Rafters float towards the rapids under the high arched New River Gorge bridge in West Virginia

Best Things to Do in Fayetteville, West Virginia

BY Clay Abney | June 15, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Fayetteville, West Virginia? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Fayetteville?”

In 2014, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” became the official West Virginia state song, or rather the most recent of four. A few of those country roads will ultimately lead you to one of America’s coolest small towns. And if it wasn’t arguably the epicenter of outdoor adventure on the East Coast, that status was elevated in December 2020 when the state gained its first national park.

Outdoors adventurists flock to the area for its world-class rock climbing and whitewater rafting, but there’s more to this tiny hamlet than meets the eye. Fayetteville abounds in history, functional art, natural beauty and outdoor recreation. If this is all news to you, It’s time to experience this gorgeous adventure hub for yourself.

You’re here to get outdoors

New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia
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New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

New River Gorge Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge, U.S. 19, Victor, WV, USA

Completed in 1977, this functional art form is one of the most photographed locations in the state. An engineering marvel, it’s the longest steel span bridge in the Western hemisphere and the third highest in the U.S. And while the views crossing the bridge are breathtaking, there are many other vantage points that allow for a more scenic view of this masterpiece and one of the world’s oldest rivers almost 900 feet below.

Pro tip: Be here for Bridge Day. Each year, on the third Saturday of October, the bridge is closed to traffic and thousands of pedestrians flock to the state’s largest one-day festival. The highlight: hundreds of BASE jumpers flock to the area for their opportunity to jump, or be catapulted, from this iconic bridge while being cheered on by thousands of spectators

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Bridgewalk in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Bridgewalk in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Bridge Walk

57 County Rte 85/9, Lansing, WV, USA

Twenty-five feet beneath the bridge is a catwalk that was built as a way to inspect the bridge after its completion. Today, guests can traverse the more-than-3,000-foot length of the bridge, safely tethered of course, and more than 800 feet above the river near the middle. If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll spot a peregrine falcon, witness the train rolling up or down the river, and during the rafting season, you can watch as rafters disembark after a day of running the Lower New River. The Bridge Walk is a unique experience that isn’t available anywhere else in the U.S. What’s more, you get to experience a bird’s-eye view of the New River Gorge all while cars pass overhead. And this is the only way (outside of Bridge Day) to walk across the bridge (albeit from underneath).  

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Summersville Lake, Nicholas County, West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Summersville Lake, Nicholas County, West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

Summersville Lake

Summersville Lake, West Virginia, USA

With more than 60 miles of shoreline, West Virginia’s largest lake is a retreat for boating, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), fishing, scuba diving and just escaping the summer heat. This man-made lake also creates the flow that perpetuates Gauley Season each fall. Mountain Lake Campground is located right on the shores of this scenic lake and offers RV hookups, cabins and yurts and tent campsites. If you’re looking to rent a boat for your stay, head to Summersville Lake Marina and tour the lake and its unique sandstone cliffs from the deck of your pontoon boat. 

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Adventure in the Gorge

You’ll quickly realize that the New River Gorge is the center of outdoor life. Here’s what you can expect.

Whitewater Rafting

The Lower New River — which is, ironically, part of one of the world’s oldest rivers, depending whom you believe — boasts a nearly 14-mile journey of roughly 25 rapids ranging from Class II-IV of free-flowing whitewater. (If this sounds a little too extreme, the Upper New River is a little more docile and a great entry experience into whitewater rafting.) And while you can run the rapids on your own, it’s best to utilize one of the local outfitters that have been commercially running the river for decades. 

If you’re looking to up the adrenaline quotient, the Gauley River may be calling your name. Starting the Friday after Labor Day, the Army Corps of Engineers begins a series of controlled releases to lower Summersville Lake. This period is called Gauley Season, and it attracts adventure seekers from across the globe to ride what is arguably the single best day of whitewater rafting in North America. This wild ride is best experienced with one of the two outfitters listed above.

Adventures on the Gorge in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Adventures on the Gorge in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

Adventures on the Gorge

219 Chestnutburg Road, Lansing, WV, USA

This is an excellent option that will provide a professional experience down this ancient river.

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Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Whitewater Rafting in West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

River Expeditions

900 Broadway Ave, Oak Hill, WV, USA

Another great option with expert guides.

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Hiking

Trails abound in the state, and the New River Gorge is a scenic wonder worth exploring a little deeper than what’s visible from the roadside. 

Long Point Trail in Fayetteville, West Virginia
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Young woman enjoys the view of the New River Gorge Bridge from the end of the Long Point Trail in West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

Long Point Trail

Long Point Trail, Fayetteville, WV, USA

Long Point Trail is great for beginners and affords you views of the imposing New River Gorge Bridge and the river below from a rocky vista. This is a popular trail and can often be crowded on the weekends. 

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View of the New River Gorge from the Endless Wall Trail in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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View of the New River Gorge from the Endless Wall Trail in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Endless Wall Trail

Endless Wall Trail, Edmond, WV, USA

Another option in the area is that skirts along the cliff’s edge and provides spectacular views of the gorge. 

