8 best aerial views around the New River region
Have you seen the beauty of the National Parks from above?
Southern West Virginia is painted with rolling hills, dipping valleys and old winding roads. Sometimes, when you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to take in the entirety of our state’s beauty.
Get a new perspective with these great aerial views and overlooks. You’ll be surprised just how expansive our forests really are:
1. Hitch a ride in a restored WWII plane
Wild Blue Adventure Company in Fayetteville hooks ordinary folks like us up with extraordinary flights in fully restored, museum-quality WWII-era training planes.
Board a Stearman Biplane or 1941 Piper Cub for a low-key, classic sightseeing tour or a heart-pounding aerobatic thrill ride. They say their goal is to give you the ride of your life, and they let you determine what that ride will entail.
The real kicker? Because these planes were originally outfitted for an instructor and a student, you’ll be embarking on this adventure solo!
2. Walk an architectural icon 851 feet above ground
The ridiculous view from Bridge Walk will have you saying “oh my… gooooorge!”
It’s not every day you get to scale a catwalk beneath the highest vehicle-carrying bridge in the nation. Hear cars barrel over you as you tiptoe the walkway 851 feet above the churning rapids of the New River. The narrow walkway can be nerve-wracking, but you will be completely strapped in, so you’re completely safe from everything but your own fears.
The tours last 2 to 3 hours, giving you plenty of time to learn about the bridge, the gorge and the surrounding New River Gorge National Park. Take in the insane views directly past your toes. Watch as 9-person whitewater rafts, which look more like blue and yellow plastic toy replicas, collide with world-class rapids, which will look more like rifts in a puddle.
Get even more wild on a full-moon trip, which runs dependent on weather.
3. Hike to a breathtaking panoramic view
Follow a moderate-intensity trail that lazily winds through lush forests and fields to a popular rock outcropping known as “Long Point.” Its popularity is well-deserved, as the rock jutting into the gorge puts you in the most perfect position to take in a 360-degree view of the immense gorge.
Watch cars pass over the New River Gorge Bridge almost 900 feet above the raging New River below. Believe it or not, the expansive structure isn’t all there is to see. You’re high enough above the treeline to take in all kinds of wildlife, including high flying hawks and maybe even an eagle! Don’t forget the New River is down there too, though at this height, it appears a whole lot smaller and calmer than it actually is.
Be careful, because there are steep dropouts without railings or fences.
4. Skydive over the National Parks
Get suited up and barrel roll yourself out of a plane at 11,000 feet, rushing towards the rolling Appalachian Mountains and ravenous New River below. WV Skydivers will let you fly high above the New River Gorge National River in their plane, looking down upon the New River Gorge Bridge as it gets tinier and tinier.
Their well-trained professionals are dedicated to making your first jump a breeze— no pun intended. Your first jump will be tandem (that means you’re attached to the underside of a professional who does all the hard work).
5. Relax on the tramway
Pipestem Resort State Park is a gorgeous mountain oasis with spectacular views of the Bluestone Gorge Below. A shining feature at the resort is the aerial tramway. Ride in a tiny glass-enclosed pod to the floor of the Bluestone Canyon below. In this case, it’s more about the journey than the destination. The scenic ride covers 3,600 feet and offers outstanding views of the lush forests and scenic river valley.
6. Take it all in from atop the tower
Also at Pipestem Resort State Park is Bolar Lookout Tower. Take a short .2 mile hike up a paved path to the 3-story wooden tower.
At the top, you will be at an elevation of 3,000 feet, breathing in fresh mountain air and inspiring views of the park and the sprawling Sun Valley below.
7. Watch rafters battle the rapids
Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park is nestled into a gorgeous setting right on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon, close to Summersville. The park features 3 separate overlooks of the Gauley River.
One of those overlooks is the Pillow Rapids overlook, peering down on a legendary Gauley River rapid, Pillow Rock. Pillow Rock drops 30 feet in only 75 yards, the largest elevation drop in the shortest distance on the river. In layman’s terms, that’s an intense rapid.
The overlook is a great place to watch the river eat up and spit out boats full of adventurous people. The scenery is a close rival to the whitewater watching.
8. Look out over Bluestone Lake
Bluestone State Park contains more than 2,100 acres of rugged, heavily forested mountain terrain. An oasis squeezed right in between sloping mountain sides is Bluestone Lake, fed by the scenic Bluestone National River.
One of the best views of the lake is from the park’s overlook, accessible via Overlook Trail. A short hike through winding switchbacks leads you to a stunning vista with several rock outcrops. An opening in the lush trees frames the lake and bridge crossing it.
Be careful, because there are no railings and the cliffs have steep dropoffs!
Here’s a map of some other park overlooks, and there are plenty more!
Which is your favorite view?