What Should You Know about Visiting Sandstone Falls in West Virginia During the "Off Season"?

We visited the New River Gorge area of West Virginia during the off-season last year.  Since so many of the usual tourist attractions in the area had closed for the winter—it gave us time to peacefully explore the natural offerings of the area instead.  One of my family’s favorite spots in the New River Gorge area was Sandstone Falls, the largest waterfall on the New River.  What should you know about visiting Sandstone Falls on the New River in West Virginia?

Begin your visit at the Sandstone Visitor Center.  The Sandstone Visitor Center at the Sandstone exit 139 on I-64, was a wonderful starting point for our visit to the Sandstone Falls.  The falls are not actually located on the visitor center site—but, the visitor center offers some well maintained exhibits about the New River watershed, the area’s water resources, and the history of the upper New River Gorge.

There is a screening room where visitors may watch a video about the area's resources and history.  It was a little boring for the little ones--but, the scientist in me loved it!   I would pick up a park map (our cell phone service was nonexistent in the area so our phone’s gps was also useless), visit the museum-like exhibits and take some time to talk with the park rangers tending the visitor center.

Plan a slow, scenic drive to Sandstone Falls.  The road that ventures from the Sandstone Visitor’s center, through Hinton, and onto the Sandstone Falls is a fairly narrow, winding road following the New River.  There are many spots along the drive where the road narrows to a single lane road—with one side against the rocks or treeline and the other overlooking the river edge--so do pay attention and be courteous to oncoming traffic. 

There are a few pull-off spots to allow cars to pass—but, if you pass the nearest pull off, you may find yourself backing up to allow an oncoming car room to pass.  There are a couple of beautiful, scenic overlooks along the drive, so you will want to stop and enjoy the views.  I would also suggest a stop in Hinton during the visit—either on the way to the falls or on the return trip.  Hinton offers lots of antique shops, local restaurants, and a railroad museum. 

Enjoy the Boardwalk at Sandstone Falls—but, check out the area’s hiking trails too.  The views of Sandstone Falls are beautiful from the boardwalk—but, other hiking trails near the falls offer amazing scenery and river views too.    It was a little chilly during our visit, so we didn’t hike as many of the other trails as we would have liked--but, I would recommend the trails if the weather allows. 

Dress appropriately and keep safety a priority during your visit to Sandstone Falls.  While waterfalls and rapids are beautiful, it’s important to remember that they are also dangerous.  Be sure to wear appropriate shoes for hiking and keep an extra eye on children if you venture onto river-edge trails or ones that edge onto slippery rocks.  The Boardwalk at Sandstone Falls is very well maintained and easy to walk—but, it is also quick and easy to venture off the boardwalk.  There is no playground or kids’ play-space in the area near the falls for the little ones to burn off car-ride energy.  My girls are generally inclined to climb anything with a hand or a foothold—and there are lots of rocks—even on the boardwalk to draw in little climbers.  Do be attentive during your visit.  

Check the park website for alerts, road closures or closed facilities.  You should also plan to check the National Park System website any park alerts or closed trails or closed roads before visiting.  During our visit, there was a washed out road that created a closure. Recently an area of the gorge was affected by a wildfire.  The park service is really on top of making timely alerts for visitors; but, it's important that visitors check the sites for any issues impacting their visit.

What should you pack for a trip to Sandstone Falls? 
The usual water bottles, sunscreen, and insect repellent are must-pack items.  There aren’t spots for drinks or snacks at Sandstone Falls—so you will need to pick something up in town on the way or pack your own.

A picnic lunch.  Planning to pack a picnic (or picking up a boxed lunch in Hinton) is also a nice activity at the falls.  There are only a few picnic tables available along the Boardwalk—so plan to pack a picnic blanket for the visit.  

Fishing gear.  The area near Sandstone Falls is a popular fishing spot for catfish and small mouth bass—so fishermen (or women) may want to pack along fishing gear.  A WV fishing license is required for fishing—and the area has seen numerous drownings.   

Life jackets.  Life jackets are recommended if your trip will place your family hiking near the water or fishing near the falls.

Sandstone Falls is one of the "must see" spots during a visit to the New River Gorge region--and it is beautiful--even during the "off season"!

For More Information about Sandstone Falls:
Sandstone Falls Website
Disclosure:  This trip was not sponsored.  We simply discovered the location during a trip and wanted to share it with our readers!

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