Linville Falls Recreation Area
The Grand Canyon of the EastBy Karen Olson House
Did you know that North Carolina has a spectacular grand canyon? It's called "The Grand Canyon of the East," or more precisely, Linville Gorge.
Chiseled by the Linville River that runs between Linville Mountain on the west and Jonas Ridge on the east, this gorgeous gorge is no place for sissies. In fact, the Linville Gorge Wilderness is so rugged it was left unscathed during the early-century logging that felled so many other eastern forests. Even the most experienced hikers find exploring the gorge challenging. It's as much as 2,000 feet down from the east and west rims, there are no detailed trail signs or blazes, and sometimes, there isn't even much of a trail. Nevertheless, rock-climbers, hikers and backpackers reap great rewards for their sweaty forays. And fishermen can pull brown, rainbow and brook trout from Linville River.
Those who want a more moderate adventure can still enjoy amazing views via trails that begin near the Linville Falls Visitor Center in Newland. Linville Falls is an amazing 150 feet in height. It starts with a twin set of upper falls and spirals through a small canyon where it then plunges 45 feet to the Linville River below. The trails in the Linville Falls system range from easy to strenuous, and they take you to different overlooks for viewing the upper and lower falls. Erwin's View is a popular, moderate 1.6-mile roundtrip trail with four overlooks. The rangers can give you maps and advice. To drive there, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Milepost 316.3 and follow the road about 1.5 miles to the visitor center, which is open through Nov. 1. You'll pass by Linville Falls Campground.
Nearby attractions include Linville Caverns in Marion (800-419~0540 or www.linvillecaverns.com).