Linville Falls is one of the most photographed waterfalls in North Carolina. Located on the Linville River at the very head of Linville Gorge, the falls cascades over a hundred feet via multiple tiers, crashing into a huge plunge pool lined by tall cliffs at the end of the final 45-foot tier of the falls. A network of popular trails, stemming from the Linville Falls Visitor Center, weaves around the falls and leads to five different viewpoints of it (including the base itself). In addition, a bonus waterfall known as Duggers Creek Falls can be seen from one of the trails. This hike occurred on Friday, July 7th, 2017. My plan was to hike out and back to each of the five viewpoints of Linville Falls as well as Duggers Creek Falls from Linville Falls Visitor Center. This hike was the fifth of ten hikes that I did during a seven-day trip to the mountains of northwest North Carolina.
R/T Length of Trail: 4.3 Miles
Duration of Hike: 3:15
Type of Hike: Y-Configuration
Difficulty Rating: 4 out of 10
Total Elevation Gain: 1310 Feet
Pros: Well-established trails to the falls views
Cons: Large crowds, especially on the trails south of the river
Points of Interest: Linville Falls Views - 8 stars collectively; Duggers Creek Falls - 3 stars
Trail Blaze Colors: None, none needed
Best Seasons to Hike: Year-round
Beginning Point: Linville Falls Visitor Center
Directions from Linville, NC: From the intersection of US 221 and NC 181 near downtown Linville, follow US 221 South/NC 181 South for 2.9 miles and then turn left onto NC 181. Continue on NC 181 for 1.7 miles before turning left onto a short connector to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then, turn right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and follow it for 4.3 miles to Linville Falls Road. Turn left onto Linville Falls Road and follow it for 1.5 miles to a dead end at the visitor center's large parking area.
Click here to download a track of this hike.
The Linville Falls trail system is split into two parts. The more rugged and difficult north half visits Duggers Creek Falls, Plunge Basin Overlook, and the base of Linville Falls deep in the gorge. The south half - which accesses Upper Falls View, Chimney View, and Erwins View - mostly consists of groomed paths that make for easy walking. My suggestion is to start with the north half and then relax on the south half. It is best to begin the hike by heading to Duggers Creek first. Thus, from the parking area, start walking back along the entrance road. At 0.1 miles, just after the road bridge across Duggers Creek, the signed Duggers Creek Falls Trail begins on the right. Begin following the trail as it climbs a small hill and then drops down a pair of stone staircases to Duggers Creek. At 0.2 miles, the trail crosses Duggers Creek on a sturdy footbridge. Duggers Creek Falls is located just upstream from the footbridge and is best viewed from the bridge itself. Duggers Creek is a small stream and the falls normally has a low volume, but it is a very interesting waterfall nonetheless. Duggers Creek Falls is about 15 feet high and has a two-tier drop in a short but narrow slot canyon with beautiful stone walls. Under the right conditions, this will be a photogenic waterfall despite its small size and low flow.
Past the falls, the trail reaches a junction near the parking area. Stay left on the main trail, slowly ascending to another junction with the main Linville Falls Trail coming in from the visitor center. Turn left onto this trail to hike toward Plunge Basin Overlook and the base of Linville Falls. The gradual ascent continues to a signed split at 0.65 miles, where the trail into the gorge and to the base of the falls turns left and the trail to Plunge Basin Overlook continues straight. I decided to hike to the Plunge Basin Overlook first, staying straight. The trail soon drops off the ridge and descends down a series of staircases to its end at the overlook at 0.85 miles. From the Plunge Basin Overlook, there is a great side view of Linville Falls crashing down into the pool surrounded by cliffs that nearly appear to form a square. Looking across the gorge, you can see people up at the Chimney View where you'll be later.
From Plunge Basin Overlook, return to the junction at 1.05 miles and now turn right onto the trail to the base of the falls itself. The trail quickly begins the 250-foot descent into the gorge, passing a couple of fenced-off areas with dangerous drop-offs and descending a long wooden staircase. At 1.15 miles, the trail makes a sharp switchback, turning right back in the direction of the falls. The trail becomes fairly rugged and does not allow quick travel as it passes over many rooty and rocky areas. Shortly after the switchback, the trail also passes the base of a tall cliff. At 1.4 miles, the trail ends at the Linville River just below Linville Falls. From here, simply pick your way upstream through the rocks as best you can to the base of the falls. Today, I was able to stay completely dry all the way, but if the water is up, you may get your feet a bit wet. Reach the base of Linville Falls at about 1.45 miles.
