White Water Rafting West Virginia – Our Favorite Destinations

white water rafting west Virginia

Whether you are new to West Virginia white water rafting or a seasoned pro, the state has enough adventure no matter your skill level.

The New River

The New River, is ironically one of the oldest rivers in the world. The upper parts of the river are calmer and contain long pools and manageable rapids. The lower portion is great for an adrenaline rush with impressive rapids and twists and turns. A West Virginia white water rafting vacation is perfect for exploring new areas as your skills improve.

If you are a beginner rafter or are bringing the whole family on a white water rafting West Virginia New River adventure, you will want to start with the Upper New River. With only Class I and Class II rapids, you can safely take your family on the water and a fun experience will be had by all.

The Upper New River offers float trips and guided rafting trips that allow you to experience the natural beauty of the New River Gorge. The Upper New River has a wide valley base that features shallow, slow water. Use the Upper New River to gain confidence as a new rafter or refresh your skills as an experienced rafter.

The Lower New River offers the same calmness as the Upper New River only with the added bonus of stretches of intense rapids. You can experience Class IV and Class V rapids in spring and summer. Adrenaline junkies love the Lower New River as it provides large boulders, steep drops and a generous recovery time.

When taking a white water rafting West Virginia trip down the Lower New River, you will go beneath the New River Gorge Bridge. At over 800 feet high, the bridge is a beautiful landmark especially in the late fall when the leaves are turning.

Upper Gauley

If you are looking for a challenge, you must check out the Upper Gauley. The Upper Gauley provides non-stop thrills, dropping you over 300 feet in just 13 miles. With Class IV and Class V rapids, you will never run out of choppy water.

With over 60 rapids, this is not a stretch of water for the faint of heart. You will need to have prior experience white water rafting before attempting this stretch of river.

In the fall, the Upper Gauley is even more challenging. Water is added to the Upper Gauley via the Summersville Dam which creates even higher waves and more intense rapids. However, do not forget your wetsuit and water shoes if you are visiting in the late fall. You may capsize more than once on this extreme route and the fall water is chilly.

Lower Gauley

The Lower Gauley is more for intermediate rafters. It has consistent Class III through Class V rapids and plenty of them (70 rapids) but it will give you a few breaks to help gather yourself for the next set.

The Lower Gauley is 17 miles long and is one of the best mixes of thrill seeking and leisure float and swim adventures.

If you are an experienced white water rafter and want to extend your trip, consider rafting both the Upper and Lower Gauley.

Shenandoah River and Potomac River

Shenandoah River and Potomac River

The Shenandoah River and Potomac River are great choices if you have already rafted on the New River. It is also a great choice if you have limited vacation time or are staying near Harpers Ferry. When rafting on the Shenandoah River you will encounter the Blue Ridge Mountains and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

You can raft the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers in about three hours, which is a perfect day trip for a single person or family. It offers Class I to Class III rapids and is approximately 6.5 miles in length.

Cheat River

The Cheat River is not as well-known as the New River and Gauley River but it has a pure beauty that should not be overlooked.

The Cheat Canyon has 13 miles of crystal-clear water and advanced white water rapids trails. You will find large boulders, choppy waves and swirling holes. The Cheat Narrows is the calmer of the two and is great for beginners.

Both the Cheat Canyon and the Cheat narrows have a season that encompasses spring through summer.

Tygart River

The Tygart River is fairly new to the scene and less crowded than the popular New River and Gauley River.

The Tygart Valley Falls run is a great all-around ride down the river and is open in the spring, summer and fall. The trip flows through Valley Falls State Park with a majority of Class III and Class IV runs. Perfect for intermediate riders, the run has exciting bumps and drops.

For more scenery and hiking opportunities, stop by the Valley Falls State Park and Audra State Park while you are visiting the Tygart River.

Best White Water Rafting in West Virginia

If you are excited about the adventures that West Virginia can offer, check out our top adventure spots that are sure to keep you coming back for more.

