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National Hills and Hollers

In the final hours of the horrors of 2020 and the Trump administration, something lovely has happened. West Virginia got its first national park! The state already had national rivers and historic trails and recreation areas, but not a proper national park. The New River Gorge area was the first place I explored in West Virginia, right before the switch over, and I've been back since, so I'm one of the very first people to visit it in its new official status, which is kind of cool. 

Turning land over to national parks management is not without some potential drawbacks, and I hope the status quo will be largely preserved. Hunters are opposed to losing acreage, but I don't know enough about hunting to say whether losing 4,000 out of 70,000 acres is a big deal. I hope they don't ban dogs from the trails. Acadia National Park has stayed dog friendly, so New River Gorge can too. I also hope they don't ban traditions, like Bridge Day. But mostly I hope they don't displace people. There are some desperately poor trailer communities along parts of the river that are now in the national park zone. Not even trailer/mobile homes, but old trailers and RVs from the 70s and 80s that clearly haven't been driven anywhere in the last two decades that are now parked in little clusters and in such states of disrepair that it's hard to believe people live in them, but they do. Uprooting these people would be cruel.

Really, though, this new status is great. Plenty of people (like me!) follow the trails of the national parks, trying to make it to all of them eventually. People who have skipped over this region of West Virginia because it was only a national river really missed out. The nature and hiking and fishing and exploring and scenery in this area thrills me. I could never tire of driving up and down the hills and hollers. I hope the national park designation brings more people here and injects some money into the economy in the process.

Here are some views of America's newest national park. 

woman and dog on bridge in forest

river bending around landmass

bridge over river gorge

Come see them yourself, and while you're at it, visit some of the other incredible state parks in the area. West Virginia has an excellent network of state parks, many of them in the southern part of the state where I'm staying. I've enjoyed them thoroughly this time of year and imagine they are spectacular in the summer. Rent a cabin and stay for a week or two or five; you won't run out of things to do.

woman hiking in rainy forest

tower overlooking valley

river going around a bend

waterfall in winter

valley overlook