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. You can hike to five viewpoints on two trails that leave the Visitors Center (1.5 miles from the Parkway) that offers restrooms, picnic area 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.
Plunge Basin Overlook
Located in Burke County, 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.
The most challenging trail is marked to "Linville Gorge", taking you down 3/4 miles to the base of the waterfall. The trail includes many steps and a few steep climbs, but it's well-maintained and safe. You are rewarded by close-up views of the rock cliffs and plenty of big boulders to relax on - even have a picnic by the Linville River. No swimming is allowed (currents are too swift). Relax to the soothing sounds of the waterfall and river.
The same trail that takes you to the base also takes you to the Plunge Basin Overlook (1/2 mile from Visitor Center). The trail to Linville Gorge forks 0.2 mile from the Visitor Center. The right fork takes you to Plunge Basin Overlook to view the lower falls and the Chimneys.
Erwins View Trail, a moderate walk of 1.6 miles round trip from the Visitors Center, offers four overlooks, each revealing a different aspect of the Linville Falls area. The first overlook of Upper Falls is 1/2 mile from the Visitors Center, and is an easy walk with a slight loss of elevation. At the Upper Falls overlook, watch the water rush into a narrow canyon before it plunges 45 feet over the lower falls.
The next overlook, Chimney View, is 7/10 of a 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, along with the impressive cliffs. The overlook is named for the chimney-like outcroppings located to the right of the waterfall.
The Erwins View Trail ends at Erwins View Overlook, almost a mile from the Visitors Center. From this vantage point, enjoy a panoramic view of the Linville Gorge and a distant view of the upper and lower falls. The trail does climb some more, and it's a bit more strenuous. There are two overlooks at Erwin's View. The first one you come to is down on the right and has a view of the gorge downstream. From here, climb up to your left just a short distance to the main overlook. It's on top of a large, flat-topped boulder which you'll reach by climbing up a set of stairs. You're a bit farther from the falls here and you not only get a spectacular view of them, but also of the surrounding mountains and ridges. Elevation is here 3330', the highest point on the hike. This marks the end of the hike as well. Return to your vehicle on the same trail.
Duggers Creek Falls
An easy 3/10-mile hike from the Visitor Center takes you to a small cascade. Read more about Duggers Creek Falls.
Directions to Linville Falls
From Asheville, you can take the Blue Ridge Parkway north for about 66 miles (when the Parkway is open - read about possible Parkway closures) 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.
A quicker way will take about 1.5 hours (about 75 miles) by taking I-40 East to Marion, get off on US Hwy 221 exit in Marion and head north. Take 221 all the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway (passing Linville Caverns), head north on the BRP 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 BRP 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. Never fear! You 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. Read more about Linville Gorge.
Go to the Burke County Web site for more attractions and great places to stay.