Ace Adventure Resort

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: aceraft.com

Ace Adventure Resort has been active since the 1970s and is located on 1500 wooded acres near the New River Gorge National River.  It is the largest outdoor adventure resort in the US.

Enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities including whitewater rafting, zip lines, rock climbing, mountain biking, Kids Camp, Paintball, Mud Racing, Disc Golf and more. Whitewater rafting trips are available on the New River and the Gauley River.

Ace Adventure Resort even has a waterpark on its property. With so many activities, you will want to spend more than one day here. Ace Adventure Resort offers modern lodging and camping as well as dining facilities.

A wetsuit is recommended for river trips and you can rent one directly from the resort. They have four options available including: Farmer John, Neoprene Long-Sleeve Jacket, Nylon Splash Jacket and Neoprene Booties. A-la-Carte and combo pricing is available.

Ace Adventure Resort also hosts an annual Mountain Music Festival. The 2019 festival will be held from May 30th through June 2nd. Tickets are available online and start at just under $100 (for a multiple day pass).

Ace Adventure Resort
1 Concho Road
Oak Hill, WV 25901

Phone: 877-787-3982

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New & Gauley River Adventures

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: @NewandGauley via Facebook

New & Gauley River Adventures was established more than thirty years ago and is still family owned. You will love the peaceful scenery and appreciate the knowledge of the local pro adventure guides. The owner, Skip, even participates in the day to day tasks of guiding a whitewater rafting trip or driving the shuttle.

New & Gauley River Adventures is open year-round for entertainment no matter what the season. They offer whitewater rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, snowshoeing and more.

Need to stay overnight? The outdoor outfitters offer cabins with modern amenities or be one with nature via a rustic campsite. If you do not feel like foraging for your own food or bringing your own, you can dine at the Undercut Pub & Grill on site.

New & Gauley River Adventures features whitewater rafting trips for novices and families to adrenaline junkies. You will find beginner trips from Class I to III and advanced trips up to class V.

If you love horseback riding or are interested in crossing it off your bucket list, New & Gauley River Adventures can make it happen. They offer horseback riding trips that last from 1, 2, 3 or 4 hours in length. You can even take a romantic horseback ride at sunset or ride in a horse drawn sleigh in the winter.

Fishing is popular activity and New & Gauley can help you plan your perfect fishing trip no matter how much time you have to spend.

Or take them up on their Saddle and Paddle package that includes time both on horseback and in the water. It also features and overnight camp and meals.

New & Gauley River Adventures
115 Oscar White Rd.
Lansing, WV 25862

Phone: 800-759-7238

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West Virginia Adventures

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit:@WestVirginiaAdventures

West Virginia Adventures offers whitewater rafting trips on the New River and the Gauley River. Family owned and operated, West Virginia Adventures is a great way to experience whitewater rafting without large crowds or a plethora of confusing options.

They offer four river trips on the New River and six on the Gauley. They also feature off season trips if you are looking for an unforgettable experience without the tourist season crowds.

Trips start at 80 dollars and up with whitewater rafting trips that are suitable for beginners and trips that are only for advanced rafters.

If you need nearby lodging you can choose from tent camping on their five-acre property or studio cabins on raised hilltops with front porches. There is also a nearby Country Inn & Suites by Radisson if you are looking for a more mainstream place to stay.

Close by area attractions include rock climbing, a bridge walk, dirt bike park, hiking, fishing and more.

West Virginia Adventures
231 Wood Mtn Rd.
Glen Jean, WV 25846

Phone: 800.292.0880

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Adventures on the Gorge

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: @AdventuresOnTheGorge via Facebook

Adventures on the Gorge features over 60 adventures including whitewater rafting, overnight trips, hiking, camping, zip lines, bridge walk, kids camp, fishing, laser tag, paintball, horseback riding, escape games, jetboat rides and more.

