Do members of your family have different appetites for adventure travel? At Adventures on the Gorge in West Virginia, you choose your own level of adventure. Adventure junkies can pilot their own whitewater rafts, tackle challenging aerial ropes courses, and zipline above the treetops. Others – like me – can let an expert guide the raft and enjoy gorgeous mountain views, nature hikes, and more.
Sunset and mist on the mountains at Adventures on the Gorge (Photo Philadelphia TMOM Sarah Ricks)
Adventures on the Gorge – West Virginia
Choose your own level of adventure at Adventures on the Gorge, a rustic resort nestled in the mountains of West Virginia. Whether it is whitewater rafting, ziplining, aerial ropes courses, rock climbing, or more, at Adventures on the Gorge, you tailor the experience to your own appetite for family adventure.
Whitewater Rafting – for Beginners
The star of Adventures on the Gorge is the top-notch whitewater rafting. From beginners to experts, you’ll find a whitewater experience you’ll enjoy.
This was my first time on a river. As a newbie, my goal was to enjoy the ride without tipping out of the raft. I rode in the big raft that seated up to 8, steered by the experienced guide, Amanda.
My role was simple: wear the life preserver, paddle some for power not steering, and follow the guide’s instructions. Not only was I not steering the raft, we were on the less challenging rapids, the Upper New River (as opposed to the more challenging Lower New River). It was relaxing and peaceful, a chance to take in leafy green scenery, punctuated by the thrill of periodic rapids. No fear, just fun.
Whitewater Rafting for the Adventurers
But my 13-year old niece has a bigger appetite for adventure. She pronounced my approach “boring” and opted to take on the rapids in a 2-person raft with another teenager. She had to steer the raft to avoid hitting rocks or dangerous currents. After a learning curve, she loved it.
Even though my niece had never been whitewater rafting, she had canoed. Without that experience steering a canoe or a kayak, I would not have been comfortable with her navigating her own raft, even on the relatively more gentle Upper New River.
My advice: be honest about your own taste for adventure, and realistic about the skills necessary to navigate a whitewater raft. There is a chance of falling into the river. If you do, you’ll need to remember and follow instructions to avoid rocks and injuries.
Adventures on the Gorge has opportunities for both risk-averse newbies like me – and thrill seekers like my niece. Either way, you’ll get soaked. For family-friendly rafting in Maine, click here and whitewater rafting in Montana, click here.
Wildlife, Waterfalls, and Ducky Wars
From the river rafts, our view was lush green woods, mountains, and big sky. In 6 hours on the river, we saw only 2 houses and a freight train. Otherwise, it was unspoiled nature. We even saw a fawn drinking at the river’s edge. Because we were a small rafting group, we got to stop and walk into the woods to visit a pretty hidden waterfall.
When we came to a calm pool in the river, our guides flipped over an empty raft. Two people stood on the flipped boat (nicknamed a “ducky”) and, facing each other and using no hands, rocked the boat til one person fell in. The 5 kids on our rafting trip loved the “ducky wars.”
Aerial Ropes Course and Ziplining
At the Adventures on the Gorge site, choose your own adventures on aerial ropes courses and ziplines. I did the easiest level of the aerial ropes course, which requires balancing on obstacles like narrow swinging bridges. The course is suspended in the trees, about 20 feet high. Listen closely to how to lock and unlock the safety clips to move to the next stage of the obstacle course. You will need to do that yourself at each elevated platform between obstacles. I enjoyed the obstacles but had trouble managing the safety clips. So I stopped after the easiest level.
My niece, a budding Ninja Warrior, did the easy level with me, then advanced to the next several levels of the aerial ropes course. She loved the challenge. The aerial ropes course could easily keep kids – and agile adults – engaged for hours.
The easy level of the ropes course ended with a short zipline. That quick taste of a zipline whetted my appetite for more, but thunderstorms meant the tree canopy ziplines at Adventures on the Gorge had to close on the day we visited. Something to anticipate on a future visit.
Delicious Food at Adventures on the Gorge
Don’t let the rustic setting fool you – there’s gourmet food here. The main restaurant, Smokey’s on the Gorge, offers buffet options like quail with grilled peaches, roast beef with mushrooms, baked salmon stuffed with crab, an extensive salad bar, dessert buffet, and full bar. If you want pub food, go to Chetty’s for treats like wings with barbecue sauce or siracha garlic. The open air Buffler’s restaurant serves good sandwiches like pulled pork and brisket, smoked in the on site smoker, or burgers and pizza.
Both Smokey’s and Chetty’s are perched on the canyon edge, with outdoor seating, and great views of the gorge. There’s also an upscale coffee shop.
Choose from Camping to a Private Hot Tub
Overnight stays at Adventures on the Gorge range from camping in your own tent, to camping on tented platforms you rent from the resort, both with communal bathrooms; to small cabins; to traditional hotel rooms; to a large suite with a private hot tub. My niece and I stayed in a comfortable room with a private deck overlooking the woods. We appreciated the towel heater in our bathroom. A coffee maker, mini-fridge and microwave made it easy to eat snacks or meals on the deck.
Other Options at Adventures on the Gorge
Hiking, a huge outdoor swimming pool, decks with striking views of the wooded gorge and river, a playground for littler kids, rock climbing, mountain biking or paintball – there’s a lot to choose from. I especially enjoyed the Bridge Walk, crossing the gorge on a catwalk 846 feet in the air, which you can arrange through the resort.
Sunsets are a pleasure at Adventures on the Gorge. Adirondack chairs line a clearing in the trees at the canyon rim, facing west. A glass of wine and a perfect view of the sunset is travel adventure right up my alley.
Adventures on the Gorge lets you choose your own level of thrills. If the daredevils in your family want to navigate whitewater rapids in their own raft, they can. If others – like me – prefer to leave navigating to experts, we can do that too. Adventures on the Gorge makes it possible for the whole family to share the day, without having to take on the same level of adventure.
Have you ever stepped outside your comfort zone on an adventure vacation? Tell us about it in the comments.