The Linville Caverns are the only show caverns that can be found in the state of North Carolina. They have been open for tours since 1937 and figure among the most popular natural attractions in the state. You can visit the Linville Caverns NC year round, and during the 30-minute guided tours, insight is provided into such things as the geology of the caverns and their resident creatures. You’ll also hear a tale of how Civil War deserters supposedly used the caverns as a hideout. As for the exact location of the Linville Caverns, they are found in the western part of the state in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains and within the Pisgah National Forest. The nearest village – Linville Falls – is situated to the immediate north. The largest city in western North Carolina – Asheville – is approximately 40 miles to the southwest.
Linville Gorge Image: Appalachian Encounters (flickr)
The Linville Gorge Wilderness, or "The Grand Canyon of North Carolina," as it is also known, is another attraction of interest that can be found in the Linville Caverns NC area. Part of its popularity lies in the fact that it is only one of two wilderness gorges that can be found in the Southern United States. The other – the Bald River Gorge Wilderness – is located in neighboring Tennessee. The Linville Gorge terrain covers more than 11,000 acres, rising up around the Linville River. The ridge of the gorge is approximately 1,400 feet above the river, and serious hikers can find plenty of strenous trails leading up and down.
Marking the beginning of the Linville Gorge is a high volume waterfall that is known as Linville Falls. Formerly owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the falls were donated to the National Park Service, which operates a nearby visitor center. Also found in the immediate area are trails that offer varying views of the multi-step falls. The lower section of Linville Falls is a 45-foot drop, and according to park personnel, Native Americans took advantage of this, using it to execute prisoners. Due to the general danger of the Linville Falls, swimming is prohibited and visitors should use caution when exploring the immediate environs.
Linville Wilderness Hiking
Linville Wilderness Hiking
The Linville Gorge Wilderness area, as is true of western North Carolina in general, is a mecca for hikers. Since this is a designated Wilderness area, however, most of the hiking trails are rather challenging and lack the kind of maintenance that you would expect when it comes to state or national park trails. There are some shorter, basic trails for those who aren’t looking to go all out. Maps of the Linville Wilderness area that highlight the hiking trails can be obtained through the United States Forest Service for those who are interested.
Linville Caverns Camping
Many visitors to the Linville Caverns - Linville Gorge area look to do some camping. Various campsites of the primitive variety are found in the gorge, with examples including those that can be accessed off of Forest Road 210. Leading to these specific sites is a trail that begins at the Hawksbill trailhead. In order to camp at the sites in the gorge, a permit is required. Camping season is May 1 to October 31. The permits can be obtained at the Linville Falls Visitor Center. Other rather primitive campsites can also be found in other parts of the Pisgah National Forest.
For those who prefer campgrounds that are more complete, there are options there as well. At the Linville Falls Trailer Lodge & Campground in Linville Falls, for example, full hook-up sites and cabins complement the primitive tent sites. The Catawba Falls Campground in Old Fort is another area campground that offers RV sites, cabin rentals, and tent sites. These campgrounds also offer a variety of facilities. Regardless of where they choose to stay in the Linville Caverns NC area, travelers will be close to a variety of great attractions. Other area attractions of interest include, but are not limited to, Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Top image: Kolin Toney (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0