The state’s river rafting was named a Best of the World experience by the magazine this year.
The word about West Virginia’s whitewater rafting is out: It’s one of 20 adventures listed in National Geographic’s Best of the World for 2024.
Curated annually by the publication, the famed list has a new emphasis this year: not just destinations, but experiences. The list was released on the last Tuesday of January in observance of National Plan for Vacation Day as an encouragement to readers to get out and explore.
Experiences the magazine’s expedition leaders and editors elevate as the top 20 this year include hiking volcanoes in Panama, diving with sharks on the Coral Coast of Western Australia, and riding the rails through the Scottish Highlands. Readers are urged to sample the exotic flavors of Thailand, hike the Pekoe Trail through the tea estates in Sri Lanka, and run an Olympic marathon in Paris. Of all possible places to catch the total eclipse of the sun that will take place on April 8 this year, they recommend Niagara Falls.
And among those exciting adventures and more, they name rafting the rapids in West Virginia. The magazine specifically names the New and Gauley rivers, recognizing the New as “the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachians.”
In creating its list each year, National Geographic looks for places that combine interesting culture, like Appalachia, and natural wonder, said Senior Editor of Travel Amy Alipio.
The state’s Tourism Office works to highlight the wonders of the Mountain State every day, said West Virginia Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby. Reflecting on other recent recognitions of West Virginia as a top destination—the state was named a best place to travel in March 2023 by Forbes Advisor, for example, and included among 10 dark sky destinations by Outside magazine in May 2023, and Lewisburg is a Thrillist “lesser-known” destination to include on itineraries in 2024—she added, “We are thrilled to see major publications continue to recognize how incredible West Virginia really is.”
Also for the first time this year, National Geographic ranked its list. River rafting in West Virginia was ranked 18th—but it’s hard to take exception to being anywhere on the list of Top 20 global experiences.