Photo: Standup paddleboarder

A standup paddleboarder approaches a wave on the Lower Gauley River near Fayetteville, West Virginia.

Photograph by Trevor Clark, Aurora Photos

Pop. 2,657
GPS: 38°02'N 81°06'W

Three words encapsulate Fayetteville's appeal: New River Gorge. Every year, on the third Saturday in October, 275,000 spectators converge here for Bridge Day, when BASE jumpers fling themselves into the 876-foot (267-meter) deep chasm. (Care to try yourself? Start prepping: You need to complete a minimum of 200 parachute jumps to be eligible.) The Gorge's thrilling National Wild and Scenic–designated river also attracts white water paddlers from all over the world.

PLAY

Get New River scouting tips at the Cathedral Cafe, an espresso joint that serves as Fayetteville's unofficial welcome center (www.cathedralcafe.com). Much of the river's roller-coaster rapids rate up to Class V during spring, and you can access over a hundred paddling, climbing, fishing, and biking outfitters right in town. Or take a drive to the Elk River Touring Center in Monongahela National Forest for mountain biking and X-C skiing (www.ertc.com).

EAT

After a challenging day running the river, join other paddlers noshing on wild boar ribs at Smokey's on the Gorge (www.smokeysonthegorge.com).

SLEEP

Country Road Cabins has 20 unique log cabins for rent in the middle of the woods, each with a deck, hot tub, and gas grill (doubles from $180; www.wvcabins.com).

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