Linville Falls - Plunge Basin View
Linville Falls is an absolute must see waterfall. Plan on a full day here if you want to see the waterfall from all the different overlooks that are offered and to really enjoy the area to it's fullest. The 5 trails offered range from easy/moderate to moderate/difficult. I'll say they are kid friendly because I've seen all ages on all the trails, but you might be carrying the little ones on the more difficult ones. The main parking area and visitor center off of the Blue Ridge Parkway are closed in the off season, but there's a back parking lot that stays open year round for those who enjoy winter hiking. Directions to both are below. Save a little time for the very interesting Duggers Creek Falls which is a short easy hike from the main parking lot!
Directions to the main parking area off of the BRP: Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway at your favorite spot and drive to the Linville Falls area between mile posts 317 and 316. At MP316.5, turn on to Linville Falls Rd and drive 1.4 miles to the parking area for Linville Falls. You'll pass the Linville Falls Campground and the river bend overlook parking area before getting to the end of the road. All of the trails to the waterfall begin at the visitor center.
Directions to the year round gravel parking lot: From the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and US221 at milepost 317.5 of the BRP, drive south on 221 for 0.7 miles and turn left on to NC183. Drive 0.6 miles and bear right at the signs on to the Kistler Memorial Highway. (This is the ratty gravel road that goes up to Wiseman's View and some trails descending into the Linville Gorge.) Drive 0.1 miles to the gravel parking lot on the left. The only trail from this lot connects on to the trail coming from the visitor center and there are signs at the intersection indicating which way to go.
There are 2 main trails to follow from the visitor center. The first one I'll describe goes to 3 different views - Upper Falls Overlook, Chimney View, and Erwins View. From the main parking lot, head towards the visitor center and walk between the visitor center and the bathrooms. Continue to the bridge and cross the Linville River. Once across the trail becomes dirt and follows the Linville River for 0.5 miles to the spur trail on the left for the Upper Falls Overlook. You will have passed the trail coming down from the year round gravel parking area on the right. This narrower spur trail ends at the upper falls. The small double waterfall itself isn't that impressive, but from here the river narrows into a deep 'S' shaped gorge at the top of Linville Falls. The first picture below was taken before a short wall was constructed to help keep people off of the rocks. Swimming is not allowed at all here. There's also a wall to prevent people from falling into the gorge, so it's safe as long as you use common sense and watch your children. The second picture below is looking over the wall down into the gorge, then there's a video tour of the area.
Upper Falls Overlook
From the Upper Falls Overlook, head back out to the main trail, turn left and head uphill through the old growth hemlocks for another 0.2 miles to Chimney View - the 1st view of Linville Falls. A short steep trail on the left leads to the small circular overlook area. There's also a view of the upper falls and the Linville River and gorge below the falls. You may notice people down near the base of Linville Falls from Chimney View. They got down there from the Plunge Basin Trail discussed below.
Linville Falls - Chimney View
From the Chimney View, come back out to the main trail, turn left, and continue up to Erwins View. This is where the trail ends and you are just less than a mile from the visitor center at this point. The view of the waterfall from here is pretty good also as shown below.
Linville Falls - Erwins View
The other trail leading to views of Linville Falls also begins at the visitor center. The 2 views are the Plunge Basin Overlook which is a 0.5 mile easy to moderate hike, and the Plunge Basin Trail which is a 0.75 mile moderately difficult hike to the river just below the waterfall. Stand right in front of the visitor center and face the bathrooms. The trail is up the steps on the left side of the bathrooms. The trail begins with a steady uphill climb through the forest. At about 0.25 miles in, the trail splits and a sign indicates mileages and which way to go. Straight or the right fork takes you to the Plunge Basin Overlook which is a side view of the waterfall. It's a great view and a safe place to be as long as you stay behind the wall. Of course, people don't and have fallen to their deaths here. The video below shows the hike to the overlook.
Linville Falls - Plunge Basin Overlook
The last view - and in my opinion the best view - is from the base of the waterfall which is accessed via the Plunge Basin Trail. From that last fork, take the left trail. It gets fairly narrow, goes down a set of very steep steps, then switchbacks towards the falls. You'll pass a very high rock wall on the right and continue around some boulders before coming out a little bit below the waterfall. To get closer, you'll have to climb around on the rocks. This area is loaded with poison ivy in the summer time, so watch out! The pool below the waterfall is very deep, but swimming is not allowed. The photos below are different perspectives of the falls from this area.
back to the Blue Ridge Parkway page