to hang on our “travel wall” back home. It’s a fairly easy hike, but it took us a while because we spent so much time at the many overlooks. After our hike, we headed into Fayetteville to spend some time exploring the town. It was a really quaint area, with many shops and restaurants. We grabbed some lunch at the Secret Sandwich Society, and then walked around town for a while. It was a wonderful day to end our stay at New River Gorge. 

Since we have been there, several things have happened to this beautiful area. First, I am sad to say that the Secret Sandwich Society suffered a fire and is currently closed. It was a great place to eat, and the staff were amazing. I truly wish them the best in getting rebuilt and reopened. On a positive note, The New River Gorge was just named the newest National Park earlier this year! This will ensure that the area continues to be protected and also receives the recognition it deserves. I expect an influx of visitors to the area due to the recognition. I do not know how this will affect the crowds or the ability to book rafting trips or make lodging reservations, so you may want to plan well ahead of your trip. We are definitely making a return trip soon!

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