Linville Gorge is the deepest and perhaps most rugged gorge in the eastern United States. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East, it is protected by the 12,000-acre Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, one of the first areas to be included in the National Wilderness System with the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.
The steep walls of Linville Gorge enclose the Linville River for 12 miles. The river, which begins at Grandfather Mountain, enters the gorge at the spectacular Linville Falls then descends over 2,000 feet before breaking into the Catawba Valley on its way to Lake James. The Cherokee called it “Eeseeoh,” meaning “river of many cliffs,” a reference to the many vertical rock outcroppings that line the gorge.
Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Linville Falls drop a total of 90 feet in a multi-level cascade and can be viewed from several overlooks along two trails that lead from the Linville Falls Visitors Center. The 0.8-mile Erwins View Trail also leads to an overlook offering a breathtaking panoramic view of the Linville Gorge. The area around Linville Falls is one of the few places in the mountains where the Rosebay, Catawba, and Carolina rhododendron grow side by side.
The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is a magnet for hikers, backpackers, and rock climbers. Spared by its rugged terrain from clear-cutting in the early 1900s, the Linville Gorge features some of the best remnant stands of uncut forest in the southern Appalachians. A trail system spanning 39 miles is composed of numerous steep trails that lead down from the east and west rims to a main connector, the Linville Gorge Trail. Shortoff Mountain and Table Rock on the east rim of the gorge are two of North Carolina’s premier climbing destinations.
Linville Gorge is prime habitat for wildlife, including deer, bear, raccoon, turkey, and ruffled grouse. Hunting and fishing are allowed but permits are required. The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is managed by the US Forest Service as part of the Pisgah National Forest.
Hear the Story
Listen to the Living Traditions Moment radio vignette about Linville Gorge and the Brown Mountain Lights.
None. A free US Forest Service permit is required for overnight camping on weekends and holidays from May through October.
The entrance road to the Linville Falls Visitor Center is located at milepost 316.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A large picnic area is located nearby. The Linville Gorge is also accessible from US 221, NC 181, and NC 183.
Because of the difficult terrain and sometimes dangerous conditions in the wilderness area, visitors unfamiliar with the environs are strongly urged to contact the US Forest Service for information before embarking on hikes or rock climbs.
US Forest Service/National Forests in North Carolina
Grandfather Ranger District
109 East Lawing Drive
Nebo, NC 28761
(located off I-40, Exit 90, Nebo/Lake James Exit)
US Forest Service Information Cabin
Located on NC 1238, Kistler Memorial Highway,
0.4 miles off NC 183
Open Thursday through Saturday from April to October, 8:30 am to 5 pm