5 of the best outdoor adventures in West Virginia

West Virginia

FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. (WOWK) – If getting out of your comfort zone is on your summer to-do list, the mountain state has you covered. Here are my Top 5 favorite adrenaline rushing adventures!

#5 – Ziplining! 

“From hiking to biking to camping and ziplining, this state reigns supreme as an outdoor destination,” stated Jennifer Abney. “Whether you are planning your first adventure or you’re a regular adrenaline junkie, you can definitely take your vacation to new heights.” 

Fayetteville, West Virginia, It’s a small town with a lot of personalities and a big love for the outdoors and there are zip lines galore here.

#4 – Bridge Walk

Just down the road in Lansing, West Virginia, you’ll get a different view of one of the most iconic structures in the mountain state. Going UNDER the New River Gorge Bridge and not in a boat, it’s the bridge walk tour which takes you across the third-highest bridge in the country and the thirteenth highest in the world.

“There are 69 intermediates between here and the far side which hold up the cables,” stated bridge walk guide, Doug. “This is designed to slide right through. And most of the time, it will slide through seamlessly and you won’t even notice it.” 

The catwalk is two feet wide with substantial handrails. 

 “Welcome to the New River Gorge,” asked Doug. “Is everyone feeling good?” So far so good as we embark on our 3,000-foot long journey high above the water. 

Doug asks, “So everyone here is good with heights?”  If you’re not good with heights, #3 takes you to new lows!

#3 – Caving

“Certainly here at Keyes Cave, the location of the entrance can be difficult,” said Garrett Heydt, a guide at NROCKS Outdoor Adventures. “So you know, that’s one of the first reasons you take someone along, especially a guide.” 

NROCKS guides, Garrett and Nicole tell us there are no maps to these caves and some go down hundreds of feet.  “I would describe it as a mini labyrinth, said Garrett. “There’s a couple of different hallways, but really, not knowing the next step, sometimes that’s exciting for most.” Pendleton County alone has over 80 miles of caves and locals are quite secretive about the location of these so-called, wild caves.

And, we had another unexpected find, a geocache. “This is a cave log, I guess you could call it,” Garrett said. “People who come here to enjoy Keyes Cave have the opportunity to write a little note and make it known when you were here.”

Not far from Keyes Cave is #2 on my list will make you feel like a true rock star.

#2 – Via Ferrata

The via ferratas in Pendleton County were once used as a mode of transportation for soldiers, but they now provide a vehicle for everyone to have an epic climbing experience from high atop the North Fork Valley.

“We’re going to experience real rock climbing,” said Brett, a climbing guide. “You get to see and feel the experience of being hundreds of feet off the ground.”

Via ferrata is Italian for ‘by way of iron‘ or ‘iron road‘. At Nelson Rocks, it is a permanently installed system of steel rungs and cables that allows you to climb up and over two towering rock fins.

“The main attachment points are these lobster claws right here,” stated Brett. “They have safeties in the back just like that so you can’t open it.”
“Via Ferrata originated in Italy,” said Brett. “It was developed by the military so they could move their armies through the Dolomites.”

Fun Fact – There are less than a dozen via Ferrata in the United States. 

Number 1 on my list, drum roll please, is…

#1 Gauley River

It’s a river that remains relatively mild all summer long until a small window in the fall when people from all over the world flock to take a wild ride on it. For about 6 weeks season, that happens right here in West Virginia when the Gauley becomes one of the most epic river runs in the world. But the upper Gauley isn’t for the faint of heart. So I teamed up with Heather Johnson from River Expeditions to get me ready to take on these wild and wonderful whitewater rapids. 

Our guide Jimmy Crane is a pro on this river. He’s been tackling the Gauley for over 25 years.  “He tries not to swim the guests,” stated Heather. “So, No Swim Jim just kind of stuck and that’s what he’s known for. Occasionally, there will be a mishap but it’s always best to be in the raft instead of in the water on the Gauley.”

After safety and paddling instructions, we hit the Gauley and before we know it, we hit our first Class V, named Insignificant. Next up, my significant other gives a salute to the Great Gauley with a tip of the paddle to Pillow Rock as we roll through another intense Class V rapid. 

“All forward, all forward!” commands Jim over the roar of the water. All of these prepare us for the most epic ride on the river, Sweet’s Falls. And our guide gives us plenty of instruction for this 14-foot waterfall! Sweet’s Falls is not the type of rapid we can just paddle up to,” Jim said. “We have to paddle all the way up to the brink of it. If we are too far left, we are going to hit a nasty rock.” “Here we go, make em count!” yells Jim.

“You guys did an awesome job, nobody fell out of the boat and we didn’t flip the boat over,” exclaimed Jim. “That’s a pretty darn good day on the Upper Gauley.”  I couldn’t agree more!

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