Linville Falls is an unusual cascade in that it has walk-in traffic. Well, actually, drive-in traffic. Folks tooling down the Blue Ridge Parkway see the sign and Visitor Center access road (at the 316.4 mile marker) connecting directly to the Parkway and decide to check it out.
From the folks on the trail, it is obvious that many have never heard of the falls and are unprepared for the trails. It is not unusual to see flip-flops and baby strollers. One and a half miles from the Parkway you will find a small but nice Visitor Center, which serves as the trailhead for the 2 trails, Erwin’s View Trail and the Plunge Basin Trail.
Ervin’s View Trail is the most popular due to how the trailhead is situated at the Visitor’s Center. The 0.8 trail (one way) goes through the Center and immediately crosses the Linville River. The river is slow and full here almost as if it is dammed. After a half mile and a little climb, you’ll find a spur trail takes you back down to river level and the Upper Falls overlook. There you’ll be presented with 2 staggeringly different views.
Looking upstream you’ll see the twin cascades of the Upper Falls, about 10 feet tall emptying into a slow moving section of river. Then, as the river begins to pass the overlook, the water starts a tortuous 40 foot descent through massive boulders before disappearing into a narrow canyon. No outflow can be seen from this point.
Back up to the main trail, it is just 0.2 miles to the spur trail for the Chimney View Overlook which gives the first view of the river as it makes its spectacular final 50-foot drop into what is the beginning of the 16 mile long Linville Gorge. Be sure a look over the edge of the overview to see the namesake “chimney.” The views from here and the final 2 overlooks on the trail are generally about 500 feet above the river.
Another 0.1 mile will take you to the end of the trail and last overlooks, both of which are close to each other. The Gorge View is just that, looking downstream. Erwin’s View Overlook is a panoramic view of the falls along with the surrounding gorge and mountains.
The early portion of Erwin’s View Trail is gravel, wide and easy to walk. Past the Upper Falls spur, the trail becomes more rooty and steeper. It is rated moderate past that point.
DIRECTIONS: Another approach to Linville Falls is by taking US 221 north out of Marion, NC. At the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn north for about a mile to the access road.
NOTE: The Plunge Basin Trail is profiled in a separate article.