Linville Gorge Wilderness is 11,786 acres (47.7 km2) of dramatic scenery around the Linville River in the North Carolina Mountains: a rushing river, waterfalls, boulders, and cliffs.
There are restrooms at the Linville Falls trailhead, the Linville Falls picnic area, the Shortoff Mountain trailhead, Wiseman's View trailhead, and a few other places, but in most parts of the gorge there are no facilities of any kind.
The Cherokee name for the river is Ee-see-oh, meaning "river of many cliffs". White settlers later named it after John and William Linville, who were killed by Shawnee in the gorge in 1766.
A rugged gorge with lots of boulders. Trails are steep.
Flora and fauna edit
The dense vegetation includes rhododendrons and mountain laurel, which are beautiful when they flower in spring and early summer.
Snakes (including copperheads), lizards, snails, fish, birds. There are bears in the park, but they're harder to spot.
Visitor information edit
The Linville Gorge Information Cabin, near the north end of the gorge, is open May-October; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 10AM-4PM.
There is also a Linville Falls Visitor Center.
Get in edit
The gorge is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Access to most areas is by dirt roads, suitable for an ordinary vehicle. There's a paved road to Linville Falls.
Fees and permits edit
Entry to the park is free and normally doesn't require any permits.
For camping on weekends and holidays May–October, a free permit is required which allows you to camp for up to 2 nights. Permits are limited and they can run out quickly, so reserve early. Reservations start on the first workday of the previous calendar month (so for instance, reservations for July start on the first workday of June)—call ☏. Additionally, a small number of walk-in permits for the weekend are available each Friday from the Information Cabin. Fifty permits are available per night (35 reservations and 15 walk-ins). Day trips without camping don't require a permit.
Get around edit
Hike. On the east side of the gorge there's a long trail up on the cliffs; on the west side there's another long trail down by the river. There are several shorter side trails as well. For navigation, use Avenza Maps, which shows spots for camping, water sources, and other information.
A makeshift paper sign informs hikers that the bridge is washed out—and indeed it's been gone for years, with no apparent effort to rebuild it. So if you want to cross the river, you'll have to get wet. When the water level is low, you may be able to wade across, but if it's high you might have to swim. Check the current water level at Linville Gorge Maps.
There are three recommended river crossings. The Mountains to Sea Trail crossing (MST) is the easiest, because it's wide and shallow. Spence Ridge crossing normally involves swimming. And Devil's Hole crossing is the most difficult – it might be wadable at lower water levels, but if the water level is high you'll have to swim. The trails are hard to find near Devil's Hole, so you may have to make your way through the brush for a bit until you find the trail.
If the water is too high to wade and you have to swim across, you might have to ferry your gear across on ropes.
The gorge is bookended on the north by Linville Falls and on the south by Lake James.
- 1 Linville Falls. Popular spot with thundering falls and turbulent water below, at the end of a short but steep trail.
- 2 Linville Caverns, 19929 US 221 North, Marion, ☏ . Some stalactites and stalagmites.
West of the river edit
- Daffodil Flats, in the southern part of the gorge. Ruins of an old homestead, now overrun with a field of daffodils. Best time to visit for the daffodils is the first week of March.
- Wiseman's View.
East of the river edit
Several short trails on the east side take you to viewpoints on the cliffs, including:
- Hawksbill Mountain. 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains.
- Table Rock.
- Shortoff Mountain. Spectacular rocky cliffs.
- Hiking – the gorge has a variety of short hikes as well as longer, more strenuous hikes
- Fishing (with a license)
- Rock climbing
Wild blackberries and partridge berries. (If you've never had a partridge berry before, it's pretty flavorless.) Beyond that, bring all food with you, and carry out all trash.
Use existing fire rings or a camping stove for cooking. Fire rings are plentiful and easy to find.
No potable water available, but you can treat water from Linville River or other streams and creeks. Permanent sources of water are labeled on Avenza Maps.
Available near Linville Falls.
Backcountry camping is allowed, but may require a permit depending on when you go (see above). Try to find a spot where others have camped before; several dozen campsites with fire rings are labeled on Avenza Maps. For a little more privacy, pick one that isn't too close to the trail.
About half of the campsites are down in the gorge, mostly by the trail on the west side of the river. A few are on the east side, and you can access them from trails that descend from the cliffs on the east, or by crossing the river from the trail on the west side. A particularly good campsite is across the river from Cathedral Falls.
Other campsites are up on the cliffs, east of the river.
Practice leave-no-trace camping, and bury any human waste at least 6 in (150 mm) deep and 100 ft (30 m) away from water.
Stay safe edit
Follow recommendations for bear safety, including hanging your food from a tree.
Watch out for venomous snakes: copperheads and rattlesnakes. They're not aggressive but may bite if they feel threatened.
Be careful when swimming—the current can be swift.