Hiking The Big Branch Trail In New River Gorge National Park
- GPS: 37.71688, -80.89337
The Big Branch Trail is a two mile loop with over 500 feet of elevation gain located in New River Gorge National Park and Preserve in West Virginia.
The trailhead is located about 4 miles from Hinton on the River Road (WV Route 26) across the road from the Brooks Falls overlook and day use area. There is no sign so keep your eyes open for the picnic area on your right as your driving down the road. This is a pet friendly trail.
Take a left on this loop and prepare for a climb. You will travel up almost 500 feet over the next 3/4 of a mile over multiple switchbacks. I say switchbacks, but I swear it felt like we were climbing straight up at some points. This is one trail where you will get in a great workout for sure.
This section of the trail follows a stream and you will have to cross it multiple times. If the water is really flowing be prepared for some wet feet by the end of the hike. This is also the part of the hike where you will pass several nice waterfalls (in the winter and spring) including the cascading 30 foot Big Branch Falls.
After making it to the top you will walk the ridgeline for a short time then start your descent back to the trailhead. If the leaves have fallen from the trees I hear you will have great views of the New River and Brooks falls below from this vantage point.
Be careful on your trek down, because it is extremely steep in some sections. I had to grab a tree more than once to keep from tumbling head over heels down the hill.
Also be very careful where you step during this hike. Most of the trail is rocky and those rocks are quite slippery. As I mentioned before, you also have to cross the stream multiple times so be extra vigilante where you place your feet. This is one of those trail we like to call an ankle twister, because it’s quite easy to misstep and hurt yourself.
If given the opportunity this is a hike you truly want to do in the spring. Wildflowers including trout lilies, spring beauties, Virginia bluebells, toothwort, and bloodroot blanket the area. Rumor is all these early bloomers are quite a sight to behold on the trail.
This is also the time of year where the most water is flowing over the rocks. At least six waterfalls, including Double Falls, Rocky Falls and Top Falls, can be seen during your hike. The number of tiny waterfalls cascading over the rocks is too numerous to count. A number of pools also form in the rocky stream making them the perfect spots to dip your toes in the water.
We did this hike in October and well it was lackluster at best. Since it was fall there was hardly any water flowing through the stream so we didn’t see any of the waterfalls. All the leaves were still on the trees so we also didn’t see any views from the top.
I am a big fan of moss covered rocks though and they are in abundance on this trail. We’ve already made plans to come back in the spring to check out the waterfalls and flowers. Though I was disappointed this trip around I truly think it’s gonna be incredible when the water is flowing and the flowers are blooming.
So unless you want a really good workout, I would skip this trail until spring when you can really appreciate it in all it’s glory!