Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail: best waterfall hikes at Linville Gorge

Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail

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.

trail info

1.75 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:at Linville Gorge on the Blue Ridge Parkway (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

Plunging dramatically between steep, sheer-walled, massive cliffs, the Linville River makes a dramatic entrance into the depths of Linville Gorge. The Linville Falls waterfalls are one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular and most spectacular sights. At the northernmost edge of the gorge, the Linville River drops in a series of cascading waterfalls before running the gorge’s 12-mile, epic, stunning length.

Linville Falls plunges into Plunge Basin at the foot of the towering, sheer walls of Linville GorgeAbove: Linville Falls plunges into a crystalline pool at the foot of the towering, sheer walls of Linville Gorge

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 Linville 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 Linville Falls Trail, 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 Linville Falls 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.

Hike the Plunge Basin Trail through dense, twisted thickets of rhododendron to the Linville Gorge floor

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.

Catch views of Linville Falls from a towering overlook on the Plunge Basin Trail at Linville Gorge

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 Linville Gorge.

Hike the Plunge Basin Trail to the steep-walled depths of the Linville Gorge floor

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 perhaps not the best place to linger.

The trail continues descending, nearing the banks of the Linville River and reaching the gorge floor at 1 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.

Hike the Plunge Basin Trail to the base of Linville Falls at Linville Gorge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

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 Linville Falls 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 the Hawksbill Mountain Trail. 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.

share this:

Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail Map, Directions & Details

Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail Map
Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

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.)

GPS Coordinates

35.954667, -81.927717     //     N35 57.280 W81 55.663

Elevation Profile

Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail: Elevation Profile
Leave No Trace: Asheville Trails is an official Leave No Trace partner

Please Remember

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

 
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.