Linville Falls

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, USA

About Linville Falls


Hiking Distance: 2 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 90 minutes

Date first visited: 2012-10-19
Date last visited: 2012-10-19

Waterfall Latitude: 35.9497
Waterfall Longitude: -81.92692

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Linville Falls consisted of a small twin waterfall in its upper drop before twisting and plunging some 40ft or so into the steep Linville Gorge over the waterfall’s main drop.

On the morning we arrived, there were rather terrible shadows making photography of the main drop of the falls suboptimal.

Linville_Falls_048_20121019 - Full context of Linville Falls
Full context of Linville Falls

At least the Autumn colors exploding higher up the Linville Gorge added a bit of contrast and life to the scene.

Experiencing Linville Falls

Linville Falls represented an exercise in confusion to us because there were apparently two different trailheads (one administered by the Forest Service and the other administered by the National Park Service).

In hindsight, I probably should’ve paid more attention to the sign at the trailhead telling us how to get to the “paved parking lot.”

Technically, it shouldn’t have mattered from a hiking distance standpoint which trailhead we started from (we happened to start from the US Forest Service trailhead).

Linville_Falls_032_20121019 - Looking downstream into the Linville Gorge where Autumn colors were just about to be peaking
Looking downstream into the Linville Gorge where Autumn colors were just about to be peaking

However, I got the feeling that the National Park trailhead was better suited for visitor facilities as well as easier and more explicit access to all of the waterfall’s overlooks and access trails.

As a result, we only managed to experience the Linville Falls from one side of the Linville River.

Unfortunately, we didn’t bother going to the waterfall’s base nor did we check out an overlook that would’ve given us a look from the opposite side of the river.

Call us lazy, but after seeing the falls, we didn’t feel like extending our stay here as we knew there we’d be short on time to do other things if we did.

Linville_Falls_011_20121019 - The Upper Falls of Linville Falls
The Upper Falls of Linville Falls

Since we only experienced Linville from the US Forest Service trailhead to the falls via its upper overlook, the Chimney Rock overlook, and Erwin’s View, we’ll have to limit our discussion to only these ways of doing it.

We didn’t go to the National Park parking lot nor did we go to the Plunge Basin Overlook or the Gorge Trail to the bottom of the falls.

Maybe next time we’ll do it the “right” way.

In any case, it’s said that doing all of the waterfall viewing options would’ve involved about 4 miles of total hiking.

Needless to say, we didn’t do all of those miles.

The US Forest Service side of Linville Falls

Linville_Falls_050_20121019 - Trail junction on the Linville Falls Trail where going left leads up to the US Forest Service Trailhead while going right leads to the National Park Service Trailhead
Trail junction on the Linville Falls Trail where going left leads up to the US Forest Service Trailhead while going right leads to the National Park Service Trailhead

From the quiet and unpaved US Forest Service car park (see directions below), we descended a well-used trail towards an intersection with the National Park service trail.

One thing we immediately noticed about this place was the National Park service trail was way busier (and crowded) than the trail we took.

At this point, we kept right to get to the waterfall overlooks (going left would’ve gone to the National Park Service facilities).

It was said to be about 0.5 miles from the trailhead (either one I believe) to the Upper Falls trail.

Linville_Falls_009_20121019 - Julie on the trail leading to the viewing area for the upper tier of Linville Falls
Julie on the trail leading to the viewing area for the upper tier of Linville Falls

Something we thought was kind of confusing was that the signs here made it seem like the “Waterfall” trail (to the Upper Falls) was the only one for viewing the falls.

The signage here made no mention of waterfalls for the other overlooks.

Perhaps this might be a non-issue had we started at the National Park trailhead instead of the US Forest Service trailhead.

Anyways, the rather crowded Upper Falls overlook afforded us views of the short twin falls backed by pretty Autumn foliage with nice backlighting from the morning sun.

However, the main falls was further downstream hidden from view within a slot chasm just below the viewing area.

Linville_Falls_017_20121019 - Julie approaching one of the real busy overlooks of Linville Falls
Julie approaching one of the real busy overlooks of Linville Falls

Nonetheless, we knew it was a gushing waterfall because we could hear it loudly from this spot.

Going back onto the main trail, we then continued walking another 0.3 miles (0.7 miles from the trailheads or 1.4 miles round trip), which ascended most of the way until it finally started to plateau.

From there, we saw a signpost by a trail junction fronting a little shelter.

Turning left at this junction, we descended some stairs, which eventually led to the Chimney Rock Overlook.

While the name was a little misleading in that there was no Chimney Rock formation to check out (at least not from what we could tell), I suspect the viewing platforms were probably on top of the Chimney Rock itself.

