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Wilderness adventures on West Virginia’s New River

It’s amazing what fresh mountain air can do for tense shoulders and cluttered minds. Rediscover your inner calm in the vast wilderness of West Virginia, where 80 percent of the state is covered in forests and world-famous whitewater rivers deliver miles of fun.

Beckley, just 70 miles south of Charleston, is the ideal place for weekend adventure. Outdoor activities abound in and around the gorgeous New River Gorge National River. Easygoing float trips run on the Upper New River, and thrilling whitewater rafting trips traverse the Lower New River’s raging Class III-V rapids.

If you don’t want to dedicate a whole day to a river trip, opt for a 30-minute jet boat tour. The cruise covers a six-mile stretch of the scenic river and takes passengers under the impressive New River Gorge Bridge, arching 876 feet above. On Bridge Day, the third Saturday in October each year, the bridge is open to pedestrians, and events (concerts and parachute demos, and more) fill the day.

You’ll get an entirely different perspective of the river on a rappelling trip in the gorge. Drop down a 100-foot cliff next to the New River Gorge Bridge and watch the sun set behind the mountains.

Beckley’s underground is just as fascinating as its topside. Deep down, at 1,500 feet below New River Park, you can tour the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine in a rail car and hear stories about the historic mine.

For more planning tips, go to the Southern West Virginia Convention & Visitor’s Bureau website.

Read more of the 50 Affordable Stateside Escapes.

Have a recommendation for Beckley, or another great getaway in West Virginia? Post your comment below.

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