Eastern Waterfall Guide

Southford Falls Falls of the Month, October 1999

Linville Falls

Linville Falls Ratings : Power - StarStarStarStar Beauty - StarStarStarStar Ease of Access - StarStarStarStar

Linville Falls is not what you might call the typical Eastern waterfall. That is to say, it doesn't tumble merrily through a series of cascades into a pool. But then again, the Linville area isn't exactly what you might call ordinary East Coast terrain. The mountains in this are steep enough that an area nearby Linville is called Little Switzerland. Another indication of the terrain is the Linn Cove Viaduct, a section of the Blue Ridge parkway that actually leaves the ground at one point and travels 1243 feet on a S-shaped bridge that hangs on to the side of the mountain. Finally, the Linville area is home to Grandfather Mountain, a 5,194 foot peak that is the highest mountain in the Blue Ridge range. Linville River originates on Grandfather Mountain and trickles down, gathering speed and volume until it reaches the Linville Gorge. At the opening of the gorge is Linville Falls. Powerful and dramatic, Linville Falls is more akin to a Western waterfall as it crashes through a deep chasm on its way to the bottom of Linville Gorge.

The falls are composed of three parts. The top section gives no indication of the dramatic character of the rest of the falls. The Linvilee River is calm at this point as it flows around a large rock outcropping and pours over a wide 10 foot ledge. Below the top section, however, the water gains velocity and tumult as the river narrows and finally plunges into a deep chasm with sheer walls that splits around a wide free-standing rock pillar. At this point, the falls are impossible to see from most vantage points. They reappear as the two split chasms join again and the water flows out in one powerful 50 foot cascade into a deep and wide pool.

The most interesting thing about this waterfall is that a visitor can see the power of erosion at work. At one time, the chasm that forms the middle section of the pool was not there and the falls tumbled down the entire 100 or so feet into the gorge. The view in that prehistoric time must have been as impressive as the famous waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are today. At that time, however, the falls were also probably further down the gorge. One sign in the park mentions that erosion has caused the falls to move 5 miles upstream since their creation.

Linville Falls is also unique in waterfalls since it has several different trails to view it. The main one, the Linville Falls Trail, leads out from the paved parking lot on a clear wide trail over a bridge. After going up a hill, the path splits. To the left is a short trip over rock steps to a closeup view of the upper falls. Straight ahead leads on to the three other overlooks on the trail. The first of these three provides the best view of the entire falls. This trail is pretty heavily traveled but it can hold a lot of people and it is pretty easy. The other two trails are not as well-defined as the first but they are also not as heavily traveled. The Linville Gorge Trail goes all the way to the bottom of the falls although it is fairly steep. The Plunge Basin Trail doesn't go all the way into the gorge, but it does lead to an overlook of the lower falls in a short amount of time. Both of these trails lead off from the Nature Center near the paved parking lot.

If you happen to park in the dirt lot near the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, follow the dirt path down the hill to the trail crossing. At this point, going left and continuing down the hill will eventually bring to the paved lot. Any other direction will bring you to the overlooks on the Linville Falls Trail.

Total distances : 1.6 miles round trip over fairly easy terrain to all the overlooks on the Linville Falls Trail. 1.0 miles round trip over moderate terrain on the Plunge Basin Trail. 1.4 miles round trip over steep terrain on the Linville Gorge Trail.

Other Nearby Waterfalls : Duggers Creek Falls

Complete List of Falls of the Month : Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part IV - February 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part III - January 2001, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part II - November/December 2000, Falls of Rocky Mountain National Park Part I - June through October 2000, Bash Bish Falls - May 2000, Wadsworth Falls - March 2000, Staton's Falls - February 2000, no December or January Falls of Month (I was lazy...), Raymondskill Falls - November 1999, Linville Falls - October 1999, no September 1999 Falls of the Month, Race Brook Falls - August 1999, Blackwater Falls - July 1999, Muddy Creek Falls - June 1999, Whiteoak Canyon - May 1999, Elakala Falls - April 1999, Southford Falls - March 1999

Photos of Linville Falls :

Bottom section of Linville Falls in moderate water
Bottom section of Linville Falls in moderate water

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