Linville Falls Trail: best waterfall hike at Linville Gorge

Linville Falls Trail at Linville Gorge

Hike to epic views of Linville Gorge’s enormous waterfalls on this Linville Falls Trail two miler. It’s north of Asheville, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway – and easily one of North Carolina's best waterfall hikes.

trail info

 

Carving deep into the mountainous landscape between Asheville and Boone, NC, Linville Gorge is striking. The Linville River dives deep between two rugged ridges, flowing nearly 2,000 feet below the surrounding mountain summits.

At the gorge’s northern edge, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the river cascades in a series of waterfalls that plummet through its dramatically beautiful landscape. Linville Falls thunders through a towering cliff before pooling in a deep, wide basin below the waterfall and flowing downriver through the 12-mile gorge. It’s a spectacular series of waterfalls – and thanks to the Linville Falls Trail, easy to spot from many excellent vantage points on a moderate, 2-mile hike.

Linville Falls crashes down through the deep-cut Linville Gorge, as seen from the Chimney View overlookAbove: Linville Falls crashes down through the deep-cut Linville Gorge, as seen from the Chimney View overlook

The Linville Falls Trail visits three waterfall overlooks on a one-mile outbound adventure, each catching a unique perspective of the upper falls, immense lower falls, and the surrounding gorge. And a bonus overlook, near the hike’s end, offers southbound views into the deep-carved gorge. It’s a hike that’s particularly gorgeous in summertime mornings, as the fog begins to lift from Linville Gorge’s deep valley and the sun rises over the opposite ridge.

Linville Falls Trail: the hike

The hike begins at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway near MP 316 (view maps and driving directions), trekking through the center’s breezeway and crossing a bridge over the Linville River. Just across the river, a ‘Linville Falls’ sign marks the trail, a wide, easily-followed gravel road. The hike rolls elevation through a green forest, the trees reaching tall over a rolling landscape of grasses, rhododendron, and fern.

The hike hangs a left at .5 miles, following signs to the upper falls overlook. The hike descends through a blocky, cliff-lined terrain to the overlook’s wide, smooth rock expanses on the Linville River’s banks. Upriver, Upper Linville Falls cascades down in a pair of synchronous waterfalls framed by 20-foot-tall outcrops.

Upper Linville Falls cascades down in a beautiful waterfall in Linville Gorge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville

Near the overlook’s southern edge, downriver from the upper falls, the Linville River carves deep into a canyon, surging and twisting in tendrils of whitewater before plunging through a cliff. The lower Linville Falls waterfall is just out of sight – but the tremendous roar of water gives an audible preview of its beauty.

The Linville River carves deep into channeled rock on the floor of Linville Gorge, NC

The hike turns, retracing its steps back to the main trail and climbing elevation. The trail arcs away from the river, ascending through an old-growth forest of broad-trunked pine and hemlock. The hike reaches a spur trail at just under 1 mile, turning left to catch views of Linville Falls from the Chimney View overlook. Chimney View’s high-elevation perch offers stunning views into the gorge below, catching sight of Linville Falls dropping through two waterfall tiers in a towering, blocky cliff.

The hike retraces back to the main trail once again, turning left to hike to the Erwin’s View overlook. Reaching the trail’s end, two short spurs travel to the trail’s final overlooks, and the hike veers to the right, catching stunning early-morning views of Linville Gorge. The hike doubles back to the split, veering right to trek a short downhill to Erwin’s View. The overlook offers beautiful long-range views of Linville Falls as it cascades down through the gorge’s grandeur. Downriver, the river courses through a boulder-filled bed, carving in a wide meander through the deep-channeled mountain landscape.

Hike the Linville Falls Trail at Linville Gorge to view stunning views of Linville Falls, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Departing Erwin’s View, the hike retraces its steps to the trailhead, completing the hike at just over 2 miles.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

More Linville Gorge hiking adventures

In the area with extra energy, time and daylight to burn? The Plunge Basin Trail departs from the Linville Falls visitor center, descending to the Plunge Basin Overlook and climbing down to the gorge floor for an up-close view of the falls across a deep, glassy basin.

Looking for some exceptional views? Head to the gorge’s eastern rim to hike the Table Rock Trail. Table Rock’s plateaued mountain summit offers stunning, 360-degree panoramas of Linville Gorge and the surrounding Pisgah National Forest on a moderate 2-mile trail. Catch some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets on the Hawksbill Mountain Trail, climbing to the summit of a rocky, jagged, beak-like mountain. Hike Linville Gorge’s southern end near Lake James on the Shortoff Mountain Trail, and catch incredible view after incredible view on this 7-mile roundtrip. Or for more of our favorite hikes and campsites in the gorge, check out our Linville Gorge hiking and camping guide for more adventure inspiration.

Linville Falls Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, located at MP 316.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website. The area is subject to close in the winter, especially after a snow. See alternate Linville Falls wintertime trailhead info.)

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a cell phone signal to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.954583, -81.927833     //     N35 57.275 W81 55.670

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Linville Falls Trail at Linville Gorge: Elevation Profile

Linville Falls Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.

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Western North Carolina's beauty is simply stunning. From Asheville's urban biking and running trails to the curvy meanders of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and from the towering heights of Mount Mitchell to the shady, cool, waterfall-filled valleys of the Pisgah National Forest, there's a whole lot of outdoor beauty to be seen in Western NC.

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