Table Rock Trail: hiking Linville Gorge in western North Carolina
Hike the Table Rock Mountain Trail to breathtaking panoramic views from a soaring summit in North Carolina's Linville Gorge.
The views from the Table Rock summit are arguably some of the best in North Carolina, if not the entire Southeast, stretching north to Linville Falls and south to Shortoff Mountain. And the summit itself is a wonderland worthy of exploration: grab a high-elevation picnic or bask in the abundant mountaintop sunlight, scramble over sharply-angled rock outcrops and through dense, wind-blown thickets of shrubs and explore the foundations of an old, since-vanished building. And the views! There’s just no forgetting those incredible views.
Table Rock Mountain Trail: the hike
The hike begins the adventure from a trailhead off the graveled NC Forest Service 210 (view maps and driving directions). Given this hike’s popularity, parking can be scarce on weekends, so arrive early. And don’t forget a jacket and plenty of water: abundant wind and high elevation can make the mountain’s climate unpredictable and chilly, or scorching hot.
The hike begins a steady, nearly continuous climb to the Table Rock summit. The hike ascends stone stairs to a large rock outcrop, catching its first views into the deeply-carved Linville Gorge and the nearby towering Chimneys, a popular climbing area.
The views are beautiful – but the best are yet to come. The trail ducks under several sharply-angled rock overhangs and between craggy cliffs, trekking through a rocky landscape peppered in lush, green flora. The trail meanders through many switchbacks as the hike climbs upward, offering ever-opening views of Linville Gorge’s rugged beauty. (Please don’t shortcut the trail’s switchbacks, as others have done: the trail winding path was purposely designed to help prevent erosion on Table Rock’s lower elevations.) The hike passes a trail intersection at .3 mile, veering right and diving through dense rhododendron to continue the climb to the summit.
The hike courses through more switchbacks, veering right at a second trail intersection at .5 mile. After passing beneath a sharply-angled rock outcrop, abundant views suddenly open as the trail summits Table Rock Mountain.
The hike climbs to a wide expanse of exposed granite at the peak, capped with the stone foundation an old summit structure. The surrounding views are stunning, opening up in 360-degree panoramas of Linville Gorge. Looking north, Hawksbill Mountain rises near the gorge rim, and the far-distant tumbling waterfalls at Linville Falls can be seen near the horizon.
A scramble over Table Rock’s fractured, boulder-strewn landscape offers views of Shortoff Mountain to the south, the Linville River far below to the west, and a rolling, green landscape to the east. The summit’s rocky, rough terrain requires some careful hiking to navigate – but the views are incredible and ever-changing from every angle.
Departing the summit, the trail traces its steps back to the trailhead. Mid-descent, the hike veers right at 1.25 miles to explore a short stretch of trail leading to Little Table Rock Mountain. There’s a campsite here, near the summit, and wide-open views of the nearby Chimneys rock formations as well.
The hike re-traces back to the main Table Rock Mountain Trail, making a final descent to the trailhead, completing the hike at 1.8 miles.
More Linville Gorge hiking adventures
Looking for more nearby adventures? Just north of Table Rock, hike to a jagged, view-packed summit on the Hawksbill Mountain Trail, a perfect place to catch a gorgeous sunrise or sunset over Linville Gorge. Or head south to hike the Shortoff Mountain Trail, another view-packed summit hike with vistas that rival these stunning views from Table Rock. You’ll catch gorgeous views of Table Rock from the summit, as well as gorgeous panoramic views of the nearby Lake James to the south.
Across the gorge, the Linville River tumbles in a beautiful series of waterfalls. Hike the Linville Falls Trail to waterfall views from three overlooks, and catch stunning views of the gorge’s northern stretches. And for an even better, up-close view of the falls, hike the Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail to a falls-side overlook, and then trek to the Linville Gorge floor to a deep pool below the waterfall.