Lodging includes cabins up to 4 bedrooms, lodges, hotels and camp sites. You can even book lodging through their website at adventuresonthegorge.com.

Take advantage of the crown jewel of the resort, 3,000 square feet, Canyon Fall swimming pool surrounded by a 10,000 square feet deck.

Hungry? Take a break in one of the restaurants on the resort. Each restaurant is full of great food options that the whole family will enjoy. Choose Chetty’s Pub for Appalachian-style pub food and wings. Smokey’s Steakhouse is full of great river views and five-star quality food. Buffler’s Pizzeria is great for families and has a casual atmosphere, perfect after a day of outdoor activities.

Have a craving for caffeine? Check out their newest resort addition, Sweet Java Falls. Sweet Java Falls is a full-service coffee and espresso bar conveniently located on the rim of the New River gorge.

Adventures on the Gorge
219 Chestnutburg Rd.
Lansing, WV 25862

Phone: 855-379-8738

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River Expeditions

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: @raftinginfo via Facebook

River Expeditions offer white water rafting West Virginia trips and experiences on the New River and Gauley River. There are trips for all skill levels and all ages.

They currently provide family class trips, adventure class trips and world class trips.

Family Class trips offer an introduction to the rapids. This is a great choice for families especially if you have young children (minimum age is 6). It is also great for older adults who prefer a more scenic rafting trip than a cardio one. Single and double inflatable kayaks are available for a unique twist.

Adventure Class trips are geared for intermediate rafters that enjoy significant drops and waves. These challenging courses will keep you hopping with picturesque views of the gorges as the payoff. It is recommended that you have previous rafting experience, however beginners are encouraged to try the Adventure Class. The minimum age to participate is 12.

World Class trips pull out all the stops. The World Class trip features all of the most difficult whitewater paths available. You will need to be on your A game to compete with the raging water, big drops and on the spot maneuvering with rapids up to Class V+. You must have previous experience to participate in a World Class trip. The minimum age is 16.

If you are over 18 and have previous Class V+ rafting experience, consider upgrading your raft. River Expeditions has two smaller, high performance raft choices available. Choose from Wildside and Extreme Wildside. They both offer increased maneuverability and faster speeds. You should also be in good physical health and also be able to have quick reflexes when adverse whitewater conditions pop up.

River Expeditions offers packages to suit your specific needs. Single Day Rafting, Double Run Rafting (6 rafters required), 2-Day and Value packages are available. Weekdays are generally cheaper than busier weekend times.

In additional to whitewater rafting, River Expeditions offers scenic float trips, zip line/canopy tours, ATV tours, mountain biking, fishing, horseback riding, rock climbing, paintball and stand up paddle boarding.

Lodging options including luxury and rustic cabins, tent camping, safari tents (canvas tents built on wooden platforms that include foam mattresses and are pet friendly), RV Park, bunkhouse and bungalows.

You can easily book your next adventure online at raftinginfo.com by choosing your trip selection and desired dates.

900 Broadway Avenue
Oak Hill, West Virginia 25901

Phone: 800-463-9873

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Cantrell Ultimate Rafting

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: Cantrell Ultimate Rafting via Facebook

Cantrell Ultimate Rafting provides a unique boutique rafting experience. They offer professional supervision and coaching and state of the art equipment, while keeping the location small so you get a custom experience no matter when you visit.

Cantrell Ultimate Rafting features beginners’ trips that cater to adults and kids.

Adult Saturdays are great for beginners who are interested in learning how to paddle using inflatable kayaks (single and doubles available).

If you are up for a full day trip, try the Upper New River Full Day. It is packed with incredible scenery and lots of casual breaks for a relaxed day on the water. Keep in mind small children will not be able to paddle for the complete trip, so a double with an adult is recommended. This trip accommodates children ages 6 through 16.

The Youth Trip is also a great option for families with children ages 6 through 16.

