Linville Falls Trail offers several options for the intrepid day-tripper. To experience fully what Linville Gorge has to offer, hike to the multiple spots that offer delightful views of Linville Falls from various angles. This makes for a 2.2-mile hike of moderate difficulty. There’s an elevation gain of about 120 feet. You should allow at least two hours for your experience.
Begin your journey at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, which offers restrooms (open from May to October) and lots of parking. Stroll through the breezeway and across a bridge that spans the Linville River. Here you’ll find a sign marking the trailhead. What begins as a gravel path soon dissolves into a wonderland of grass, ferns, and rhododendron. When trekking through this natural wonderland, you’ll also see oaks, hickory trees, birch, and white pines.
About half a mile in, you’ll see a junction on the right that leads to a Forest Service trail spur. Ignore this turn. Just a 10th of a mile beyond, you’ll see a left turn with signs leading to the upper falls overlook. Take this turn and your path soon winds downward through cliffs and expanses of rock.
The trail terminates here, and the river’s first immense drop is visible. Two synchronous waterfalls can be seen, highlighted by 20-foot outcrops of stone. Southward, you can see the Linville River as it twists toward the lower falls. You can’t see it yet from here, but you can certainly hear it as it crashes into the plunge pool. Once you wend your way back to the Upper Falls split, you can hike the left fork toward the triple overlook.
These are three short spurs, each about a 10th of a mile. First is Chimney View on the left, so named due to the chimney-shaped rocks found just to the right of the waterfall. This high elevation overlook provides views into the gorge as Linville River crashes through two tiers of waterfalls. Next is Gorge View, offering an expansive view of the river cutting through the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Last, there’s Erwin’s View that winds downward to offer panoramic long-range visions of both the upper and lower falls as it tumbles through the canyon.
Though it’s a short walk, the trip to the three overlooks has considerable elevation gain and can be a bit strenuous. If you have health issues, take your time — but stick with it. The views are not to be missed.
Making your way back to the visitor’s center is short and simple — less than a mile, all told. With visions of the falls and Linville River as it flows nearly 2,000 feet below the mountain summits, Linville Falls Trail is truly a sight to behold.
- Dogs are welcome at Linville Falls Trail. Just make sure to bring a leash and plenty of water.
- This is a hike that’s especially beautiful in the mornings. You can see tendrils of fog in the crevices of the gorge as the sun rises over the opposite side.
- In the fall, red and gold leaves explode among the evergreen hemlocks, creating a spectacle that’s at once soothing and splendiferous.
- If you have extra time, consider a trek to the Plunge Basin overlook. From the visitor center, instead of taking the bridge across the river to the aforementioned trail, look for the Plunge Basin trailhead. It’s only a 1-mile round-trip and offers some great views.
- The Linville River current is quite swift, so swimming is not allowed. Climbing on the rocks is also prohibited.