Sandstone-Brooks Area Trails
There are several excellent trails in the south end of the park, just a short drive from Sandstone Visitor Center.
Sandstone-Brooks Area Trail Map: Download a trail map for the trails of the Brooks-Sandstone area.
Sandstone Falls Boardwalk
Sandstone Falls is a sight that should not be missed. This is the largest waterfall on the New River spanning 1500 feet across. Divided by islands, the falls drop from 10 to 25 feet. A ¼ mile, handicapped accessible boardwalk crosses two bridges leading to islands and observation decks offering fantastic views of the falls and access to fishing areas. The boardwalk passes through the Appalachian riverside flatrock community, which contains a rare assemblage of plants found in only a few places along several high-energy Appalachian rivers. The flatrock community contains many plants that grow nowhere else in New River Gorge.
Island Loop Trail
The Island Loop Trail is an easy ½ mile trail that loops around the largest island below Sandstone Falls. The island was once farmed, grazed, and timbered, and a grist mill once operated here. Today, hikers can observe the natural succession as the old fields transition back to forest.
Gwinn Ridge Trail
South of Sandstone Visitor Center on the east side of the New River off Brooks Mountain Road is the Gwinn Ridge Trail, a three mile loop through a ridge top forest. The south branch of the moderately strenuous trail follows the edge of the ridge where hikers can sometimes (in winter) get views through the trees. It then descends off the north side of the ridge, climbs back up, and loops back to the starting point. The trail can sometimes be difficult to follow in places.
Big Branch Trail
On the west side of the river at Brooks Falls is the Big Branch Trail. This strenuous trail creates a 2 mile loop that is especially scenic in the early spring when wildflowers are in bloom. It can be a great place to see the early bloomers like trout lilies, spring beauties, toothwort, and bloodroot. Taking the left or south branch of the loop, the trail crosses and follows a stream, passes several nice waterfalls and the ruins of an old farmstead, and climbs moderately up to the ridge top. Several good views of the gorge and the river can be seen through the trees from the ridge top. The trail then descends very steeply down to the trailhead, offering scenic views of Brooks Falls through the trees.
Sandstone Falls Overlook
See all of Sandstone Falls at this scenic overlook, 600 feet above the river. This short, gravel walkway descends briefly from the parking lot to the viewpoint. The total distance is only 1/10 mile.
This roadside pull-off is on WV Route 20, three miles south of I-64 exit 139 and the Sandstone Visitor Center, or 8.5 miles north of Hinton.
Did You Know?
The New River Gorge was logged extensively thoughout the past century. The landscape is now recovering, with the park ecosystem returning to its more natural state, but there are still plenty of signs of the past activities.