If you are looking for more of a challenge with bigger waves and more adventure, Cantrell has you covered. They offer the Lower New River Express, Lower New River Full Day and Lower New River Double Run. The double run features the same heart pumping 18 miles stretch twice with a grilled lunch in-between trips. Plus, you will get to eat lunch in the comforts of basecamp with real bathrooms. The double run requires stamina and the trip can last between 5-7 hours depending on the level of the water.

Their rustic tent camping and luxury cabin rentals overlook the River Gorge Bridge and provide stunning, picturesque views of West Virginia’s best rivers.

Cantrell Ultimate Rafting
49 Cantrell Dr.
Fayetteville, WV 25840

Phone: 304-877-8235

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Cheat River Outfitters

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: @CheatRiverOutfitters via Facebook

Cheat River Outfitters is located in North Central West Virginia on the Cheat Canyon section of the Cheat River.

The Cheat River offers Class II-III adventures through Cheat Narrows and Class V whitewater on Cheat Canyon.

You can also take advantage of advanced runs like Upper Yough that has nearly non-stop Class IV and V rapids. Or take the Savage run with Class III and IV rapids that was used for Olympic trials.

Cheat River Outfitters has fully guided whitewater rafting trips available and also features swimming, rock jumping, rock climbing, paintball and picnics on the shore.

Cheat River Outfitters only offers primitive camping on site. However, if you are looking to save money on your next adventure, camping at Cheat River Outfitters is free. Keep in mind there is no running water on site, so you will need to bring everything you need for your stay and take any trash with you before departing.

If you are in search of more modern facilities near this area, you will also find additional campgrounds, cabins, resorts, hotels/motels and B&B’s.

Cheat River Outfitters
2764 N Preston Hwy
Albright, WV 26519

Phone: 304-329-2024

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Class VI at Adventures on the Gorge 

white water rafting west Virginia
Photo Credit: @RivermenWhitewater via Facebook

Adventures on the Gorge is your one stop shop for outdoor adventures. Choose from whitewater rafting, zip lines, climbing, fishing, biking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, horseback riding, team building and battle games (laser tag and paintball).

They also provide a whole gamut of lodging options from rustic tent camping and cabins to luxury vacation rentals.

Save money by booking a package including discounts for kids under 12, second day savings and even locking in your 2019 vacation for the 2018 price.

Traveling with a group? Adventures on the Gorge can accommodate large groups. Whether you are a part of a corporation, college, scout or youth group, Adventures on the Gorge can create a custom package just for you. They also offer private party and destination wedding packages.

Plan a multi-day vacation at the resort. Enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, then take advantage of top-notch dining, souvenir and supply shopping and the canyon falls swimming pool.

Adventures on the Gorge
219 Chestnutburg Rd.
Lansing, WV 25862

Phone: 855-379-8738

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Rivermen at Adventures on the Gorge

Rivermen at Adventures on the Gorge was originally established in 1980. Since its humble beginnings, it has eventually joined forces with Adventures on the Gorge to provide not only rafting opportunities but premiere lodging and outdoor activities to become a true vacation getaway destination.

Rivermen provides several different rafting trips including adventures that are only 2 hours in length. Whether you are new or an advanced rafter, Rivermen will take you on an adventure you will never forget.

Plus, take advantage of several lodging, shopping and outdoor activities that local outdoor outfitters have come together to offer through Adventures on the Gorge.

Rivermen at Adventures on the Gorge
219 Chestnutburg Rd.
Lansing, WV 25862

Phone: 855-379-8738

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Conclusion

The best white water rafting in West Virginia can be found all over the state. The state may be small in size but it offers a multitude of outdoor adventure opportunities. Savor memories with heart pumping white water rafting or simply floating in a kayak down the river to enjoy the crystal-clear waterfalls and lush green shores.

West Virginia holds Whitewater Rafting Championships

West Virginia is becoming a white water rafting destination not only for water enthusiasts but for professional athletes in the sport as well. In 2018, West Virginia was the host of the United States Whitewater Rafting Championships. The Championships were held on the most popular rivers Class V rapids in West Virginia, the New River and the Gauley River.

