Adena Joy is making the New River Gorge more accessible through transportation.
written by KARIN FULLER
FAYETTEVILLE IS A SMALL TOWN THAT OFFERS BIG ADVENTURES, and outdoor enthusiasts have been heading to the nearby national park in droves—often unaware that it can be difficult to secure transportation in parts of West Virginia.
Fortunately, Hills to Hills Shuttles and Tours, owned and operated by Adena Joy, is available to transport travelers to all of the area’s top attractions. Joy was only 18 when she first visited West Virginia for a whitewater rafting trip, and she returned to become a whitewater rafting guide. Although she later left the river for dryer positions, her love for whitewater and the area endured. In late 2019, a conversation with a friend who owned Hills to Hills ended with a handshake deal, and Joy took over his business.
Her timing could not have been better because, in late 2020, the New River Gorge was designated a national park and preserve. The 70,000-acre park encompasses 53 miles of the New River from the Bluestone Dam to Hawks Nest Lake.
Under the previous owner, Hills to Hills focused on whitewater rafters, but Joy recognized a need for local transportation and decided that, if someone asked for a ride, she’d say yes. The shuttle service now makes passenger pickups at Amtrak stations—primarily Montgomery, Hinton, Prince, and Thurmond—and at Beckley and West Virginia International Yeager airports.
Although Joy started the business with just a single vehicle and trailer, she is now up to three, with plans to increase her fleet in the future.
The New River Gorge area is growing as a wedding destination, and Hills to Hills is experiencing an increase in bookings for wedding and event shuttles. “Making a reservation as early as possible is essential,” says Joy. The shuttles can transport up to 26 passengers, but, with enough advance notice, additional vehicles can be secured.
Hills to Hills also hosts guided tours of the area that can be tailored to the interests of guests. “I generally like to start tours at the National Park Service visitor’s center, and Beauty Mountain is one of my favorite destinations, with its short and accessible hike.” The approximately two-hour tour can include Thurmond, Hawks Nest, and the New River Gorge Bridge and the river itself as well as other nearby destinations of interest to her passengers.
Joy’s experience with the area, the river, and its history makes her a knowledgeable guide. “I love that we have the second-oldest river in the world. The richness of history here is astounding,” she says. “This place is tough and has survived a lot. West Virginia is resilient. There’s an endurance here.”
During rafting season, the shuttles pick up their passengers, along with their rafts or kayaks, and transport them upriver to where they start their trips down the river, ending back at their own vehicles. The shuttles are equipped with everything a rafter might need—generator, blower, barrel pump, and all straps.
“My long-term goal is to grow this business to fill the transportation voids in the national park and the gateway communities,” says Joy. She appears to be traveling all the right roads to get there.