Appalachia’s Outdoors: A Gateway to Growth

Appalachia is home to the nation’s most-visited national park, The Great Smoky Mountains, and the newest national park, New River Gorge. Though this is thrilling news, it’s important to remember the Region is also home to national forests, state parks, and trail systems. Together, these natural assets create a gateway to economic opportunity and increased quality of life for communities. This is especially true during COVID-19, when safety shuttered many indoor activities. Outdoor recreation quickly became a lifeline for both communities and individuals, offering a way to support economies, livelihoods, and mental health during lockdowns. As safety improves, the importance of the outdoors will surely stay with us and remain top of mind for communities looking to leverage their natural and cultural assets.  

National Parks
National Forests
State Parks

Appalachia’s Newest National Park

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve

New River Gorge National River became the nation’s newest national park and preserve in January 2021. The national park includes more than 70,000 acres of land along the river which showcase the cultural and natural history of the area.

ARC Investments in Natural Assets

ARC investment in natural asset projects from FY 2016 to FY 2020
nature, culture, and tourism projects supported by ARC from FY 2016 to FY2020

Extending Appalachia’s Welcome Through Tourism

Public lands are the foundation for Appalachian tourism, making stewardship of lands vital to this sector’s growth. Public lands include national parks and forests, state parks and forests, recreation areas, local parks, and lakes, rivers, and streams.

Case Study

Cherry Springs State Park

Over 20 years ago, park staff noted a visiting astronomer, who had found the park while searching satellite images for dark places. Word quickly spread, and lone astronomers turned into small groups, and then larger groups. Today, on a clear night, it’s not unusual to find up to a hundred amateur astronomers camped at the park. The surrounding community now embraces their dark sky as a national stargazing destination.


Learn how you can leverage the natural assets in your community.