Linville_Falls_036_20121019 - Looking towards both the Upper and Main drops of Linville Falls with some people in between them for a sense of scale
Looking towards both the Upper and Main drops of Linville Falls with some people in between them for a sense of scale

In any case, it was from this overlook that we were finally able to see the front of the main Linville Falls (said to be 45ft tall) plus part of its Upper Falls.

We were also able to look downstream at the steep Linville Gorge from this spot.

Returning once again back to the main trail, we then continued walking uphill for another 800ft following the signs for Erwin’s View (about 0.8 miles from the trailhead or 1.6 miles round trip).

This overlook offered a more distant view of Linville Falls, but at least we were able to photograph the entire gorge with the falls in context.

Linville_Falls_043_20121019 - Even within the main drop of Linville Falls, there appeared to be more hidden drops within its slotted gorge
Even within the main drop of Linville Falls, there appeared to be more hidden drops within its slotted gorge

It was also from this lookout when we noticed there were people who hiked to the base of the Lineville Falls.

Doing that was said to be 0.7 miles from the National Park Service trailhead or 1.4 miles round trip, it and made us ponder the decision whether to do it or not (we didn’t).

Authorities

Linville Falls resides in the Blue Ridge Parkway (though one trailhead sits in Pisgah National Forest) near Linville Falls in Burke County, North Carolina. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Linville_Falls_003_20121019 - Julie about to embark on the Linville Falls Trail from the US Forest Service trailhead
Linville_Falls_004_20121019 - On the Forest Service trail, which was fairly quiet and surrounded by nice Autumn scenery
Linville_Falls_005_20121019 - By this point of our short hike to Linville Falls, we had joined up with the trail that came from the National Park Service trailhead so we now started to see signage that resembled something the NPS would erect
Linville_Falls_003_20121019 - Looking towards some of the upper tiers of Linville Falls as we descended a spur trail leading to its overlook
Linville_Falls_013_20121019 - Looking upstream towards the upper tier of Linville Falls from the viewing area at the end of its spur trail
Linville_Falls_039_20121019 - Trail junction and shelter near the Chimney Rock Overlook
Linville_Falls_018_20121019 - Contextual view of both the main drop of Linville Falls (in the shadows below) and the upper drop of Linville Falls further upstream
Linville_Falls_020_20121019 - Focused look at the main drop of Linville Falls
Linville_Falls_027_20121019 - Autumn colors backing the Upper Falls from the Chimney Rock Overlook
Linville_Falls_028_20121019 - Contextual look at both the upper and main drop of Linville Falls from Chimney Rock with a bit more focus on the waterfalls
Linville_Falls_035_20121019 - Another full view of both the upper section and main section of Linville Falls with people in between them providing a sense of scale of the magnitude of the scenery before us as seen from the Chimney Rock Overlook
Linville_Falls_042_20121019 - Another look at Linville Falls, but this time it's from Erwin's View

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Linville Falls has two different trailheads – the US National Forest Trailhead and the National Park Service Trailhead.

The National Park Service trailhead (i.e. the “paved” one) is at the end of 1.4-mile Linville Falls Rd, whose turnoff is said to be at the 361.3 mile post on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

This mile post is about 58 miles northeast from downtown Asheville (or 1hr 15min according to my maps if you took the I-40 then the Hwy 221 to the Blue Ridge Parkway).

To get to the Forest Service trailhead, go south on Hwy 221 from the Hwy 221/Blue Ridge Parkway junction for 0.7 miles, then turn left onto Hwy 183 (there’s a signpost indicating this is the way to Linville Falls).

Follow Hwy 183 for another 0.7 miles where you leave the highway onto the unpaved County Line Rd to the right.

About 0.2 miles on County Line Rd, the unpaved Forest Service trailhead is on the left.

As for some geographical context, Asheville was 35 miles (under an hour drive) north of Brevard, 63 miles (about 90 minutes drive) north of Greenville, South Carolina, and 130 miles (over 2 hours drive) west of Charlotte, and 247 miles (4 hours drive) west of Raleigh.

Bright right to left sweep following the flow of the water of the upper tiers of Linville Falls from the hidden main drop to the upper falls and fall foliage


Right to left sweep showing the shadowy gorge with nice fall colors before ending with a zoom in on the main part of the falls


Focused on a zoom-in of the main falls before zooming out to show the falls context then panning to the right to show the nice fall foliage in the gorge


Zoomed in bottom up sweep of the falls before zooming out to show the falls context


Zoomed in on the main part of the falls before zooming out to show the full context of the falls as seen from the last overlook

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Tagged with: blue ridge, parkway, burke county, north carolina, waterfall, national park, national forest, linville



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Johnny Cheng

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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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