a roadtrip to America’s newest National Park

About 6 months ago, I found a great deal to Salt Lake City, went online and saw that Park City’s ski slopes were set to open on November 19, and secured 5 Delta tickets, a couple Marriott hotel rooms, and 5 Epic ski passes. November 17, we learned the opening of ski season in Utah would be postponed due to warmer than anticipated climate. So, instead of flying to SLC on Friday the 19th, we drove to the Spartanburg, SC Marriott.

Saturday morning, we unloaded our bags into a 2/1 AirBnb in Fayetteville, WV, stopped by New River Bikes to replace the pump I couldn’t find while packing, and drove across the New River Gorge bridge into my 39th National Park, established last December.

We toured the Canyon Rim Visitor Center first, picked up junior ranger workbooks, and then pulled up to the Arrowhead trails parking area to enjoy our first national park mountain biking experience. My son and I lead the way along the Adena loop, nearly 4 miles through the woods at about 2,000 feet of elevation, stopping before it got dark and driving over to Pies and Pints Pizzeria for dinner and the ‘Bama–Arkansas game.

Once we put the children to bed after the game, the Mrs and I ventured back out into downtown Fayetteville, one of America’s coolest small towns. We hit Southside Junction Tap House for local craft beers at 8pm and Maggie’s Pub for the hard stuff at 10 before turning in for the night.

The next morning, my bride was not feeling so spry, so just my son and I took our bikes to Wolf Creek, where the guys at the bike shop had said we’d find better maintained trails than we’d see in the national park, and despite the cold temperatures, we loved it–next to Coldwater Mountain, it’s my favorite place I’ve ridden.

We left the house in Fayetteville and headed toward the southern side of the national park, stopping for brunch at Cathedral Cafe (which was awesome), a recommendation by local friends we’d made at Maggie’s the night before. Coincidentally, the places we ate Saturday night and Sunday morning were where my friend Jeff Bogle went on his trip there, as explained in his piece on Fodors Travel!

Then, we hit the Sandstone Visitors Center and Grandview outlook area, hiking a couple miles along the top of the gorge (Grandview Rim trail and Castle Rock trail–the latter is considered “strenuous” but is short) before driving south toward Asheville, NC. We stopped for dinner in Bristol, TN and stopped at a 2/2 AirBnb in Bent Creek, NC near the Pisgah National Forest where we’d bike nearly 7 miles through the forest the next morning before “lupper” at the Moose Cafe, exploring downtown Asheville, and enjoying hot chocolate + cocktails at the Grove Park Inn that night, where we marveled at the entries in a gingerbread house competition.

The next morning (Tuesday), we had another delicious brunch at Biscuit Head before heading back to Atlanta.

When a new NP was announced a year ago (especially one we could potentially drive to), I was excited to visit it but couldn’t find a good weekend to go, so I was proud of our ability to pivot in 24 hours and throw together a trip involving our mountain bikes, nature, and another NP with such short notice. If you love trees, gorges, rivers, biking, and hiking, I recommend visiting New River Gorge national park in the fall (especially if you can catch some color like we did!) or winter; apparently it’s known for its white water rafting when the temperatures are warmer, so I’m hoping we can go back and experience rafting in a coming summer!

Also, I agree with Fayetteville’s claim to be one of America’s “coolest small towns.” After our Sunday morning ride at Wolf Creek, my son exclaimed, “You’ve got to buy some land here–I love this place!” If only it were that simple.

One Comment

  1. So beautiful. Except the hangover. Other than that: pure magic.

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