Most casual visitors to the Linville Falls Visitor Center will take the Erwin’s View Trail first. The other trail, the Plunge Basin Trail is rated strenuous and is for serious hikers only. The trail is generally rough, rooty and very steep. Good hiking boots and a walking stick are almost mandatory.
The trailhead is to the left of the Visitor Center. You’ll immediately come upon a trail on the left marked Duggers Creek, which will take you to a small waterfall about a quarter mile down the trail.
Continue on the main trail for about 0.2 miles to a well-marked trail junction. The trail to the right will take you another 0.3 miles to the Plunge Basin Overlook, where you’ll be suspended about 300 feet above the river with a dead-on view of Linville Falls as it comes around a huge boulder that blocks any upstream view before dropping about 50 feet into an almost square plunge basin. Normally, this would be called a base pool but the size makes this a true basin.
The trail is rated difficult but does have some wooden and stone steps to assist with this short hike.
Return back up the trail to the junction and take the other fork. This is will lead you down some 400 feet to the river level in a half mile hike. This is rated strenuous and every step is earned. About half way down, you'll encounter a 200-foot rock face that will give you an idea what the trail had been avoiding. Once at the river, you can work your way upstream and get close to the falls. Depending on water levels, some wading may be needed to get to the best photography shots.
The falls thunder into the basin immediately in front of you. You have a view of the river as it makes its turn (seen from the Upper Falls Overlook on the Erwin’s View Trail) to position itself to leap from the “window” in the rock wall that makes this one of the most dramatic waterfalls you will see. It literally seems to spring from nowhere out of the rock face.
Return back up the trail to the Visitor’s Center. It is recommended that, if you are going to do both trails, do the Basin Plunge Trail first. Hiking Erwin’s View Trail first could leave you with an energy deficit you will need for the climb up from the Plunge Basin.
The total distance given the 2 branches and backtracking is 2.0 miles.
DIRECTIONS: The access road to the Linville Falls Visitor Center is directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 316.4. Another approach would be to take US 221 north from Marion, NC to the Parkway then go north for 1 mile to the access road.
NOTE: The Erwin’s View Trail is profiled in a separate article.