Explore the “Grand Canyon of the East” on one of these four classic overlook hikes around Linville Gorge!
Nicknamed the “Grand Canyon of the East,” Linville Gorge is touted as one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in North Carolina. This guidebook includes four classic hikes in the gorge, including a short walk to Wiseman’s View, a half-day hike up to Shortoff Mountain, and even Linville Falls.
Previously inhabited by the Cherokee Indians, “the Linville River is called Ee-see-oh, which means "river of many cliffs" when literally translated,” according to this source. The area encompasses nearly 12,000 acres of the Grandfather District in Pisgah National Forest, making it a destination for avid hikers, backpackers, photographers, and even fishermen!
Starting on the southwestern rim of the gorge, Wiseman’s View is a stunning grandstand with multiple viewpoints to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset! The road to get to the trailhead is unpaved and rough at times, but this short walk is just minutes from the parking area and perfect for any member of the family. The upper overlook is even listed as wheelchair-accessible!
Directly across the gorge and to the left, you’ll be able to spot the distinct profile of Table Rock Mountain, another short hike that offers spectacular views in exchange for a challenging climb up the mountainside. This route is possibly the most well-known hike in the gorge, though a 7-mile drive down a seasonal gravel road keeps the trailhead from getting overly crowded. If you are looking for an added challenge, continue north along the canyon’s eastern rim and summit Hawksbill while you’re there! Towering just over 4,000’, it sits less than 100’ higher than Table Rock, but offers equally rewarding views.
The longest hike to make this list is Shortoff Mountain, which is accessible via Wolf Pit Trail. Its proximity to Morganton makes this hike extremely popular, particularly during the spring and early summer. After a steady but challenging climb out of the parking area, you’ll find yourself along the canyon’s southeastern rim, with spectacular cliffside views all along the way. What makes this hike great is the abundance of opportunities to find solitude at a spot of your own.
If you’ve looking for a waterfall hike instead, Linville Falls is noted by Wikipedia as having “the highest volume of any waterfall on the Northern Edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” It is a perfect pitstop if you’re driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the trailhead is more developed than the other hikes to make the list. A Ranger Station is also located nearby. As for some interesting history to accompany your walk to the falls, “personnel at Linville Falls claim the massive waterfall was used by Native Americans to execute prisoners because surviving the plunge was considered impossible." Be sure to stay on the marked trails, keep children and pets close, and never venture onto any side trails that you may think will yield more impressive views.