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Linville Gorge Circuit

An epic 22-mile adventure run touring the best of Linville Gorge.

Trail Running Difficult

32 km
1.6 km
1.6 km
6-7 hrs
Low Point
378 m
High Point
1.1 km
Linville Gorge Circuit Map

If you're a trail runner looking for a challenge, this circuit offers one of the most epic tours of Linville Gorge known to man. Enjoy big views from The Chimneys and Shortoff Mountain, then run alongside the scenic river as it traverses one of Pisgah's three wilderness areas. When it comes to adventure trail runs around Asheville, this ranks amongst other classics, including the Art Loeb and Pitchell.


The Linville Gorge Circuit, sometimes known as the "Linville Loop" by locals, can be run year-round and is not dependent on seasonal road closures. Fall and spring offer the most favorable weather, though the two river crossings lead others to save this run for a warm summer day. Winter is doable, but crossing the icy cold water can rapidly lead to hypothermia if you are not careful.

The trailhead is located off Wolf Pit Road on the north side of Lake James. It's small and unpaved, though it can still host a few dozen cars with the additional roadside parking. Neither water nor restrooms are available, and the parking area can fill by early morning on a warm spring or summer day. Be mindful and respectful of any No Tresspassing or No Parking signs placed by nearby landowners who need to make sure their driveway remains accessible.

Most importantly, this circuit requires two crossings of the Linville River as of early 2021. The bridges that were available to hikers in the past have since been washed away by severe flooding. Counter-clockwise, the first is at the bottom of Spence Ridge, and the other is when you cross along the Mountains to Sea section near the end of the loop. Depending on recent rain and river levels, either crossing could be waist-deep or even deeper. Most runners carry a dry bag to store their gear, then swim across the river at a deep, slower-moving pool.



High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.


3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

between March and November

Guidebooks in this area