We headed about an hour and a half away to visit the New River Gorge Bridge. It was built in 1977 and, at one time, was the longest arch bridge in the world. Today, it is the second largest arch bridge in the world. Pretty neat, right? Our first stop was the New River National Park, Canyon Rim Visitor Center, (the restroom at the park was actually the first stop). Here we watched a short video on the new river that included how the river got its name and touched on the history of coal mining in West Virginia. After the video we got the Junior Ranger booklet and info for Juliette. Jaelyn decided to opt out on the Junior Ranger Badge this time, I’m not sure if it’s not ‘cool’ anymore- she is almost thirteen.
We walked the Canyon Rim Boardwalk and I almost felt as if I was in Chimney Rock, NC. If you have ever been to Chimney Rock you know what I mean- it feels as if there are millions of stairs (if you’ve never been to Chimney Rock you should definitely go-it’s beautiful)! It wasn’t nearly that bad though. At the end of the trail was a great view of the bridge.
Next, we stumbled onto a little adventure where I had to pull out my sense of humor and laugh at myself and my sense of humor. I used Google Maps to find a ‘trail near me’. It gave me Bridge Buttress Trail. We hopped in the car and we were on our way to Bridge Buttress Trail. I figured this was a trail that went near the base of the trail where you could see underneath the bridge. We turned left from the park and the directions had me go about a mile down the road, turn left, go up a residential road (I say residential road very loosely- I was afraid maybe I’d get shot for trespassing), make a U-turn to only have us go the direction we came from. It told us to make a right when we were actually still on the bridge. AS we passed the place it told us to turn right, a place I could not turn right, I could see a trail. I’m thinking, ok, we will head back the way we came, park and walk beside the highway to get to this trail. So, that’s what we did.
We parked the car at Bridge Walk. Bridge Walk is a tour where they take you under the bridge. They had some tourist info so I picked out some pamphlets and West Virginia Maps. The guy at the desk asked if we were interested in a Bridge Walk and I told him not today- we are looking for some trails to hike. He gave us printed directions to Long Point Trail and told us it would give us a panoramic view of the bridge. We debated on whether to just use his directions of find the Bridge Buttress Trail. I guess we should have gone with his directions. Hindsight really is 20/20. In retrospect I should have at least asked him about the Bridge Buttress Trail. We left our car parked in their lot and walked down to the road and then beside the highway, walking towards the bridge.
I didn’t think too much about walking beside the highway to get to this trail- the last trail we hike felt off the beaten path, too. No big deal. As we were walking I’m thinking this is great preparation for the Appalachian Trail. I’ve read often you have to hitch hike from the trail to town. Well, don’t get excited, we did not get THAT adventurous! From where we are walking you can see a sign that says no pedestrians are allowed on the bridge. A fun fact- they allow pedestrians on the bridge once a year, on Bridge day, where they have a large festival hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce. This festival began in 1980 when five people parachuted off of the bridge into the gorge. Bridge day is held the third Saturday of October. I don’t know if we will be able to make it to the festival this year, but it sounds fun. I won’t be parachuting off of anything unless it’s on fire and there is no other alternative. I prefer my feet on the ground, thank-you very much.
So, we walk along the highway and we get to the trail beside the bridge. The trail veers to the left and the right. To the right is a sign that says State maintenance only (and also a sign attached to the bridge that said BridgeWalk), so we go left. We hike a little ways up the trail. It. Leads. To. The. National Park. You know, the one we just left? That path lead to one of the trails at the Canyon Rim Visitor Center that we had not gone on. I’m thinking that the Bridge Buttress Trail is for official bridge use only, not silly day hikers that don’t ask about trails. My husband said this part of our day shouldn’t be put on the blog, but I asked why not- it was part of the day and there you go. I can’t help it, I’m directionally challenged and well, I ended up doing a weird little circle. We walked back down the hill to our car parked at the Bridge Walk.
After leaving the parking lot, again, we head to Long Point Trail. You know, the one we should have chosen. The Trails Guide from the National Parks service list the trail as moderate. It was not bad at all. I’d say that ¾ of the trail was pretty flat. The last part had a lot of large rock and was downhill. The end of the trail did not disappoint. The view was amazing! I’m a little disappointed in my pictures, mostly because there were other hikers there and I was trying not to get them in our pictures. I also did not want to be rude and intrude on their views. If you were to hike there my only warning would be that there are no rails. If you bring little kids, then you’ll need to hold onto them. There was a family with several ‘littles’ so it’s definitely doable and so worth it. The trail is 1.6 miles according to the Trails Guide.
Once we were finished with our hike we headed back to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. We decided to check out the gift shop next door selling ice cream (the girls and I already had that plan before the hike, we just had to sell their Daddy on the idea). After our ice cream we were ready to call it a day and head back home.