Linville Gorge Wilderness
Explore this raw and rugged landscape tucked away within a lush woodland.
Hidden within the boundaries of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, you’ll discover the 11,651-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness.
The powerful Linville River cut this 12-mile gorge; the river drops over 2,000 feet through very rough terrain before flattening out in the Catawba Valley below. Jonas Ridge rises to the east, with Linville Mountain to the west.
The deep gorge has been called the Grand Canyon of North Carolina and the Big Ditch. Cherokees called it Eeseeoh (River of Many Cliffs).
Since this unspoiled wilderness contains about 39 miles of trails, make sure to stop first at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, located at mile 316 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Pick up a trail map and then hike to Linville Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in this forest. Located on the northern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the falls marks the beginning of the wilderness area. One fairly easy trail leads to an overlook where the river can be seen barreling through a narrow canyon and dropping into the gorge below.
Stop at the U.S. Forest Service information cabin along the Kistler Memorial Highway, where you can access trail information and permits for primitive camping.
Some trails descend from the gorge’s rim to the river; these will test even the fittest person. There are moderately strenuous hikes to enjoy as well, including an 11-mile portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that runs through the wilderness as it travels to the Atlantic Ocean from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Black bears, white-tailed deer, bald eagles, ruffed grouse, hawks, bobcats, foxes, wild boar and coyotes thrive here, as do snakes—including the venomous copperhead and timber rattlers.
During winter, the bare trees and shrubs expose many rock faces, delivering a stark appearance. Rock formations along the ridges have interesting names such as Table Rock, Sitting Bear, the Chimneys and Hawksbill.
Spring and summer are inviting, with lush landscape in every direction. Rhododendrons grow alongside mountain laurel. But some consider autumn the prime time for visiting. The fall foliage often leaves me speechless.
After spending time here, you will have a new appreciation for the sheer beauty of this wild environment.