It’s been a long cold winter….maybe the winter wasn’t so bad, but January didn’t end until…April!! Read more
Linville Falls and Gorge is one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s top attractions. Linville Falls has the distinction of having the highest volume water flow of any NC waterfall, although it is certainly not the biggest or highest. With a nice gift center, restrooms, large parking lot, and numerous trails on both sides of the river leading to different and magnificent views, it is no wonder that this place attracts tens of thousands each year. Here I am on a Saturday morning, one of the busiest days up here, preparing a hike. What was I thinking? I had just stayed the night at the nearby Linville Lodge after attending the 1st annual Spruce Pine Barbecue and Bluegrass Festival the night before, so I was here and it was very convenient. The weather early on this morning was also perfect, so I could not resist. This day I chose to hike along the East side of the river or left side. This trail takes you to the Plunge Basin View and down to the bottom of Linville Gorge. The mileage is 0.5 to the Plunge Basin View, and 0.7 to the Linville Gorge. Do not let these relatively small mileage amounts fool you. It is some steep, rugged climbing down to the bottom, and then you have to climb back out.
The trail starts off relatively mild, taking you uphill. After 0.3 miles, you will reach a fork in the path where going straight takes you 0.2 to the Plunge Basin View, and going left takes you 0.4 miles to the the Linville Gorge. I begin by going straight here, you will want to see both views…trust me. Going straight, the path will level off and begin to drop, somewhat steeply, but nothing extreme. If stops at one of the finest views of Linville Falls, a side view known as the Plunge Basin View. You will be way above the falls here but a closer and more personal view of the falls and pool than the views on the west side of the river. The trails on the west side do however give a great view of the Upper Falls just above Linville Falls and an interesting view at how the river has cut its way through the rock to pop out on the other side like it does. All trails on both sides are must-hikes.
AAfter taking in this beautiful view for a few moments, it is time to keep moving. You will have to backtrack for 0.2 miles and head back to the fork in the path. It will now be 0.4 miles to the bottom of the beauty that you just viewed. For a trail that you know has to go way down, this fork trail surprisingly goes up for the first 0.1 mile. Then.. the trail turns down, way down. Steps, roots, rocks will have to be carefully navigated. The rocks will mostly be wet with mud puddles to avoid as well. Going down is always more dangerous than going up. There are no spots that require any kind of rope or anything, but please navigate this descent with care. Take your time. Here below is a view of the staircase that lets
After a few minutes you will find yourself at the river level and will need to rock hop upstream to get the best view possible. Once again, be careful down here. The views that will await you are phenomenal and will be well worth the short but strenuous hike.
“Plunge Basin View” of Linville Falls
Blue Ridge Parkway, Mile Post 316.4, is the turn in to the famous Linville Falls. Linville Falls may not be the single most spectacular waterfall in North Carolina, but it is definitely one of the most popular. This is one of the BRP’s top attractions. It was one of the featured waterfalls in the movie “Last of The Mohicans”. The parking lot here is huge, not only for cars, but large buses and campers as well. Between spring and fall, this area receives tons and tons of visitors. It is this reason that usually keeps me away in the prime season. There are just too many people for me to truly enjoy it.
However, in 2012, the winter that wasn’t, the frequently closed off attraction is wide open, the gates are in place but open. The trails are wide open and in good shape, and people, while there are some others thinking just as I am, are so much fewer and far between. This….is the prime time to enjoy this waterfall. I was so surprised while stopping by this place after Elk Knob, that I decided to come back with my girlfriend and her family. There is one thing to keep in mind before coming this time of year. There is a very nice visitor center with a store and informative people to help you on your hike. There are also restrooms. Right now, the restrooms are boarded up and the store is closed until spring. The only resources that will be available to you when you arrive , are an informative map and an occasional drive-thru park ranger. Now to the falls we go…
Once at the visitor center there are 2 options, both leading to spectacular different views of this magnificent waterfall. The more traveled one is to the right or west side of the Linville River. This trail starts off wide and fairly level and will cross the river on a well built bridge. There are three attractions or view points here with the furthest one away being about 0.9 miles away, so plan on about a 2.5 to a 3 mile round trip hike to see all three of these views ( this includes the short side trails and steps at each view).
The first view is fairly easy to get to , the trail is level to this point. What you will see first is the “Upper Falls”. While this is considered part of Linville Falls, it is totally seperate and has a very large pool of its own. This will be on the left when you reach the end. On the right, is something I find to be very enchanting. After the pool, the river winds through this sharp S curve below you and narrows very tightly. The water is rushing at this point. At the very end on the right the water disappears into the rocks and spits out the other side in what we know as “Linville Falls” If you want to see that, you will have to back track and continue up the trail.
Once back on the trail, it will begin to climb, at somewhat of a moderate steepness. It is only about .3 of a mile or so to the next stop, then you will have to go down a few steps….which must be climbed back up of course. There are two views here in the middle. What you see is probably the best and most close-up shot of the entire waterfall, including the upper falls and the main falls. Trees make getting the perfect view and picture a challenge though. Once back on the main trail, it is only about .3 mile or so to “Erwins View” at which point you will be at your highest elevation. It gives a distant but more unobscured view of the entire falls, and also a good look at the famous “Linville Gorge” at this point looking up and down the river from this point.
Now, I will focus on my favorite hike here, on the left side or east side of the river. A trail leads to the left of the visitor center to what is known as the “Plunge Basin View”, and the river bottom. This trail is only about .5 mile from the visitor center but it starts going up and ends going down, somewhat difficult but not too bad. This well designed view is from the side of the waterfall and is my favorite view by far. It is the closest to the waterfall, and there are no trees to deal with, just yourself the large rock cliffs that go way above the waterfall itself, the waterfall, and large pool below. In addition to the most detailed view of the waterfall, you can also get a view up into the rocks, and see the once wide river, rushing through a very tight and narrow chute, falling powerfully and slowly chipping away at this beautiful cliff and rock formation. After enjoying this, head back up the trail and there is a side trail that goes to the river bottom. I caution you, this is steep with some steep steps, roots and rocks to manage in places, but it is well designed and managed, so I consider it safe, just tiring. Once down here, you can rock hop fairly close to the left side of the waterfall but still at a distance. The sound down here really shows off the power of this treat provided by mother nature. It is a very large pool as well, too bad there is no swimming allowed in the parkway waters.
If you have enough time and energy to explore both sides of the river, you will walk away with something close to a 5 to 6 mile hike , seeing this waterfall from numerous viewpoints. It is truly worth the time and energy, and if you are fortunate enough to come when the crowds are low, you are in for a real treat.