By Eliza Myers
Look up, and you see the bolts and beams holding up a single 1,700-foot-high arch span bridge. Look down and you have a 24-inch walkway between you and an 851-foot drop.
Although the only physical demand is walking, the New River Gorge Bridge Walk in Lansing, West Virginia, provides thrills for the architectural enthusiast, nature-lover and adrenaline-seeker alike. This unusual attraction is one of many Southern outdoor experiences that allow groups of varying athletic abilities to participate.
For travelers who would rather sit or stand, the South offers cruising and bird-watching. Those wanting a little more of a challenge can tour a cave or paddle during a white-water rafting trip. You can even satisfy a group with a wide range of fitness levels with an electric bike tour.
With so many options, you can choose your own speed on these Southern outdoor activities.
New River Gorge Bridge Walk
Lansing, West Virginia
For the past two years, people have had the option to cross the country’s highest vehicle-carrying bridge on a 24-inch-wide catwalk. Although looking down 851 feet to the river below may seem daunting, the New River Gorge Bridge Walk experience keeps guests safe with personal harnesses fastened to a safety cable.
An interpretive guide takes them across the 1.5-mile bridge while talking about the remarkable arch span architecture and the surrounding New River Gorge scenery.
“People come to see us for three reasons,” said Benjy Simpson, managing member of Bridge Walk. “One is just to see the bridge because it is a world-famous engineering feat. The second is that the views there are panoramic. The third reason is that you are high. A lot of people say it is on their bucket list.”
The leisurely two- to three-hour walk provides plenty of time for pictures and sightseeing. Tours go across the iron structure daily, including full-moon trips three times a month for a chance to see the bridge silhouetted in the night sky.
Participants from all over the world with ages ranging from 10 to 95 have already made the trek across, including a few in wheelchairs. The tour runs year-round, except during snow or high winds.
The area offers a variety of additional outdoor excursions, including mountain biking, zip lining and more than 82 miles of hiking trails. Groups often hike the 1.6-mile Long Point Trail in conjunction with the Bridge Walk, since it offers a perfect view of the bridge they have just conquered.
Asheville Electro Bike Tour
Asheville, North Carolina
If you’ve ever hated the strain of biking up a steep hill, you will appreciate the possibilities of the Electro Bike Tours in Asheville. Your group can enjoy this guided bike tour without devolving into a sweaty mess because of the electric bike’s pedal assistance.
Three different electric assist modes ensure each rider pedals at a level they feel comfortable with. A guide leads the way on an eight-mile route through the city, with stops at destinations such as the Basilica of St. Lawrence, Historic Montford and the Chestnut Hill neighborhood.
Instead of trying to see the tree-lined neighborhoods and Art Deco architecture through a motorcoach window, the bike allows unobstructed views throughout the trip. After easily climbing a hill to Grover Park Inn on the electric bike, tourists can also enjoy vistas of Asheville surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Part of the path meets up with the Reed Creek Greenway, which is free from car traffic, for a relaxing ride. The route then weaves through streams and natural spaces before reaching the native plants and flowers of the Asheville Botanical Gardens.
Make sure you book your group in advance so that you have enough bikes and guides for the tour.