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Castle Rock Trail – New River Gorge National Park

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The Castle Rock Trail is a shorter trail that takes hikers through a forest at the base of cliffs. As a bonus, this hike has several views of the New River Gorge below. Conveniently located near the New River Gorge National Park’s Grandview Visitors Center, this hike can easily be combined with a stop at the Grandview Main Overlook. Take this trail out, follow the Grandview Rim Trail back to the parking area and you will not be disappointed. Visiting Grandview is a must-see section of the New River Gorge and, since you are there, hiking the Castle Rock Trail makes for a fun outing!

Castle Rock Trail
Castle Rock Trail at New River Gorge National Park.

The Castle Rock Trail

Most people will visit the Grandview area to see…the Grandview. Walking to the main overlook at Grandview from the parking area takes just a few minutes. This is possibly the best view of the gorge. We stayed at this overlook for about thirty minutes taking it all in.

I suspect many Grandview visitors see the overlook and hop right back in their cars. I would recommend spending more time at Grandview and hiking the trails in the area. In between the main overlook and the parking lot, you will find Castle Rock and the Grandview Rim Trails. Take the Castle Rock Trail and return back on the Grandview Rim Trail for a nice circuit hike.

Cliffs and views of the New River Gorge.
Cliffs and views of the New River Gorge.

Key Facts about the Castle Rock Trail

Trail Length: The Castle Rock Trail is only .6 miles. You will add another .5 miles back if you use the Grandview Rim Trail to return to the parking area. This loop will take you along the base of the cliffs and then back on the top of cliffs to see more views of the gorge. For a longer hike, turn right on the Grandview Rim Trail to Turkey Spur, and then return back on the Grandview Rim Trail to the parking area. The Turkey Spur has a stair climb to a scenic overlook. This longer route is the one we took and still is under 3.5 miles. Driving all the way to the Turkey Spur Overlook is an option for those that are unable to walk the route.

Rating: The National Park Service website rates this trail as Strenuous. I probably would rate it Moderate +. There are no big elevation gains on this trail however, you will be traversing rocking sections and walking under cliffs with overhanging boulders. It’s the kind of hike where you look up and think, “what’s the odds of those boulders falling right now?” 🙂

Family Friendly: Castle Rock Trail is not recommended for small children due to the uneven footing and some steep drop-offs. We did share the trail with a family that included young children. The Mom and Dad that we met looked up to the task. If you haven’t already done hikes like this with your kids, then I would stick to the level, Grandview Rim Trail instead. This trail is level and you are able to enjoy the scenic overlooks.

Rocks and Rhododendrons
Rocks and Rhododendrons on the trail.

More information about the trail

Dog Friendly: I would think most dogs (or the owners of the dogs) would have a hard time on this trail. I wouldn’t recommend this hike unless your dog is experienced at hiking tougher trails, obeys commands, and can handle tight trails with people passing by. If you do bring your dog, please use a leash and pick up after them.

Connecting Trails: The Castle Rock Trail connects to the Grandview Rim Trail which makes for an enjoyable circuit hike.

Other: There are pit-style restrooms at the trailhead parking area. We are told that there are restrooms inside the Grandview Visitors Center. The visitors center didn’t open until noon on the day we visited.

Our hike: We arrived relatively early as we try to do when visiting National Parks. Since New River Gorge is still unknown to many, we never experienced crowds on our visit.

We parked in an empty parking lot, spent time at the Grandview Main Overlook, and then hiked the trail. We had no idea about the mist over the gorge in the mornings and it was a neat surprise to see it at 8 am.

What I would do if I get to go back: We loved every minute of our hike which started out by watching the mist dissipate over the gorge from the Grandview main overlook. The main overlook faces due east, so maybe arriving earlier to catch the sunrise would be fun for those that don’t value sleeping in.

Trail Location

The Castle Rock Trail is located near the Grandview Visitors Center inside the New River Gorge National Park (southern West Virginia). See driving directions below.

