Trail: Endless Wall Trail
Gorge National River
Geographic Location: north of
Length: 4.5 miles ROUND-TRIP
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: July 2017
Overview: An out-and-back atop the cliff-lined north rim of New River Gorge.
Park Information: https://www.nps.gov/neri/index.htm
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=628768
Directions to the trailhead: From the
River bridge, take US 19 north 0.9 miles to Lansing-Edmund
right (east) on Lansing-Edmund Rd. Drive narrow and winding Lansing-Edmund
Rd. east 1.3 miles to the Fern Creek Trailhead,
which is the western trailhead for the Endless Wall Trail. If the Fern Creek Trailhead parking lot is
full, the eastern trailhead for the Endless Wall Trail is the Nutall Trailhead,
which is located another 0.5 miles east on Lansing-Edmund Rd. Each of these trailheads features a vault
toilet and an information board but no other amenities.
The hike: For my general comments on hiking in this part of New River Gorge, see my hike on the nearby Burnwood Trail. Many people think the Endless Wall Trail described here is the best short hike at New River Gorge; others think it is the best short hike in all of
West Virginia. The trail takes you atop a long series of
cliffs that comprise the gorge’s north rim, so the unrivaled gorge views
provide this hike’s main attraction.
As described in the Directions to the trailhead, the Endless Wall Trail connects two trailheads both of which lie on
Lansing-Edmund Road. While it is possible to form a loop by hiking
0.5 miles along the road, such a route is not recommended due to the narrow,
winding roadbed that carries moderate volumes of traffic. This description starts at the western Fern
Creek Trailhead and leads to the eastern Nutall Trailhead.
|Endless Wall Trail at Fern Creek Trailhead|
The Endless Wall Trail starts at the far (west) end of the parking area and immediately heads into a dark forest dominated by hemlocks. The trail surface starts as gravel, but as the trail curves left to head for the gorge rim it turns to dirt with some rocks. The initial hemlock forest is fairly open, but thick walls of rhododendron enclose the trail when you get further in.
|Walls of rhododendron|
At 0.5 miles, the trail crosses cascading Fern Creek on a sturdy wooden footbridge. Next comes a gradual climb first to New River Gorge’s north rim and then along the north rim. In total, the trail gains just over 200 feet of elevation from its low point at Fern Creek. At 0.7 miles, you reach the gorge rim and the first access point for rock climbers. This climbing access point gives your first view into New River Gorge. All overlooks along this trail are unprotected, so keep kids and pets in firm tow if you venture near the cliff edge.
The official trail parallels the rim 20 to 50 feet from the cliff edge, but many unofficial trails lead to nice views at the brim of the gorge. A narrow unofficial trail treads right on the cliff edge, but it is too precipitous for my taste. Scraggly pines eek out a living along the rocky rim.
1 mile into the hike, you reach the spur trail to Diamond Point Overlook, the only official overlook on this hike. Standing above a northward bend in the river, Diamond Point offers fantastic views of the seemingly endless cliff wall upstream, US 19’s New River Gorge bridge downstream, and the river itself in the gorge below. During the summer you are likely to see and hear rafters trying to negotiate the river’s rapids. Take some time to enjoy the unrivaled views Diamond Point has to offer.
|New River, as seen from Diamond Point|
|North rim's endless wall|
|Looking downstream from Diamond Point|
Many people turn around at Diamond Point having taken in the best views of the hike. For hikers with more time and energy, the Endless Wall Trail continues its eastward course atop the gorge’s north rim. More unofficial trails exit right to more unofficial gorge overlooks.
|Hiking along the rim|
Just shy of 2 miles, you reach the signed eastern rock climbing access point, which also represents the eastern-most gorge overlook. The Endless Wall Trail curves left here to leave the rim area, top a low ridge, and begin the steepest descent of this hike. After crossing a small tributary to Fern Creek, you reach the Endless Wall Trail’s eastern terminus at the Nutall Trailhead. Unless you have arranged a car shuttle here, you next have to retrace your steps 2.25 miles to the Fern Creek Trailhead that contains your car to complete the hike.