Hike the Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail to stunning waterfall views, trekking to the base of the falls on the floor of Linville Gorge. It’s one of the undisputedly best, most beautiful waterfall trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.
OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)
Plunging dramatically between steep, sheer-walled, massive cliffs, the Linville River makes a dramatic entrance into the depths of Linville Gorge. The waterfalls at Linville Falls are one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular and most spectacular sights. At the northernmost edge of the gorge, the river drops in a series of cascading waterfalls before running the gorge’s 12-mile, epic, stunning length.
The easiest hike to sight the waterfalls is on the Linville Falls Trail, a two-miler that treks to three overlooks and catches views of the falls from lofty elevations. While it’s anything but easy, this hike scores a more intimate view of the falls, descending through a dense forest of hemlock and rhododendron to an overlook beside the lower falls. Then, continuing its descent, it plunges to the gorge floor, hiking into the steep-walled gorge and trailing to the basin below the towering waterfall.
The Plunge Basin Trail is exceptional. It’s incredibly scenic. And unlike the more popular (and easier) hike on the other side of the river, it’s much more secluded. The climb back out of the gorge is a great workout – but with waterfall views this spectacular, it’s undoubtedly worth the effort.
Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail: the hike
The hike departs from the visitor center, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 316 (view maps and driving directions), hanging a left in front of the visitor center. The trail splits almost immediately at a signed junction: the Dugger Falls Trail veers left, and the Plunge Basin Overlook and Gorge Floor Trail turns right. The hike follows signs to the overlook, trailing eastbound through a forest filled with leathery-leafed rhododendron.
The hike arcs sharply southbound at .2 mile, and reaches a trail intersection at a third of a mile. Here, the hike veers right, trekking through dense thickets of mountain laurel, the sound of falling water growing louder as it descends. The trail reaches a rocky overlook at .5 mile, catching views of the thundering, enormous waterfall from a rocky outcrop just above the falls.
Leaving the overlook, the hike retraces back to the main trail, climbing steadily and then hanging a right to descend to the gorge floor. The trail begins a rocky descent at .7 miles, carving between tall rock outcrops. A deep cave plunges downward on the trail’s left, descending into dark, unseen depths.
The trail descends steep wooden stairs before carving through a sharp switchback, now trailing to the southwest. The terrain is rocky, crusted in lichen and moss, and wide-trunked hemlock tower over the young, surrounding forest. The trail continues descending, trekking beside the towering, blocky walls of the gorge. Look up: the cliff rises high, towering above, and overhanging the trail in spots. Look ahead: huge, blocky boulders lay at the rock wall’s base. The massive stone wall is beautiful – but might not be not the best place to linger.
The trail continues descending, nearing the river’s banks and reaching the gorge floor at one mile. Enormous boulders and rock outcrops line the river’s bed, offering a perfect place to relax and take in the natural beauty of the gorge. Ahead, the massive waterfall dives into a deep, clear basin below, framed by the gorge’s sheer, steep walls. It’s a ruggedly beautiful and awe-inspiring scene.
Departing the falls, this hike turns to retrace its outbound steps to return to the trailhead. It’s a nearly continuous climb from the gorge floor to the overlook spur trail, but at a half mile, rather short. The hike reaches the trailhead at 1.75 miles, completing the hike on the Plunge Basin Trail.
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
If you haven’t already, hike from the visitor center across the river to the Linville Falls Trail to catch more views of the waterfall and some exceptional, high-elevation views into the gorge. Cross the gorge to climb Table Rock Mountain to catch far-distant views of the falls and some spectacular, 360-degree panoramas from a rocky, sun-drenched, wind-swept, plateaued mountaintop. Hike to epic sunrises and sunsets from a view-packed, jagged summit on Hawksbill Mountain. Catch stunning views from the gorge’s southern end on the ultra-popular Shortoff Mountain Trail, and score beautiful views of the nearby Lake James. And for even more adventure inspiration, check out our Linville Gorge hiking and camping guide for more of our favorite outdoor adventures in the gorge.
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.
Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail Map, Directions & Details
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Free parking is available at the Linville Falls Visitor Center 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 wintertime trailhead info.)
35.954667, -81.927717 // N35 57.280 W81 55.663