Day Trips

If you are interested in a simple 2-hour trip or a day trip to West Virginia’s rivers, you might consider choosing a rental that is less popular and has less amenities. Often these off the beaten path places are family owned and operated. They offer expert guidance (since they have lived in the area for several years) and provide you with the patience you need when you are just getting started or have less leisure time to spend.

Large Groups

In contrast, if you are booking a family vacation or a trip for a large group, seek out the places that have the most amenities and provide the most diverse activities and lodging. These places can easily accommodate large groups with updated equipment and comfortable lodging to ensure your group can stay close together and enjoy your time to the fullest. You can also benefit from their diverse activity offering, especially if certain people in your group are more adventurous or have different interests than everyone else. Often, these places will also offer you a group discount or provide your group with a value package that includes different activities, lodging and meal options.

White Water Rapids Ratings

White water rapids are classed based on their difficulty. Class I rapids are the calmest while Class V is the most difficult. Any rapids above Class V (Class VI) are too dangerous for anyone to raft, even if you are very experienced on the water.

Class I and Class II can be rafted fairly easily with any amount of experience and without a formal guide. Class III, IV and V require skilled paddling and preferably a guide that is experienced in that particular part of the river.

Can Everybody Go White Water Rafting?

Children as young as 6 can go white water rafting. It is important to keep in mind the unique stamina of your children when booking a white water rafting trip. While they may be good swimmers, they might not have the physical strength to paddle a complete day trip on the water. If you are still determined to spend the entire day rafting, consider getting a two-person vessel so you can paddle for both of you when you child get tired.

White water rafting is also safe for those who are physically challenged, overweight or elderly. Each trip can be customized to your personalized needs. If you have a unique need that you think needs mentioned before you start your white water rafting trip, or any other outdoor activity, simply call your preferred place of business and ask if they can provide a custom trip. Most outfitters are happy to accommodate if you provide them with enough time to prepare for your arrival. Some places even have special equipment available or a specialized guide that can give you a once in a lifetime experience on West Virginia’s rivers.

What Should I Wear?

white water rafting NH
Credit to vecteezy.com

Since you will be in the water at some point during your white water rafting trip or at least get wet from oncoming rapids, you should wear a swimsuit and water shoes. Swimsuits will dry quickly and water shoes will prevent you from damaging your feet if your raft capsizes and keep them warm and dry.

If you are rafting in the summer months, a T-shirt is recommended. T-shirts keep the sun off your skin and dry quickly in the warm air. If you are rafting in the colder months, consider packing a wool or Gore-Tex garment that will keep you warm and not retain excess moisture.

Even if your trip is on a cloudy day, you will still want to pack some sunglasses and a bottle of sunscreen. The water reflects light and you can get a sunburn if you are not prepared. Especially if you are out on the water for multiple days, it would be terrible if you got burnt the first day and would not be able to feel comfortable out on the water or outside in general.

If you need to provide your own linens for your trip, pack a bath or beach towel to dry off after a post river trip shower.

Check with your specific outfitter to see what safety equipment they provide. Some outfitters have wetsuits available to rent, but not all will. If this is important to you, make sure to call ahead.

Be Safe

While you may have questions about your upcoming white water rafting trip, you should know that West Virginia requires it’s guides to go through a rigorous training process before they are allowed to become a commercial guide.

The biggest mistake you can make is not following the advice and guidance of your river guide. Your guide white water rafts down the same river sometimes multiple times per day. They will know the river’s quirks and might even be able to protect you from oncoming weather risks. Pay attention to all of the safety procedures and do not be afraid to ask for help when you have a question or just need a hand while you are out on the water.

Most importantly, have fun! Taking the time to enjoy clean air and water can not only help you physically, but mentally as well. West Virginia has a lot of outdoor activities whether you are single, in a large group, ready for a luxury vacation or on a budget.

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