Linville Gorge Wilderness Area
Burke County, NC
Sunday, September 19th, 2010
Photos are posted here:
Linville Falls is always an impressive sight, even during times of low water flow. In fact, the low river level and absolutely zero chance of rain was exactly why we were planning this adventure for today.
Linville FallsLocated right off the Blue Ridge Parkway with a series of short and easy trails to various overlooks makes Linville Falls a very popular tourist stop. We knew that the beginning and ending of our day would be among crowds of people. However for the majority of our hike, we would almost certainly be alone as we planned to explore a seldom visited section of the Linville River downstream from the main falls.
We started out on the main trail the leaves from the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center hiking among the crowds and stopping to take a few obligatory photos from a couple of overlooks.
Obligatory shot of Linville Falls from one of the Overlooks
We quickly left the tourists and found the “Marion Wright Trail”. You won’t find this trail on any official forest service map, and you would never spot this trail unless you were looking for it. Linville Gorge is filled with dozens of unofficial trails. To truly experience the Gorge, you have to get off the beaten path. The best place to learn about the extensive unofficial trail network is:
Once we found it, the Marion Wright Trail was easy to follow and in pretty good shape (at least the short section we hiked).
Now for the adventure part! We wanted to get to the river which was about 500-feet below us. We left the MW Trail and started heading down hill in a south-easterly direction. At times it seemed we were following some sort of scramble path, but mostly it was just heading through the forest following the path of least resistance. For the first 3/4 of the way the going was easier than we expected.
Then things made a quick turn for the worst! The path of least resistance had ended and we were faced with shear drop-offs and/or walls of Rhododendron Hell! We chose the Rhododendron Hell which was actually a mixture of Rhododendrons and Briers. It was so thick, we might have given up if we didn’t spot the river which was only about 50-ft below us.
Unfortunately, we found ourselves at the edge of a 50-ft high cliff! So we had to backtrack a bit though more Rhododendron/Brier Hell and find a safer way down. A few Devil’s Walking Sticks were added into the Rhododendron/Brier Mixture! We eventually made it out to the river and what a relief that was!
Iggy even decided to crawl out of my pack to catch some rays on one of the rocks by the river.
Iggy by the Linville River
It wasn’t that hot or humid and our route was almost entirely downhill and shaded. However, we were still drenched with sweat from one of the toughest bits of bushwhacking I have ever experienced. This spot along the Linville River offered the perfect opportunity to cool down and break for lunch.
Andy cooling off in the Linville River
After a nice break, we started following the river to the north. Since the area hasn’t had a drop of rain in weeks, the river was only at about 30% of normal flow, making travel surprisingly easy. This would be much more difficult under normal or high flow!
Andy hiking through the Linville River
There were still plenty of spots were we had to wade through the river, but the deepest we had to endure was about waist high. It was a nice scenic stretch of river and I was surprised at the number of summer flowers blooming along the river.
Summer Wildflowers blooming along the Linville River
As expected we hadn’t seen another person since leaving the main trail several hours ago. When I spotted a few people on the rocks upstream, I knew we were getting close to the base of Linville Falls.
Downstream from Linville Falls
I have viewed Linville Falls several times from the upper overlooks, but for some reason I have never made it to the base. Until now! What an awesome sight! It is easy to understand why this is a very popular spot! The base of Linville Falls even comes with its very own kick-ass swimming hole!
Me next to the swimming hole at the base of Linville Falls
The low flow doesn’t seem to affect the beauty of this waterfall and makes it much easier to work your way back and forth across the river to capture it from all angles. The only complaint I had was the bright sun! Also, I forgot my polarizing filter which I like to use when photographing waterfalls.
After taking in the falls and waiting in hopes that a stray cloud would diffuse the sunlight for a brief moment, we decided it was time to head on.
Andy and Boone hiking back from the base of Linville Falls
We hiked up the east side of the river to another Linville Falls overlook area. Since by now we were only a short distance from the parking area and there was still plenty of daylight left, we decided to check out another unofficial trail.
The start of the Yoricks Trail would be almost impossible to pick up if you didn’t know where to look. In fact, even with directions we had trouble finding it. However, once on the trail, it was fairly easy to follow.
We hiked this trail for a little over a mile. It was a nice stroll through the woods, but nothing particularly noteworthy. We started to hear vehicles and knew we were getting close to the parking area. We seemed to have missed the left fork spur trail back to the parking area as we started climbing away.
Once we confirmed we were definitely headed in the wrong direction, we started backtracking looking for the side trail back to the parking area. We must have found it without even realizing it, because before we knew it we could see all the cars!
It was a beautiful day and a great hike! I really enjoy these summertime creek/river walks! I’ll definitely have to get back to the base of Linville Falls during better photo conditions and with my Polarizer Filter!
Thanks Andy for coming up with this plan!
The full set of photos is located here: