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West Virginians have long loved New River Gorge for its 1,000-foot-high sandstone cliffs, its more than 70,000 acres of forested land and its 53 miles of churning river. But this under-the-radar gem is gaining new attention outside of the Mountain State. On Dec. 27, 2020 New River Gorge became America's 63rd and newest national park — changing its longtime status as a national river at the urging of the congressional delegation from West Virginia, which had never been home to an official national park (California, with nine, has the most). It now boasts the title New River Gorge National Park and Preserve.
While it certainly draws adrenaline junkies such as rock climbers and kayakers, you can enjoy its scenic delights on low-key hikes or even without leaving your car. Here are the wet and woodsy highlights at America's newest national park.
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The nearest airport is in Charleston, roughly 70 miles northwest of the park. If you're driving, the park has so many entry points that the National Park Service hasn't counted them all (only about 50,000 of its 70,000 acres are federal land, so you'll find numerous state routes, access roads and towns in the park). Many travelers start their treks at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, the Sandstone Visitor Center (take Exit 139 on I-64), or Grandview Visitor Center. There's no fee to enter the park.