Height: 50 feet
Trail Type: Dirt and gravel
Hike Distance: See Hike Description
The Linville Gorge is one of the most forbidding wilderness areas in North Carolina. Of the four major gorges located in the state, Linville is the only one that doesn’t have a road cutting through it. From top to bottom, there is almost 1,500 feet in elevation change. Because early settlers couldn’t practically log the forest down in the gorge, most of the area contains virgin forest.
Linville Falls, which marks the unofficial northern edge of the gorge, is one of the most popular stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The unique formation of the falls also makes it one of the most famous and most photographed falls in the state. The Linville River gently flows to what looks like a natural dam of granite before darting side to side into a narrow crevice and exploding over a ledge. At one point, there were two falls at similar heights. However, numerous floods over a period of years eroded the riverbed until it collapsed and turned the course into what you see today.
From Boone, head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are a few signs for Linville Falls, and if you go on a weekend in warm weather, you’ll likely be in line with dozens of other cars making their way to the parking area.
There are three trails that lead to different views of the falls. All are various levels of difficulty. It just depends on how much work you want to do.
From the visitor’s center, two trails to the left lead to the lower area of the falls. One leads you to an overlook that gives you a nice side view of the falls as it bursts from the side of the rock wall. The other trail, which is a bit more strenuous, takes you all the way to the base. Depending on how high the water level is will depend on how close you can actually get to the falls. This gives you the best view of the falls, seen in the image below.
The main trail from the visitor’s center leads you to the other side of the gorge to two overlooks high along the ridge that offer a larger panoramic view of the falls and the gorge (photo at the top).
Regardless of whatever trail you take, you’ll be walking at least a mile round trip, almost two miles if you go all the way to Erwin’s View. However, this trail is the most crowded and doesn’t offer an up-close view, although there are spots along the way to watch the Linville River flow into the crevices at the top of the falls. For the best views, though, take either the trail to the base or the trail to the Plunge Basin Overlook.