Because the mighty Linville River gets squeezed into a powerful torrent through a short slot canyon at Linville Falls, this is a pretty unique waterfall. Even though the final drop of the falls is about 45 feet, it appears small because it gets dwarfed by the huge cliff well over a hundred feet high stretching away from the falls. The biggest drawback of Linville Falls is that there are going to be people here almost whenever you go. Visiting the falls in early morning or early evening may do the trick, but the most reliable choice for those who are seeking solitude at Linville Falls is to hike to it on a snowy winter day from the USFS parking area off Old NC Highway 105 (the access road to Linville Falls Visitor Center is often closed in winter, especially during snow).
From Linville Falls, retrace your steps back to the top of the gorge and then toward the visitor center. When you pass the junction with the Duggers Creek Falls Trail, simply continue hiking straight on the downhill trail, which reaches the visitor center at 2.2 miles. To access the trails on the south side of the gorge, turn left to walk through the visitor center's breezeway and then to cross the Linville River - which is quite placid in this stretch above the falls - via a broad and sturdy concrete bridge. On the other side of the river, begin following the wide path as it heads in the downstream direction high above the river. At 2.6 miles, a connector trail from the parking area off Old NC Highway 105 comes in from the right. A few feet farther, the signed trail to Upper Falls View turns left. Follow this spur trail gradually downhill to its end at a fenced viewing area at the top of Linville Falls at 2.7 miles. This view is different from the other views on the hike, because it shows the beginning of the frothing upper slot canyon part of Linville Falls. The sight of the broad Linville River squeezing into a narrow stone passage is very impressive. Just upstream from the viewing area is a small but scenic river-wide set of cascades with a huge pool.
Return to the main trail and begin a gradual ascent up a small knob. At 3.1 miles, the trail reaches another signed junction with the Chimney View side trail in a gap. This view is not to be missed. Turn left onto the side trail, which descends fairly steeply down a staircase and to a pair of viewing areas with a spectacular view at 3.15 miles. Chimney View provides a breathtaking bird's eye perspective of Linville Falls, its cliffs and plunge pool, and the Linville River Gorge just downstream from it. In fact, the scene looking down the gorge may be even more beautiful than the view of the falls itself. Hands down, this is my favorite view of Linville Falls.
Once again, return to the main trail and follow it along the ridge, ascending gradually again in the direction of Erwins View. At 3.35 miles, the main trail abruptly turns left up a set of stone steps, but first, continue a few feet straight to a view of Linville Gorge. While you can't see the river well from here, the gorge is still prominent. Meanwhile, the trail to Erwins View continues to the very nose of the ridge, where a wooden staircase takes the trail up to the large rock outcrop that is home to Erwins View, the endpoint of the trail at 3.4 miles.
Erwins View is often considered to be the most beautiful view of Linville Falls itself, because the view not only encompasses the falls but also many mountains in the background. While I personally liked Chimney View better than Erwins View, this perspective is still well worth the hike. From Erwins View, simply retrace your steps back along the main trail to the visitor center. You will return to the parking area and conclude the hike at 4.3 miles.
0.0 - Linville Falls Visitor Center
0.2 - Duggers Creek Falls
0.85 - Plunge Basin Overlook
1.45 - Linville Falls
2.2 - Linville Falls Visitor Center
2.7 - Upper Falls View
3.15 - Chimney View
3.35 - Gorge View
3.4 - Erwins View
4.3 - Linville Falls Visitor Center
Hike just the South Trails to Upper Falls View, Chimney View, and Erwins View - 2.1 Miles
Hike just the North Trails to Plunge Basin Overlook and Linville Falls Base - 2.2 Miles
There are many great hikes in Linville Gorge and its vicinity. A few hikes that you can consider adding on to Linville Falls are the hike to the summit of Table Rock, the hike to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, and the hike to Steels Creek Falls.
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