A variety of easy to moderately strenuous hikes reach views of the Blue Ridge Parkway's biggest waterfall.
Start the hikes to Linville Falls from a small visitor center and parking area 1.5 miles from the Parkway, past the Linville Falls Campground. To reach the spur road, leave the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 316.4, about 1 mile north of the US 221-Blue Ridge Parkway junction in the town of Linville Falls, or about 11 miles south of the US 221-Blue Ridge Parkway junction at Grandfather Mountain near Linville.
From the visitor center (restrooms from May through October), bear right across the bridge to reach the easiest views of this awesome waterfall, the Parkway's largest by volume of water.
The level, road-width Linville Falls Trail leads through a scenic forest along the river to a junction on the right at 0.4 mile (a Forest Service spur trail connects to NC 1238, a short distance away-see the map below). In another 0.1 mile, turn left to Upper Falls View where the river funnels over its first big drop.
Back on the main trail, go left on the easy path through towering trees. The trail climbs into scrubbier vegetation to craggy overlooks above the gorge. At 0.6 mile from the visitor center, go left at a rain shelter down steep steps 0.1 mile to the airy perch of Chimney View for a great falls vista.
Back at the shelter, go left and not far on the right is Gorge View. Peer down into the gorge. At about 1.0 mile from the visitor center, Erwins View overlooks the falls, gorge, and hikers back on Chimney View. Return for a 2.0-mile round-trip hike.
Two hikes lie on the visitor center side of the river. The Duggers Creek Trail goes from the visitor center to the far end of the long parking lot-a 0.2-mile walk.
The best is the Linville Gorge hike. Pass through the visitor center portico and take the Linville Gorge Trail to the right. At a junction in 0.5 mile, turn right and go down steeply but briefly to Plunge Basin Overlook, a rock-walled perch above the falls. It's a 1-mile round-trip back at the visitor center.
Back at the Plunge Basin View junction, take the Linville Gorge Trail right along handrails above steep drops and down a steep flight of steps. At the bottom of the steps-the trail turns abruptly right-don't keep straight. The trail descends below a towering cliff to the edge of the river where you can rock-hop near the base of the thundering falls (ice may interfere in winter). To the base of the falls and back is 1.4 miles round-trip. Include the side trip to Plunge Basin Overlook and it's about 1.8 miles.
(For more detail on this or other Boone area trails, pick up a trail guide by local outdoor expert Randy Johnson.)
Zoom in close on the map below (use the plus/minus signs and directional arrows at upper left), or repeatedly double click near, but not on, the map symbols. You can literally dive down to see the parking lots and landmarks for the Linville Falls hikes. Click any map symbol and information balloons pop up. In the map balloons, click "Directions," add your address or location, and step-by-step directions will guide you to the trailhead from wherever you are!