If there’s one natural attraction you simply must see when visiting Beckley, it’s the impressive, 1,000-foot-deep New River Gorge. The New River cuts a winding path through the mountains of southern West Virginia, and the best place to view its most notable twists is Grandview Park.
Unfortunately, I was visiting Grandview on an overcast day. I arrived just after a rainfall, which sent clouds rising up from the hillsides.
The main overlook is near the entrance to Grandview Park. A wide, easy path leads to this viewpoint, where you can see the New River make a 180-degree turn. The entire horseshoe is just a bit too wide to capture in one picture.
Aside from the main overlook, there’s plenty more to see in this part of the park. A side trail from the main overlook splits off, and leads to a few small caves, which are just large enough to squeeze through. On the way to the main overlook, you’ll also drive by Theater West Virginia’s Cliffside Amphitheater, which is home to the Hatfields and McCoys and Honey In The Rock outdoor plays.
Grandview Park offers one other great viewpoint. Drive out of the main parking area, and follow signs for “Turkey Spur” (you can also walk the trail along the rim of the gorge — it’s about 1.5 miles, one way).
Turkey Spur is a narrow ridge, surrounded on three sides by the New River. From the small parking area, you can look north or south, and see the river.
A short trail (that includes some stairs) leaves from the parking lot.
On the way around the rocks, on the way to the stairs, watch for this spot, marked with the letter “A”. I’m not sure how you’re supposed to figure out what “A” means, but long ago, there was a sign here that called this “Nature’s Air Conditioner”. On a hot day, you’ll feel a constant cool breeze coming from the narrow gap between the rocks.
A quick climb up the winding steps…
…leads to a couple of viewpoints, from atop the rocks. This is an incredible sight during fall, when the leaves change…
… but if you visit in early summer, you’ll have to be content with rhododendron blooms.
If you want to see more of the New River Gorge, you should visit the railroad ghost town of Thurmond (at the bottom of the gorge, north of Grandview). Also, don’t miss the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville:
The bridge was once the World’s Longest Steel Arch Bridge, but was surpassed (in 2002) by the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, China. For one day in October (usually the third Saturday), one side of the New River Gorge Bridge is closed to traffic, and pedestrians are allowed to walk across. If you arrive on any other day, consider making the winding drive down into the gorge, on the one-lane road that the bridge replaced in 1977.
Note: This trip was first published in 2008.