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Rock Climbing

With more than 1,400 established routes, this climbing mecca attracts climbers from around the globe. If you’re new to rock climbing or just looking to increase your knowledge of the sport, consider signing up for an outing with an experienced guide.

Water Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Water Stone Outdoors in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Photo via Shutterstock.

Water Stone Outdoors

101 East Wiseman Avenue, Fayetteville, WV, USA

If you are an experienced climber and looking to add “The New” to your climbing resume, consider stopping by Water Stone Outdoors for the most up-to-date climbing information from local climbers. And while climbing can (and does) take place year round in the Gorge, perhaps the ideal times each year are late April to mid-June and mid-September to late October. As many of the routes are located within the national park, it’s a good idea to check regulations prior to arriving. 

Adventures on the Gorge also offers guided half- and full-day outings.

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Ziplining

Take a leap of faith and your vacation to new heights as you glide through the treetops. Guests can take a canopy tour on the campus of River Expeditions or Adventures on the Gorge (yes, again). For a little more of an adrenaline rush, the Gravity Ziplines will have you flying across the mountain ridges at speeds close to 65 mph. The six ziplines on the tour begin at around 500 feet in length and progressively increase in length before culminating with the 3,150-foot Adrena-line. 

Gravity Ziplines
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Gravity Ziplines

Gravity Ziplines

219 Chestnutburg Road, Lansing, WV, USA
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Where to stay

Pool at the Adventures on the Gorge resort in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Pool at the Adventures on the Gorge resort in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Adventures On The Gorge (AOTG)

219 Chestnutburg Road, Lansing, WV, USA

Located on the rim of the New River Gorge and just a few minutes from downtown Fayetteville, this all-inclusive adventure resort is an ideal location for individuals and families. In addition to their adventure offerings (whitewater rafting, ziplines and more), their array of lodgings include campsites, RV camp sites, rustic cabins, deluxe cabins and glamping tents. There’s something for every price point, from tent sites to luxury cabins. The AOTG campus is a one-stop shop for adventure, lodging, dining and reconnecting with nature. The resort features multiple restaurants, coffee shop, gift shop, wedding venue, large pool and a hub for all things adventure in the New River Gorge.

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Country Road Cabins in West Virginia.
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Country Road Cabins in West Virginia.

Country Road Cabins

1508 Sunday Rd, Hico, WV, USA

Located just 15 minutes from downtown Fayetteville, Country Road Cabins was founded by Paul and Jennifer Breuer. Paul was one of the pioneers of the rafting industry on the New and Gauley rivers. After selling his company to Adventures on the Gorge, the Breuers built more than 20 luxurious cabins along with a couple of unique treehouses on the property. And new to 2021, luxury glamping tents have been added. 

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What to eat and drink

Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Cathedral Cafe in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Cathedral Cafe

134 S Court St, Fayetteville, WV, USA

Located in historic downtown Fayetteville, this former church turned cafe is an eclectic spot that offers savory fare. Expect whole-grain pancakes, frittatas, croissants and the not-to-be-missed pecan-smoked bacon, along with paninis (we highly recommend the ultimate grilled cheese with three kinds of cheese), quesadillas, specialty sandwiches and more. 

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Pies and Pints in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Pies and Pints in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Pies and Pints

219 West Maple Avenue, Fayetteville, WV, USA

This is the original flagship location of an expanding franchise which offers specialty pies and local brews. A large specialty pizza ranges from $22-26 and can be washed down with one a dozen on-tap microbrews or three-dozen bottled or canned options. If you’re looking for a suggestion, try the Bridge Brew Works Long Point Lager. Yes, it does get its name from the trail and has a fragrance of fresh-baked bread and honey.

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Smokey's in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Smokey's in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Smokey’s

219 County Route 60/5, Victor, WV, USA

Located on the campus of Adventures on the Gorge, Smokey’s skirts the rim of the New River Gorge and offers guests a casual dining experience with a breathtaking view. The restaurant gets its name from one of the gorge’s most notable characters, a bus driver named Dana “Smokey” Morton who shuttled adventure seekers to and from the river. 

Enjoy their signature breakfast Friday-Sunday mornings from 7-9 and experience an evening dining experience (Tuesday-Sunday from 4-9pm) with perhaps the best setting in the area. Start off with fried green tomatoes or smoked oysters before diving into West Virginia farmed rainbow trout, Scottish salmon or the signature Tomahawk (Frenched bone-in ribeye; $69), and they boast having the best barbeque in the state. Prices for entrees start at $22.

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Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
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Bridge Brew Works in Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Bridge Brew Works

335 Nick Rahall Greenway, Fayetteville, WV, USA

Founded more than a decade ago, this local microbrewery creates (in their own words) beer that they want to drink. Look for their brews in local eateries or visit their taproom on-site with their brewery for a full array of their craft beers sold by the pint, bottle or growler. The taproom is open Wednesday-Sunday from 1-10 p.m. While some of their brews are available year-round, others are seasonal brews and subject to change. With more than a dozen brews in their quiver, including stouts, lagers, IPAs and pale ales, there’s something for everybody. And with names like Humulus Lupulus, Mountain Momma Pale Ale, Crux Kolsch (for you climbers) and the Peregrine Porter, you are guaranteed to be leaving with a growler or three.

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