202 – Linville Falls

Accessibility – Moderate

Height: Approx 120′ total (includes upper drop) / 50′-60′ for main drop

Distance – 5.5 (to reach all overlooks + the base starting at NC183 parking)

Beauty – 9

Photo rating – 8

Solitude – 5

GPS Info: LAT 35.9501 LONG -81.9278

Last updated – 07-17-2017


I almost don’t know how to convey this waterfall or hike. When it comes to impressive, Linville Falls is right up there. It’s one of the few I’ve been to that offers so many distinct vantages, all accessed from maintained trails. On our visit, the Chimney’s Viewing Area was closed for repairs. All of the viewpoints we accessed had something to offer. The base of the falls was my favorite, while the Plunge Basin Overlook was my least favorite. This isn’t to say the view wasn’t amazing. It just says that of the four vantages we accessed, this was the one I preferred the least. My favorite was the base, followed by the upper falls viewing area. It was cool to see the water funneling down into the turns before launching over the main drop. If you’re going to visit Linville Falls, you really need to do all the vantages. It will make for a long day and it will involve a lot of backtracking since both parking areas are in the middle of the horseshoe shaped trail that follows the gorge downstream on river right and left.

 Our access point was the parking area off NC183, 1.25 miles from the intersection with NC221. This is just south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Access to the trailhead parking is on the right as NC183 sweeps into a left hand turn. There is also a driveway here, more to the left. This is private property and marked with a sign reading: No Waterfalls. At the top of the hill the road turns to the right and the parking is on the left. A trail map is on a kiosk in the middle of the parking area. It’s really hard to get lost on this hike but you can take a picture of the trail map if need be before setting off.

The trail to the falls leaves from the upper end of the parking area and descends for 0.3 of a mile to an intersection with the main trail. You can go either way but on our hike we made a right onto the main trail and then quickly made a left to the upper falls viewing area. This short spur trail will give you you’re first look at the falls. The short trail leads to a walled in rock area where you can enjoy the upper drops, across a large open pool as well as the start of the main drop. The area is walled on the section above the main drop and fenced above for good reason.

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The uppermost drops – July 2017
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The start of the main drop – July 2017

After the upper viewing area we returned to the main trail and made a left, heading up the hill to the more distant overlooks. The ascent to The Chimney’s Viewing Area and most distant, Erwin’s View are going to be uphill but moderately so for the most part. From the upper viewing area it is only a quarter of a mile to the Chimney’s View, which is going to be on the left of the main trail. Less than 0.2 of a mile from the Chimney’s Viewing Area is Erwin’s View. This latter viewing area is accessed by a set of steps that will leave you high above the gorge, looking toward the falls. The distant view gives some perspective on the enormity of this area and the ruggedness. Along the way to Erwin’s, you will see numerous side trails veering into the woods. Following any of them is highly discouraged and according to the ranger I spoke with, not permitted. From Erwin’s you can see that most any egress into the gorge from the paths on river right will come to an open cliff face and a long fall down into the gorge.

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The most distant view from Erwin’s View – July 2017

From Erwin’s View, the hike is a backtrack to the intersection with the parking area access trail just beyond the Upper Falls Access. From the intersection with the parking area off NC183, follow the main trail mostly downhill to a crossing of the Linville River and the main parking area and visitor center. The hike between the parking areas is a little under 0.5 of a mile and relatively flat. There are bathroom facilities here as and a gift shop. To get to the river left viewing areas, make a right out of the gift shop and walk up the hill past the bathrooms. There is a big map on the wall of the gift shop as well. The trail will enter the woods and split. If you go left it will lead to Duggers Falls, which is a loop trail and well worth the short hike. Make a right and head up the hill. The trail will fork in about 0.3 of a mile. The Plunge Basin Overlook continues ahead while the Plunge Basin access branches left. We went to the overlook first, which was about a 0.25 of a mile from the intersection. The last segment is a stone staircase that led to the walled viewing area. The drop on the other side of the wall is straight down. If you need to see how far, you will when you hike to the plunge basin.

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The Plunge Basin Overlook view – July 2017

To continue on the hike, backtrack to the intersection with the Plunge Basin Trail, which will now be on your right. Follow it up the hill briefly before it starts on a long descent to the river below the falls. Parts of the trail are rocky and steep. Along the way you will come to a high cliff on the right side of the trail. If you decided to climb over the wall for a better view while you were at the Plunge Basin Overlook and things didn’t go as planned, you’d probably land somewhere around this area. As you make your way down the trail you will start to see views of the river. Eventually the trail will end at the river. The total hike from the split is 0.4 of a mile give or take. From the end of the trail you have to follow the rocks up on river left to get a good view of the falls. The signs all say no climbing on the rocks or swimming but there was a lot of this going on. I was guilty of this as well. In the next images you will see me poised on a huge boulder. I took a lot of my shots from on top of that boulder.

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The downstream view – July 2017

These are a collection of images from the various viewpoints. Click on each for a larger view. The first two are from Erwin’s View. The rest are from the boulder in the Plunge Basin or slightly downstream.

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