HINTON, W.Va. — The southern half of the New River Gorge is like comedian Rodney Dangerfield: It gets no respect.
Everyone loves the northern part of the gorge, near Fayetteville, with its whitewater rafting, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, historic sites and spectacular scenery. It's also where you will find the impressive U.S. Highway 19 bridge over the New River.
The New River Gorge National River, created in 1978, covers 70,000 acres and stretches 53 miles along the stream that starts in North Carolina and forms the Kanawha River at Gauley Bridge.
But the southern part of the gorge, south of the old rail and coal town of Thurmond, has its own attractions: especially Grandview, Sandstone Falls and the old rail town of Hinton. It also has an environmentally friendly visitor center north of Hinton: the Sandstone Visitor Center.
Grandview offers, well, really grand views of the gorge from three main overlooks, about 1,400 feet above the New River. From the main lookout, you can view 7 miles of the gorge, complete with still-active rail lines at the bottom of the canyon. In fact, you're so high that you can look down on turkey and black vultures circling below. You can also see the old town of Quinnimont, where the first coal was shipped from the New River Gorge in 1873, and its rail yard.
The North Overlook offers a view of the old Harrah farm and the horseshoe-shaped bend in the New River. And the Turkey Spur Overlook, the northern-most viewing spot at Grandview, is accessible by vehicles. It's a 2-mile drive, and there are 150 steps to the top.
If you go
The 892-acre Grandview area is east of Beckley off state Route 9 and about 5 miles north of Interstate Highway 64. Use Exit 129.
Things to do
The Sandstone Visitor Center, in the hamlet of Sandstone, focuses on the New River watershed. 304-466-0417, tinyurl.com/3krx57p
Nearby Hinton, once a major rail town on the New River, has a historic district that is on the National Register of Historic Places. A walking tour of the downtown area is available. 304-466-3255, hintonwva.com
Theatre West Virginia stages outdoor dramas from June through August. 304-256-6800 or 800-666-9142, theatrewestvirginia.com
For park information: 304-465-0508, nps.gov/neri
General tourist information: Southern West Virginia Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-VISITWV (800-847-4898), visitwv.com; Summers County Chamber of Commerce, 304-466-5332Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun