HINTON, W.Va. — Among the most astonishing natural wonders America's newest national park, Sandstone Falls is attracting the attention of an increasing number of visitors who are venturing into the southern valleys of West Virginia.
The river-wide cataract in the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve ranks among the most important destinations in the 70,000-acre park, though it's a drive of more than an hour south of the New River Gorge Bridge, its most famous landmark.
The popularity of the waterfall is hardly surprising, given what visitors will find, according to Rebecca Peterson, executive director of the New River Gateway Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The natural area around the falls is an ideal preserve for a remarkable ecosystem, Peterson says, while trails and boardwalks around the falls and other minor cataracts are ideally suited to exploration.
"What I love about the falls is its ease and accessibility for visitors and that it allows visitors to explore a fascinating Appalachian flat-rock plant community," Peterson says.
"No matter how busy the parking lot may be, the falls and boardwalk never seem overcrowded."
A 15-minute drive north of Hinton, West Virginia, the falls are a highlight of the southern end of the park where the gorge is near its widest and deepest. Here the New River drops through a complex maze of boulders of shelves and boulders.
The National Park Service has developed a system of boardwalks and trails that lead across the islands downstream of the waterfall and offer stunning views of both its tallest cataract, a thundering behemoth of water, and several minor falls among which anglers and swimmers wade.
Peterson said intrepid paddlers may also kayak across the river to a wonderland of water and rocks little explored by pedestrian visitors.
"Accessible by boating across, the less-visited side of the falls is amazing!" she said.
In addition to the boardwalk, she says visitors will be rewarded by strolling the half-mile Island Loop Trail, which begins and ends on the boardwalk.
For more information on Sandstone Falls and the New River Gorge National Park, visit the park's plan-your-visit page for the falls. For further information on touring the falls area and the southern park, visit the New River Gateway travel website.
Eleven must-see waterfalls in West Virginia
West Virginia is a paradise for waterfall hunters. Perhaps no other state in the eastern U.S. can boast as many waterfalls, as few others can boast as many mountains. Randall Sanger, author of "Waterfalls of Virginia and West Virginia," shares his favorites. READ THE FULL STORY HERE.
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