Get ready for Gauley Season. This state park has the best views.

Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park overlooks some of the Upper Gauley’s most famous rapids.

It won’t be long until West Virginia’s Gauley Season brings an influx of travelers and adventure seekers to the Mountain State to raft the world-class whitewater rapids of the scenic Gauley River. The Gauley River views are some of the best in southern West Virginia. You can enjoy them as you raft down the winding river, but if you want truly breathtaking sights, you’ll want to take in the views 700 feet above the river at Carnifex Ferry Battlefield State Park.

Nestled on the rim of the Gauley River Canyon near Summersville, Carnifex Ferry has views that are gorgeous in summer, fall, winter and spring. Once you look out and see the winding river below and the surrounding mountains full of fall color, you’ll see why Carnifex Ferry is a must-see during any Gauley River rafting trip. Here’s everything you need to know.

Watch rafters navigate legendary rapids

Carnifex Ferry is a small day-use park, but don’t let its size fool you. It has epic views you can’t see anywhere else. From the park’s Patterson Trail, you can hike out to three overlooks of the Gauley River, where you can see brave rafters navigating the Pillow Rock rapids, one of the Upper Gauley’s most famous rapids.

From these cliffside vantage points, you have front row seats to the action every weekend in Gauley Season, which starts the Friday after Labor Day and lasts through the 3rd weekend of October. To get the best views, you’ll want to visit during Gauley Season, when the rushing water is high due to scheduled releases from Summersville Dam into the river. But you can’t go wrong with a trip in the spring or summer. There’s something so relaxing about watching the river below on a warm day. You have to experience it for yourself to truly understand.

“Absolutely gorgeous lookouts over the Gauley. There are three along the two-mile hiking loop, which is an easy-to moderate trek.”

— Karla Jean, Google Reviews

Explore the park and you might just learn a thing or two.

Carnifex Ferry is known for its awesome views and vantage point over the Gauley River, but the park is historically recognized for being integral to West Virginia becoming its own state. The park, which also happens to be one of the oldest state parks in the country, is the site of the 1861 Battle of Carnifex Ferry, a major Union victory that led to the eventual Confederate withdrawal from western Virginia.

During the summer on weekends, you can take a tour of the restored Patterson House and Museum to learn more about the park’s history. During the offseason, interpretive signs are located around the park for you to read. On even-numbered years, you can even see a reenactment of the Battle of Carnifex Ferry with historical demonstrations of military drills and what camp life was like.

“This place is beautiful. Interesting story. I love West Virginia.”

— Emily Stern, Google Reviews

Where to stay

Whether you plan a special outing at Carnifex Ferry or stop by during your Gauley Season trip, you’ll need a place to stay so you can explore the rest of southern West Virginia’s top attractions.

While the park doesn’t have overnight accommodations, you can stay nearby at the Hawks Nest State Park lodge, located about 30 minutes southwest in Ansted. If you prefer cabins, spend the night at Babcock State Park, located about 30 minutes south in Clifftop. From either park, you can venture out into the New River Gorge and double up on your river adventures.

Ready to explore the Gauley River at Carnifex Ferry? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Plan a trip

    There are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy.

  2. Book your stay

    Extend your trip by spending the night at Hawks Nest or Babcock.

  3. Make memories that last a lifetime

    Visit during the epic Gauley Season and enjoy a trip you’ll never forget.

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