Sandstone-Brooks Area Trails

large waterfall spanning a wide river
Sandstone Falls

Louise McLaughlin


There are several excellent trails in the south end of the park, just a short drive from Sandstone Visitor Center.

a waterfall spans across the river
Sandstone Falls

Louise McLaughlin

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.

To reach Sandstone Falls, follow River Road (WV Route 26) from the west end of the WV Route 20 bridge in Hinton. Follow this narrow road along the river for nine miles to Sandstone Falls. The unpaved parking area will be on your right. River Road is single lane in places; please drive slowly and use extra caution.


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.

This trail starts and ends on the Sandstone Falls Boardwalk.

trail through forest with fall colors
Fall color along the Gwinn Ridge Trail

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.

To reach the trailhead, follow Brooks Mountain Road from Route 20 for 2.5 miles to a small parking area at the trailhead.

waterfall on the Big Branch Trail
One of several cascades along the Big Branch Trail

Dave Bieri

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.

To reach the trailhead, follow River Road (WV Route 26) from the west end of the WV Route 20 bridge in Hinton. Follow this narrow road north along the river for five miles to Brooks Falls. River Road is single lane in some sections; please drive slowly and use extra caution. Parking is at Brooks Falls Overlook; cross the road to the trailhead.

To learn more about the history of the Big Branch Trail check out
Discovering Berry Holler and the Big Branch Trail.

View of the river and falls from 600 feet above
Sandstone Falls from the overlook, 600 feet above the river.

Dave Bieri

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.


Last updated: January 26, 2021

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