The New River Gorge climbing area is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the eastern United States. More than 1,600 routes have been established along clifflines which follow the northern and southern rim of the gorge high above the New River. Traditional face and crack climbs and abundant sport climbs ascend the crags and look out across a canyon of national parkland more than 900 feet deep.
Climbing routes at the New River Gorge are rated from 5 to 5.14b, though the majority are 5.10 to 5.11, and most extend from 30 to 120 feet up the rock face. The sandstone is highly featured with jugs, pockets, huecos, slopers, edges, and horizontals, and its profile can range from vertical to severely overhanging. The cliffs are of the massive Nuttall Sandstone, which also outcrops to the north in the Meadow River and Summersville Lake climbing areas.
Easily accessible crags in the the New River Gorge climbing area can grow crowded on holiday weekends. Crags near the New River Gorge Bridge may resemble climbing gyms when crowds are heavy. However, many miles of cliffline await climbers who are willing to hike or rappell. Most routes along the Endless Wall, a 4.5-mile stretch of nearly unbroken cliffline, may be accessed only by rappelling or climbing down one of two steep staircases fitted into crevices along the wall. Most climbing areas in the gorge are located along its northern rim, where south-facing rocks receive ample sunlight year-round.
Nearly all established routes are equipped with fixed, bolted anchors, so it’s generally easy to set a top-rope after leading a climb and to rappell down afterward. Due to the nature the densely forested nature of the rim of the gorge, climbers are rarely able to top-out, though few climbers will be deprived of a summit experience: many climbs ascend 100 feet and offer good stances at the anchor that provide exhilarating views from above the tree line.
New River Gorge Climbing Access
Climbing access areas for the New River Gorge are many. Two have been established along the north side of the gorge near the New River Gorge Bridge on Fayette Station Road (CR-82) and a third off the latter road on Burma Road (CR-60/96). These, consecutively, provide access to Ambassador Buttress, Bridge Area Crags, and the Bubba City and Junkyward Wall climbing areas. The Endless Wall and Fern Butress climbing areas may be reached by way of the National Park Service’s Endless Wall Trail, a hiking trail with two trailheads along Lansing-Edmond Road (CR-82). Access to the Beauty Mountain climbing area is at the junction of Buckhorn and Beauty Mountain Road (CR-85/5). Access to the Kaymoor and South Nuttall climbing areas on the south rim of the gorge is afforded at the Kaymoor Top trailhead area on Kaymoor Road (CR-9/2).
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Lodging near the New River Gorge
Content sponsored by New River Climbing School