Long Point Trail - 1,680'

New River Gorge National Park - Long Point Trail


How old is the New River?  That's a question that scientists are still grappling with.  With estimates ranging from 3 million years to 320 million years, however, one thing is certain.  The New is anything but.  Rising in the high country of North Carolina, the New River twists its way north through the Appalachian Mountains for 320 miles crossing through Virginia and into West Virginia along the way.  Just prior to its northernmost reach, where joining the Gauley it forms the Kanawha River, the New reaches the apex of its wild and natural splendor.  Here, over a distance of 53 miles, the New River has chewed over 1,000 feet down into the Appalachian Plateau creating the New River Gorge.  In 1978, President Jimmy Carter established the gorge as a National River with the intention of "conserving and interpreting outstanding natural, scenic, and historic values and objects in and around the New River Gorge and preserving as a free-flowing stream an important segment of the New River in West Virginia for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.”  New River Gorge National River quickly became a favorite recreation destination for outdoorspeople of all types, attracting over a million visitors a year by the early 2000's.  Then, late in 2020, the New River got an even bigger promotion...that of National Park status.  As New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, our 63rd National Park, preservation of the rich natural and cultural history of the gorge is now assured.  In this album I head out onto one of the parks more popular trails, to a place called Long Point where stunning views of the New River Gorge and its famous bridge can be enjoyed.  For the most part it's an easy hike, with the exception of the short stretch of trail just before reaching the overlook.  It seemed like a good little trek to introduce myself to hiking in the country's newest National Park.

The trail begins from a large and well-maintained parking area, boasting a large informational kiosk and a pair of primitive toilets.  A small sign near the kiosk denotes the beginning of the trail itself.  Initially the route is all but flat as it passes along the edge of the forest behind some residential homes.  Soon, however, it breaks out into a large overgrown field where it ascends slightly and passes a wooden deck on the left.  Views from the deck overlook the field and interpretive signage explains the basics of forest succession using the former farmland-now-turning-forest in front of you.  After the wooden deck it's back into the woods for the remainder of the hike.  The terrain is relatively flat as the trail follows along the undulating crest of the ridge.  What ups and downs you do encounter are generally brief and not at all challenging.  A half-mile in you'll reach a junction with the Fayetteville Trail.  Though there's no blazes on either trail, well-placed signage will keep you on the correct path.  Besides, the Long Point Trail sees much heavier use so is easily identified.  After another short climb the trail begins an extended period on the descent before, at the 3/4-mile mark, it reaches the next junction.  The Butcher Branch Trail comes in on the right here while the Long Branch Trail continues straight ahead.  You get a sense at this point that the ridge is narrowing, with rhododendron bushes more frequently filling in the understory as you go.  Then, at around a mile in, you'll pass a bike post and signage denoting its hikers only beyond this spot and soon after the route begins its final descent to the overlook.

This last half-mile is by far the most rugged and strenuous of the entire route.  Immediately the rhododendron press in from either side and you are forced to closely watch your step as the footing becomes more rocky.  The majority of the elevation change found on this trail is along just this stretch.  The ridge is getting really narrow now and, as a benefit, numerous brief views are now available where the trail passes small rock outcrops.  Just before the Long Point Trail reaches the final overlook it flattens out, emerging into a grove of pines populating a flat (long) rocky point.  The main overlook is stunning, facing the gorge and the New River Gorge bridge in such perfect composition that you might think the whole scene prearranged.  Standing on the bare rock of the point you're about 800-feet above the river while the bridge itself is perhaps 2/3-mile distant.  Completed in 1977 the giant steel arch which carried US-19 across the gorge is over 3,000-feet long and clears the water below by 876-feet.  It's one of those rare man-made structures that, while certainly not adding to the surrounding natural beauty, is at least somewhat complementary of it.  In addition to the bridge view the overlook is a wonderful vantage point to admire the cliffs of the 'Endless Wall' which lies directly across the gorge.  Needless to say this is a spot you'll probably want to spend some time and enjoy.  Afterwards, simply retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Overall, the Long Point Trail is a wonderfully enjoyable and not-all-that-strenuous dayhike which almost anyone can enjoy.  The stretch of trail just above the overlook is a bit steep and rugged but nothing that can't be overcome with a bit of deliberate walking.  Even kids should be ok on this one, albeit you'll want to keep them reigned in atop the overlook cliffs.  With that said, it's my pleasure to invite you along with me on a hike of the Long Point Trail, in New River Gorge National Park & Preserve.  As always, I hope you ENJOY!!


Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  38.04165, -81.07806


Route Type:  Out-and-back     Difficulty:  MODERATE  (Petzoldt Rating 3.90)     Hike Length:  3.2 miles     Hike Duration:  1:15     Trailhead Temp:  85'F                  Trail Traffic:  25-50 people      Min. Elevation:  1,680'      Max. Elevation:  1,970'     Total Vertical Gain:  350'     Avg. Elevation Gain/Mile:  109'

Trails Used (blaze color):  Long Point Trail (unblazed)


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8-6-2021