About Summer Escapes
Whether you want a day trip or a weekend away, here are fun outdoor adventures that are an easy drive—including scenic hikes, sunset kayaking, treetop ziplines, and a relaxed bike ride around an island.
New River Gorge
A five-hour drive from DC, New River Gorge in West Virginia is the country’s newest national park, earning that designation in 2020. The 700,000 acres surrounding the New River are a beacon for adventure—especially the thrill-seeking variety.
Where to Stay
Ace Adventure Resort has 50 cabin rentals in and around the park, with air conditioning, kitchens, and private fire pits. Many also have outdoor hot tubs for unwinding under the stars. A mix of lodging options at Country Road Cabins in Hico—about ten minutes from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center—include glamping tents, pet-friendly yurts, and a treehouse accessible by swinging bridge.
Where to Play
The park and preserve have a diverse ecosystem made up of Appalachian peaks, rivers, and forests, allowing for a wide range of activities. We recommend dedicating a day to a rafting or climbing excursion so you can experience the region’s renowned rapids and climbing terrain. Adventures on the Gorge and Ace Adventure Resort offer whitewater tours on the New River, including kid-friendly journeys on inflatable boats. For those who want to try hanging out on a cliffside, Blue Ridge Mountain Guides leads half- and full-day climbing expeditions for all levels. Gear up at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center, hike to a gorge, and then work with a guide on technical skills such as belaying, climbing, and rappelling.
The New River area has a coal-mining history, and New River ATV offers a chance to explore that via one-seat ATVs or four-seat UTVs. With more than 100 miles of trails, routes through the forest can be customized to different comfort levels. Each tour is two to eight hours, running through defunct coal mines, muddy pathways, and sometimes even a ghost town.
A trip to the park isn’t complete without seeing the photogenic New River Gorge Bridge. Want a closer look? Tour operator Bridge Walk leads a guided stroll on a catwalk under the bridge. Fear not: Participants are hooked to a safety cable before the up-to-two-hour trek. For a great view of the scenery, the Endless Wall Trail is an easy-to-moderate two-mile hike with a panorama at the Diamond Point overlook. To access the trail, park at the Fern Creek Trailhead. The lot fills up quickly, so the Nuttal Trailhead parking area is another spot to drop your car.
To keep the adventures going into the night, Adventures on the Gorge runs an aerial obstacle course with evening excursions. The two-hour sessions take place in TimberTrek Adventure Park, where ziplines and tree bridges glow with neon lights. Staff are posted throughout the park for additional guidance as you work your way through the course.
Where to Eat
Start the day with breakfast at Swiftwater General Store in Lansing, where a small menu features pancake platters, biscuits smothered in gravy, and pepperoni rolls, a West Virginia specialty. Hit the Freefolk Brewery in Fayetteville for Greek platters, beer, and live music in a funky taproom. Smokey’s, a treetop dining room embedded in the gorge, serves breakfast and dinner. The restaurant and patio reopen for the season on Memorial Day weekend.
Icons by Niky Chopra.
This article appears in the May 2023 issue of Washingtonian.