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New River Gorge National Park: Trails Less Traveled




The best way to truly experience the New River Gorge National Park is to take the trails less traveled. By avoiding the most popular hiking areas – and other humans – you are much more likely to see wildlife, find undisturbed flora, and experience the natural rhythms of the forest.


Here are five less traveled trails we visit and recommend. The directions to the trailheads are from Fayetteville, WV.


POLLS PLATEAU TRAIL

5 Mile Loop | Moderate | 45 Minutes from Fayetteville, WV


Highlights: upland forest, passes through old farmstead, very secluded and quiet, good opportunity for wildlife viewing, small stream crossings, thick rhododendron.


Trailhead: Take US-19 South towards Beckley for 19 miles. Get on I-64 East via the East Beckley Bypass/Joe L. Smith Dr (you will be on this bypass for 5.3 miles). Travel on I-64 East for 9 miles. Take exit 133 (Bragg). Turn left and travel .8 miles on Pluto Rd (Rte. 27). Turn left at the church onto Polls Branch Rd. The parking area is at the end of the road. Closest Address for Google Maps: Polls Branch Rd District 3, WV 25918


GWINN RIDGE TRAIL

3.16 Mile Loop | Moderate | 50 Minutes from Fayetteville


Highlights: older forest, hill meadow, Aspen grove, secluded and quiet, near Sandstone Falls which is definitely worth exploring. You can also call nearby Three Rivers Avian Center to see if they are able to provide a tour of their facility for rescued birds (304-466-4683).


Trailhead: Take US-19 South towards Beckley for 19 miles. Get on I-64 East via the East Beckley Bypass/Joe L. Smith Dr (you will be on this bypass for 5.3 miles). Travel on I-64 for 14.7 miles. Take exit 139. Turn left and follow WV-20 South toward Hinton for 5.8 miles. Turn left onto Brooks Mountain Rd. and travel 1.5 miles on a gravel road. Keep left at the intersection toward “Three Rivers Avian Center.” Continue along road for 1 mile and there is a gravel parking area on the left. Closest Address for Google Maps: Three Rivers Avian Center, Brooks Mountain Rd, Brooks, WV 25951


STONECLIFF TRAIL

6.02 Miles (3.01 Out & Back) | Easy | 25 Minutes from Fayetteville


Highlights: parallels the New River, old-growth trees, beautiful view of the river, just across the river from the old railroad town of Thurmond which is worth exploring.


Trailhead: Take US-19 South toward Beckley for 8 miles. Exit left onto WV-16 S/WV-61 S. Travel for 1.5 miles and turn left onto Red Star Shortcut Rd (small green sign on left). After .6 miles, turn left onto Thurmond Rd. Travel 6.6 miles along Thurmond Rd. to a three-way intersection (you’ve gone too far if you cross the bridge). Turn right and continue down a paved road for 1.5 miles. Turn right at the “Stonecliff” sign. Closest Address for Google Maps: Dun Glen Boat Launch & Group Camp Site, Thurmond, WV 25901


HEADHOUSE TRAIL

1.4 Miles (.7 Out & Back) | Difficult | 10 Minutes from Fayetteville


Highlights: short but very challenging, interesting rock formations, mine entrance visible, you can continue down the mountain on the .6 mile Conveyor Trail to reach Nuttallburg Mining Complex which is well signed and worth exploring.


Trailhead: Drive north on US-19. Shortly after crossing the New River Gorge Bridge, turn right onto Lansing-Edmond Rd. Continue for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Beauty Mountain Rd. Travel .1 mile. Turn right onto the road just beyond Nuttall Cemetery Rd. The parking area is by the gate. Closest Address for Google Maps: Headhouse Trail Trailhead, Edmond, WV 25837


TERRY TOP TRAIL

3.82 Miles (1.91 Out & Back) | Moderate | 20 Minutes from Fayetteville


Highlights: well-defined and large trail, open ridgeline, passes by an old family cemetery dating back to 1800s, frog pond, pine thickets, very quiet.


Trailhead: Take US-19 South toward Beckley for 10.8 miles. Exit left toward Glen Jean (you will see an Exxon/Subway on the left). Turn right immediately at the stop sign onto WV-6 S/WV-61 S. Travel for 2.7 miles and then turn left onto WV-61 South. Travel 1.9 miles and turn left at the large Summit Bechtel sign. Drive 1.1 miles along this road and take the first PAVED road on the right (Mill Creek Rd). Drive 1.6 miles, passing the National Park boundary sign on the left. The trailhead will be .4 miles inside the boundary on the right. It is marked by a 4’ pole sign (easy to miss). There is room to park by the gate. Closest Address for Google Maps: Jack Furst Drive and WV-61, Piney View, WV 25801


While you are exploring these trails less traveled, take time to stop and listen to the forest. Just 10 minutes of quiet, seated attention will allow you to observe the forest in its more natural, active state. Folks who practice forest bathing call this finding a “sit spot.” You will be amazed by what you hear once you settle and allow the birds, bugs and animals to return to normal activity.



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