If you take away nothing else from this page: please follow the 7 principles of Leave No Trace whenever hiking (and all the time, actually – most are pretty good general life tips, too):
- Plan ahead and prepare
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of other visitors
Now, on to the hike. Here are the quick facts:
- Where: New River Gorge National Park, West Virginia
- More specifically, where: there are 2 trailheads that are 0.5 miles apart along Lansing-Edmond Road (Route 82)
- Distance and elevation: 2.3 miles (3.7 km) from trailhead to trailhead but 2.8 miles (4.5 km) if you walk along the road to make a true loop with 275 feet (85 meters) of elevation gain
- Highest point: 1,938 feet (590 meters)
- Why you should hike this trail: a very easy, family-friendly trail that gives the best view in the park: Diamond Point. Also some fun ladders for those looking for some adventure or climbing.
- Fee or permit? Yes – National Park entry fee
- Best time of year: April – October but this trail can be done any time of year. Expect snow in winter.
- The parking lot at Fern Creek trailhead, the first one you’ll pass, is small. Try to park here but continue on to the Nuttall lot, 0.5 miles down the road, if there are no spots.
- There are lots and lots of side trails that pop out to the rim of the gorge. Most are unmarked and not worth it. The one to Diamond Point is the best and there is a sign for it that you can’t miss.
- While it is a family-friendly hike, there are sheer drop-offs especially around Diamond Point. Be careful with children.
- Don’t miss the ladders! You’ll find the side trails for these along the stretch from Diamond Point to the Nuttall parking lot and they are marked with “Climber’s Access” signs.
To get to the trailheads, you’ll turn south onto Lansing-Edmond Road (Route 18) from Route 19, the main highway to the park. You can also get to Lansing-Edmond Road from the nearby Visitor Center but the most straightforward way is from Route 19. About 1.25 miles from the highway you’ll come to the the Fern Creek trailhead/parking lot. There aren’t many spots, so if it’s full you can continue 0.5 miles down the road to the larger Nuttall parking lot.
You can go from either trailhead to Diamond Point and back for a little over a 2-mile RT hike if you’re short on time or don’t care to do the full loop. If you want to do the full loop, you’ll hike 2.3 miles to the other trailhead and 0.5 miles back to your car along Lansing-Edmond Road. This is a two-way trail the whole way so it really doesn’t matter which one you start at if doing the loop. You’ll have little elevation gain and loss and the views are generally the same. The differences worth mentioning:
- The Fern Creek crossing between the Fern Creek trailhead and Diamond Point
- There are more trails that shoot out to the gorge rim between Fern Creek and Diamond Point, but we didn’t find them worth it
- The ladders on the stretch between Diamond Point and the Nuttall lot (more on that below)
Since we started at the Fern Creek trailhead, this guide will detail the hike starting there in a counter-clockwise route. Almost all of this hike is under the canopy, which is great in hot weather as you’re covered from the sun. The first mile to Diamond Point consists of lots of roots and a crossing of the Fern Creek (you don’t need to get your feet wet).
The best part of this hike is the view from Diamond Point. It’s almost exactly halfway, or just over a mile, from either trailhead. There is a big sign pointing you to the short trail that leads out to Diamond Point, where you’ll get a straight-on view looking down the gorge:
If you’re standing like I am in the picture above, you’ll have this view to your left:
You might be able to spot Amanda on the left side. Where she’s standing is a great vantage point to take a photo of someone standing at the edge of Diamond Point. If you have a tripod and timer, multiple people in your group, or someone else is willing to take your picture, try to get a shot from over there.
After you’ve spent some time admiring the views from Diamond Point, you can head back the way you came or continue the loop. On the stretch between Diamond Point and the Nuttall lot are a couple areas clearly marked with signs that say “Climbing Access.” These are very short side trails that lead to my favorite part of this hike: the ladders.
The pictures above are from 2 different areas and you can explore the ladders in an extra 10-15 minutes. Once you get to the Nuttall parking lot, hang a left and walk along the road for about a half mile and you’ll be back at your car.
This is one of the top “easy with a great view” hikes in the country. You can do it in about an hour if you’re just going to Diamond Point and back but I think you’re missing out if you skip the ladders.