The waterfalls in the Linville Gorge Wilderness in Marion, NC, are pretty impressive. There’s plenty of signage so you can’t miss the entry to the park. The road is pretty rough, but it doesn’t require a 4×4. The parking area for the lower falls is on the left, but you’ll find a ranger station and public restrooms farther up. Note that the restrooms are privies—meaning there’s a toilet seat over a hole in the ground and no sink. Bring some hand sanitizer. You can actually keep driving up the road to the falls overlook if you’re looking for the path of least resistance.
I suggest parking at the lower falls lot. That trail leads to a fork where you can access the lower falls as well as the overlook. There are benches at the fork in case anyone needs to rest. There’s some elevation on the trail, but it’s nothing to worry about. Toddlers made easy work of the hike when I was there.
These pictures are from the overlook. I hiked to the bottom of the falls, then up to the overlook, and then back out to the parking lot. There are many longer hikes in the Wilderness, but I was headed home from Blowing Rock and only had time for a 2-mile loop. I love how the water flows from the upper pool through the rocks and then flows back out to the lower pool. The falls are a veritable blender, so it’s understandable why swimming in the upper pool is not allowed.
You can read more about the area in the book, Linville Gorge Wilderness Area:
Famed as “the Grand Canyon of the East,” the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area is a rugged tract of more than 12,000 acres located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Native Americans once referred to the Linville River as Eeseeoh, or “River of Cliffs,” a name that accurately describes the river as it twists its way through the gorge under sheer rock faces and distinctive craggy peaks. Since the Native American ambush of the William Linville hunting party in 1766, the gorge has continued to make headlines with everything from movie filming to fatal accidents and forest fires. Today visitors flock to the natural attraction and enjoy a seemingly pristine, unexplored forest canyon. But the Linville Gorge has much more to offer than just breathtaking scenery. Its rich history has been documented by photographers since the 1870s, and it is through these old photographs that adventure seekers of the past are linked with nature enthusiasts of the present.
I learned about this hike from North Carolina Waterfalls: A Hiking and Photography Guide.