Castle Rock Trail Area Maps
Castle Rock Trail Area Maps (Maps by Google and AllTrails)

Castle Rock Trail parking is at the Grandview Visitors Center which is less than 15 miles (20 minutes with no traffic) from Beckley, WV. Driving directions are:

  • To reach Grandview from Beckley follow I-64 East five miles to Exit 129 B.
  • From Lewisburg follow I-64 West forty miles to Exit 129.
  • From either exit, turn right and follow Route 9 North six miles to Grandview.

The Castle Rock Trail has views of the New River Gorge

Views of the gorge from the Castle Rock Trail.
Views of the gorge from the Castle Rock Trail.

Starting at the Grandview Visitors Center

For this hike, you will park at the Grandview Visitors Center. We arrived at 8 am and the parking lot was almost empty. The visitors center opened at noon, so we wondered if that was the reason people arrived later. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed the main overlook for about 30 minutes all by ourselves! Think about that. A National Park scenic overlook in summer with no one else there…now, that’s a treat.

The Grandview main overlook has to be one of the best views of New River Gorge and is the best way to begin your Castle Rock hike. You will pass the Castle Rock Trail on your short walk from the parking area to the overlook. Take in the views and then head back to the trailhead.

The Grandview Main Overlook
The Grandview Main Overlook. Now, that’s a Grandview!

Our Hike on the Castle Rock Trail

We started our day with a short walk from the parking lot to the Grandview Main Overlook. There was only one person there when we arrived and she departed for her hike after a few minutes. Our early morning arrival meant that we could watch the mist disappear over the gorge which made for beautiful views. After the gorge cleared of the morning mist, we headed back to the Castle Wall Trail.

This trail descends slightly into the woods and you start to get the feeling that it will be a rocky hike. This is by no means boulder hopping, but the trail is uneven and rocky which makes for fun hiking. In the forest, we hiked through rhododendrons and soon the cliffs emerged to our left. Although this trail offers occasional views of the New River Gorge through the trees, the real attraction is hiking at the base of cliffs.

The Cliffs

Not long into the hike the left side of the trail changes from a steep uphill forest to rocky sections to sheer cliffs. During the first section of the trail, we let a family with four young children pass us. This family looked like experienced outdoors people and the three children that could walk were scrambling on many of the boulders. The youngest, riding on Mom’s back, was smiling and taking it all in. Each motored on by us and we never saw them again…although we heard them for a bit. 🙂

Soon after, we hiked through loose stone that had previously fallen from on high. There were jagged rock overhangs and sections where you didn’t want to stand too long given the precarious nature of the hanging rock above. At no time did we feel unsafe though.

The cliffs were incredible and hiking right up next to their base while occasionally getting a view of the gorge below will be remembered for a long time. One of my favorite sections was a short uphill hike, a high cliff to the left, and a drop-off to the right, that showed a line of coal at the base of the rock. The visible coal was a reminder of the industrial activity that had dominated the New River Gorge region until it was preserved.

The return hike on the Grandview Rim Trail

While the Castle Rock Trail is a short hike in terms of mileage, it was not a fast hike for us. Rocks and uneven footing slowed us down a little, but the views of the cliffs and the gorge seemed to be telling us to take our time and take it all in. After reaching the Grandview Rim Trail, we turned right and hiked to the end which terminates at Turkey Spur Rock and a viewing platform. We will detail this hike in another article.

Many hikers, decide to turn left on the Grandview Rim Trail for the shortest route back to the parking lot. This is a level trail and, as expected, has some incredible views of the gorge below.

If you are looking for a hike that is conveniently located, then this is the one. Castle Rock has unique trail sections at the base of cliffs and offers views of the gorge. We loved the hike and give it a 5 out of 5 stars. We hope you get to hike it…and that we get to go back someday!

A short video of the hike

Other New River Gorge National Park Hikes:

The Long Point Trail – The Best View of The New River Gorge Bridge!

The Endless Wall Trail – The Best Views of the Gorge!


By Charlie Anderson

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