The 2 longest trails are the GSYP at .75 miles, and the Hawks Nest Rail Trail at 1.8 miles one way. Runners can combine the 2 trails out and back for a 5- to 6-mile run, or stick with one or the other for something shorter.
Destination Distance From Downtown
3 of 5 diamonds
There are a lot of variations in the type of trail running opportunities here. Some locations give the runner a physical and demanding workout, while other trails are predominantly easy to navigate and picturesque.
Time To Complete
The GSYP trail takes about a half-hour to complete at 0.75 miles. If you elect to check out the Hawks Nest Rail Trail, this can add to your length of time—easily an additional hour for the average trail runner.
Spring, Summer, and Winter
Take advantage of the spring, summer, and fall seasons and avoid the winter season because snowfall can be unpredictable in the higher elevations of West Virginia.
Perched along the rim of the New River Gorge, the appropriately named Hawks Nest State Park has amenities that cater to a variety of interests. The park's 275 acres have trails that descend from the rim of the canyon to the narrow valley riverside. Some of the park’s trails are designed simply to offer unique vantage points into the obscure ruggedness of the gorge and easy strolls into the wilderness. Others embrace the terrain and descend the entire length of the canyon, a vertical distance of more than 800 feet. The opportunity for adventure abounds.
What Makes It Great
One of the distinct opportunities of Hawks Nest State Park is the ability to experience a variety of trails within a stone’s throw of your bedroom. The resort itself is nestled on a section of the gorge where trail runners can safely descend the canyon along a stone-based trail. While a bit rocky, this trail is a great training workout and vertically descends the entire length of the gorge in less than a mile. The .75-mile wooded trail features a combination of stairs and switchback-like configurations. En route, wilderness sightings are likely and picturesque views during the fall foliage season are surreal.
Once you descend into the narrow valley below, runners develop a new perspective for the towering Appalachians around you. The rushing water of the New River and obscureness of your surroundings gives this park an advantage over other locations in the area.
You can continue after descending the canyon along the park’s GSYP Canyon Trail, which brings you to the Hawks Nest Rail Trail, an abandoned railroad right-of-way that has been resurrected as a stone-based trail. At almost 2 miles in length, this route spans a small creek bed and crosses over steel railroad bridges. The Hawks Nest Rail Trail contrasts the GSYP Canyon trail. While it’s almost twice as long, the elevation change isn’t nearly as significant and the views between the two trails complement each other. There are multiple waterfalls along the rail trail for photo opportunities. This trail is great for a cruising run, decorated with beautiful trees and wooden rail bridges. The elevation change is minimal and this rock-based trail is easy to navigate.
Finish off your workout by running up to the rim of the canyon via the GSYP Canyon Trail for a healthy cardio workout or use the park’s tramway for a quick 4-minute ride back to the park’s main entrance.
Who is Going to Love It
The GSYP Canyon Trail is designed for trekkers who enjoy a demanding physical workout. While it is short at slightly less than 1 mile, the elevation change of more than 800 feet makes the trail a favorite among trail runners. It is both rooty and rocky and provides a great workout without taking up an entire day.
Hawks Nest appeals to more than just trail runners. If you have a passion for visual arts, like photography, enjoy the various photo vantage points along different trails. Some of the easier trails are designed only to gain access to overlooks. These are great for photographers, small children, and pets.
The park itself is also very quaint. While centrally located in the New River Gorge region, it is never extremely crowded in comparison to other tourist attractions. This four-season destination is peaceful and has other amenities like dining and lodging.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
As one of the state’s most valued parks, Hawks Nest is easily accessible on Route 60 near Ansted. The park has ample parking and in most cases, trailheads are advertised near parking lots. Obey basic park regulations and you’ll be fine. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited and camping along trails is not allowed.