Enjoy spectacular views of a waterfall surrounded by the steep walls of the Linville gorge. Linville Falls drops 90 feet into the 12-mile long Linville Gorge. Viewpoints of Linville Falls are easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hike to the base of the Falls is moderately strenuous.
Linville Falls is probably the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina. It is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Milepost 316.4, about 66 miles north of Asheville. Linville Falls drops 90 feet into the 12-mile long Linville Gorge. Enjoy spectacular views of waterfall surrounded by the steep walls of the gorge. The forest includes virgin hemlock mixed with other familiar trees such as white pine, oaks, hickory, and birch. A colorful and varied display of wildflowers decorates the trails in the spring. Red and golden leaves in fall beautifully contrast with the soothing green of hemlocks. The National Park Service provides a campground and picnic area for those who plan to stay and enjoy the view.
There are two trails that lead from the Visitors Center to 5 viewpoints. The Visitors Center is 1.5 miles from the Parkway and has restrooms and an information center (open May-October and weekends in April). Only one of the trails is strenuous and you can hike to all five viewpoints with a four mile hike. The hike into the gorge to the base of the falls is moderately strenuous and may be combined with other hikes through the gorge. Download the NPS Linville Falls Hiking Trail Map.
Erwins View Trail, a moderate walk of 1.6 miles round trip, offers hikers four overlooks, each revealing a different aspect of the Linville Falls area. The first overlook is 0.5 mile from the visitor center, and is a moderate walk with a slight loss of elevation. Here, the Linville River spills gently over the upper falls where it widens and pauses. Drifting into a narrow canyon, the water suddenly spirals out of sight and plunges 45 feet over the lower falls.
The next overlook, Chimney View, 0.7 mile from the visitor center, is the first point on the trail where the lower falls can be seen. It offers an excellent chance to photograph both the upper and lower falls. The overlook is named for the chimney-like outcroppings located to the right of the waterfall. The trail is strenuous in this area with considerable elevation gain. At Gorge View Overlook, hikers can see the Linville River cutting its way through the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
The Erwins View Trail ends at Erwins View Overlook, 0.8 mile from the visitor center. From this vantage point, hikers can enjoy a panoramic view of the Linville Gorge and a distant view of the upper and lower falls.
The trails to Linville Gorge (1.4 miles round trip) and to Plunge Basin (1 mile round trip) also start at the visitor center. The trail to Linville Gorge forks 0.2 mile from the visitor center. The right fork takes hikers to Plunge Basin Overlook where they can view the lower falls and the Chimneys. The left fork winds down through rock cliffs to the bottom of the falls where the force of the water cascading over the falls creates a large pool. The trail to the base of the falls has many rocks and roots to climb over along the trail; if you can't lift your knee to belly button height, you had better think twice about doing it. Both of these trails are moderately strenuous. Swimming and climbing on the rocks are prohibited.
Directions to Linville Falls
If you have time, you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway north from Asheville for about 66 miles (when the Parkway is open) to Milepost 316.4. The Parkway is closed much of the winter in sections between Asheville and Linville. This is a spectacular, winding, leisurely drive. Allow two hours.
If you are in a hurry, take I-40 to Marion, get off on US Hwy 221 and head north. Take 221 all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, head north on the Parkway and the right turn for Linville Falls is about a mile down. Coming from east of Morganton on I-40, you can take exit 103 which is Hwy 64. Head east, back towards Morganton. Follow the 64 east truck and by-pass route until you get to Hwy 181 north. Take this left turn and take 181 north to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn left (south) on the Parkway and drive a few miles to the left turn for the Linville Falls parking.
During the winter, the Parkway at the Linville Falls Visitor Center is closed when there is snow and ice on the road. However, can access the hiking trails from the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area Parking area. If you come up US Hwy 221, when you get to the town of Linville Falls just before the Parkway, turn right on Hwy 183. Drive under a mile and turn right at the big "Linville Gorge" sign. The parking lot to the falls is on the left, a short distance on this gravel road. The trail to the falls is on the same side of the road - look to your right as you turn into the lot.
When you are around the falls remember that wet rocks are very slippery and people fall to their deaths from waterfalls every year! Please be careful and use common sense! Do not climb rocks around the waterfalls and do not ever cross a stream or swim at the top of a waterfall.
Please be very careful not to trample vegetation while exploring any falls! There may be species of rare plants living in or near the spray areas of the falls.
Photographs on this page are provided courtesy of Rich Stevenson at ncwaterfalls.com. Copies of the photos can be purchased at www.ncwaterfalls.com.