The New River Gorge is a scenic area and one of the best places in West Virginia for photography. I spent a few days recently in the area and was able to see and photograph a lot of different locations. This article will cover the overlooks and views of the gorge. Other articles, coming soon, other attractions in the area, like waterfalls.
The New River Gorge National River is managed by the National Park Service. There are many places where you can find amazing views of the river, the New River Gorge Bridge, and there are also plenty of recreational opportunities on and around the river.
The gorge is located in southern West Virginia, and Interstates 64 and 77 provide access to the area. US 19 is also a major route in the area. The well-known and picturesque New River Gorge Bridge is part of US 19, near the town of Fayetteville.
There are some excellent sunset and sunrise views here, which of course, are great for photographs. So let’s take a look at some of the best locations to get a view of the gorge.
Beauty Mountain is a spot for photographing a sunset over the gorge. There is a small parking area (really just a pull off on the side of the road) that is big enough for a few cars. Once you are parked you can walk out onto the rocks and find a nice vantage point. There are several possibilities. You’ll have a view of the river, and with a nice sunset you should be able to get some great photos. The GPS coordinates of the parking area are: 38.045894, -81.024404
Grandview is the ideal sunrise location at the New River Gorge. Grandview is managed by the National Park Service and there is a parking lot with plenty of parking. A short trail leads to an observation deck, but to get the best view you can stand on the rocks next to the platform. Just be careful here because it is a steep, long drop from the edge. I was only there for one sunrise and I was positioned at the main overlook. The GPS coordinates of the parking lot are: 37.830367, -81.062993
There is also a north overlook that offers a great view. I wasn’t at the north overlook, but you can see the location on this map.
From either overlook you have a nice view of a horseshoe bend in the New River. If there is fog in the gorge you may not be able to see the river, which was the case when I was there. As long as the fog stays low, you’ll still have an opportunity for nice photos.
Hawks Nest State Park
Hawks Nest State Park is another popular location in the gorge. There is an overlook that provides a nice view of the gorge and the river, with a small bridge at the bottom. You’re limited here in terms of options. You pretty much just have one angle to photograph from the overlook, although you can also get a view in the other direction.
The approximate GPS coordinates of the parking lot are: 38.122205, -81.126599
From the parking lot it’s just a short walk down to the overlook.
The visitor center at the New River Gorge Bridge provides a nice view of the bridge, although it is quite close up. The visitor center is on US 19, northeast of the bridge. There are signs for the visitor center, and plenty of parking. When you are facing the front of the visitor center, if you look to the right you’ll see a sidewalk path. Follow that sidewalk and there are two different view points. One provides a very close view, looking down on the bridge.
GPS coordinates for the visitor center are: 38.071069, -81.075452
To get to the other one you’ll take several flights of stairs down to an observation platform.
Adventures on the Gorge
Adventures on the Gorge is a resort on the north side of US 19, not far from the bridge. There is an observation platform that provides a nice view of the gorge and bridge.
The NPS-protected area stretches for more than 50 miles. The gorge is deep and beautiful, and based on the landscape I had seen in photos I expected the location to be fairly remote. I was surprised to find that there is a lot of civilization in the area. Many small towns, with plenty of accommodations and restaurants. I think I had cell phone service pretty much everywhere I went, which is often not the case for landscape photography trips.
I stayed in the town of Oak Hill just off of US 19, but there are many other options as well. I would definitely recommend visiting this area, as there is also a lot to see and photograph aside from the gorge. There are plenty of waterfalls, and the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park also in the area.