Endless Wall Trail: Best Hike in the New River Gorge?

The overlook at Diamond Point, just past the climbing access ladders, doesn't disappoint.
The overlook at Diamond Point, just past the climbing access ladders, doesn't disappoint. Jeff Bartlett
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I'd planned to go rock climbing at Endless Wall. That was the original plan, at least. Waking up to a fresh snowfall and some breathtakingly cold temperatures in mid-April, though... this was not cragging weather.

Overnight snow turned a loose rock-climbing itinerary into an even looser hiking itinerary.
Overnight snow turned a loose rock-climbing itinerary into an even looser hiking itinerary. Jeff Bartlett

So, okay, this wouldn't be my chance to climb at Endless Wall. But, wait... wasn't the Endless Wall Trail the one that was voted "Best National Park Hike" for 2015 by USA Today ? If a 2.4-mile-long trail with little elevation gain that's mostly used for climbing-wall access is that good, it deserved a look, even without the climbing.

Besides, it would be a shame to spend my entire day ogling the dessert menu at Cathedral Cafe and harassing the staff at New River Bikes, right?

The Fern Creek Trailhead for Endless Wall is only a few miles from the north end of the New River Gorge Bridge; it's a small lot, but we only saw one other car when we arrived. This is the most popular way to hike this trail, as an out-and-back to the Diamond Point overlook and back. It's a 2-mile hike this way, without any significant elevation gain.

Crossing the bridge across Fern Creek beneath a dazzling blanket of fresh snow.
Crossing the bridge across Fern Creek beneath a dazzling blanket of fresh snow. Jeff Bartlett

Despite the frigid air, hiking through the snow was especially pleasant, and it hung heavily on the rhododendron branches as we made our way toward the creek. The National Park Service calls this one "moderate" in their handout, but I'd definitely call it "easy" instead; perhaps this rating is intended to discourage families from bringing small children along, not the best idea with massive exposure along the cliffs near Diamond Point.

Soon we found ourselves at the junction marked for climbing access, and immediately thereafter another marked junction leading toward Diamond Point itself. With more snow flurries on the way, we felt lucky to have arrived between storms while visibility was good. Oh, was it good:

The overlook at Diamond Point, just past the climbing access ladders, doesn't disappoint.
The overlook at Diamond Point, just past the climbing access ladders, doesn't disappoint. Jeff Bartlett
The thin slab of rock jutting into the New River Gorge at Diamond Point.
The thin slab of rock jutting into the New River Gorge at Diamond Point. Jeff Bartlett

It's one heck of an overlook, and well worth the minimal time investment to visit.

Also worth your time: checking out the ladders that pass through a cave on the way to the bottom of Endless Wall, the way climbers access the base of the crag itself. This junction is marked for climbers as well, and it's only a couple hundred feet to the first ladder. By the time we arrived, snow was falling again and an icy wind ripped through the gorge, so we paused in the cave itself to eat a snack before hiking out.

Down one ladder, through an interesting cave and yet another ladder to the base of Endless Wall.
Down one ladder, through an interesting cave and yet another ladder to the base of Endless Wall. Jeff Bartlett

So... best hike in a National Park? That's a loaded question. Who could pick a favorite? Personally, I'm partial to Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, which didn't make the list. But the people have spoken , and Endless Wall is the trail that came out on top. Yes, it's short and simple and relatively flat and easy. But it also packs a serious punch in terms of epic and frequent views of the 1,000-foot-deep New River Gorge. And no matter what the season—whether it's the summer or the fall, or even a snowy spring day in April—this hike is sure to deliver the scenic goods.

Considering it's so close to the visitor's center at the famous New River Gorge Bridge, those who stop there to view the bridge overlook should consider taking an extra hour to bag the Endless Wall hike as well. It must be spectacular during peak leaf season in the fall!

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