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Asheville, NC: Linville Gorge Loop

A super-sampler of the southern half of Linville Gorge, this 3-day backpack showcases some of the best sweeping cliff-top views and raging waterfalls that the “Grand Canyon of the East” has to offer.

Trip Tools

A three-day backpack above and down into the “Grand Canyon of the East,” this 22-mile Linville Gorge loop offers a super sampler of the amazing vistas and trailside distractions that the Linville Gorge Wilderness has to offer. Along this route, backpackers will find multiple campsite options, both on the east rim of the gorge and at the bottom along the Linville River.

Starting at Wolf Pit Road parking area, ascend the Wolf Pit Trail and turn right onto the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST; white circle blazes). Continuing north along the gorge’s east rim, the MST skirts Shortoff Mountain—where a cliff overlook offers sweeping chasm views and stellar camping—before continuing on and up to The Chimneys (360-degree overlooks and more campsite options).

After 7.8 miles, take an optional 1-mile out-and-back detour up to an overlook at Table Rock Mountain, or begin your descent to the gorge floor on Spence Ridge Trail. After crossing the Linville River, the route turns south for 6.2 miles of gentle down-slope hiking alongside the river. Nearly 12 miles in, the trail passes Cathedral Falls, where hikers can take a dip or cast a line. At mile 17.5, the trail crosses a river tributary and begins its climb out of the gorge. Turn right on a blue-blazed connector trail which traverses a steeper ridge to reconnect with the Mountains to Sea Trail.

Turning left on the MST, the route makes a short descent down to a 60-yard ford of the Linville River. Note: Check this spot from Flora Lane before you hike. If the water is too high, do not attempt to cross here. Instead, stash a shuttle car on Flora Lane on the west side of the river. After the crossing, it’s a stiff, 1,800-foot climb up the southern ridge of Shortoff Mountain and a 1-mile descent back down to Wolf Pit Road.

Plan it: A permit is required to camp overnight on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays between May 1st and October 31st. No more than 10 people per group. Maximum length of stay is 3 days and 2 nights. Call the Grandfather District Ranger at (828) 652-4841 (or 2144) to secure a permit.

-Mapped by Peter Rives

To Trailhead

Take I-40 to exit 105 to NC 18 (toward Morganton/Shelby). Continue on NC 18/Green St./NC 181 for 6.5 miles and turn left on Frank Whisnant Rd./NC 1250. Follow Frank Whisnant Rd./NC 1250 for 2.5 miles and turn right onto NC 126 for 6 miles. Turn right onto

1 Comment

  1. hensonblgmail-com

    This really is a great place to go backpacking. However, I would recommend anyone that is considering hiking in the Linville Gorge to check out the forum at There is a wealth of experience and information to be had, including very good maps and GPS data.

    The loop as discussed here is based on the “Is That All You Got” loop, except in reverse and this one takes you up some of the hardest climbs in the Gorge. It is generally a better idea to start at the Spence Ridge Trail Head or Table Rock Parking Lot and then head south. You will find that water sources are a little more plentiful and there is a lot less climbing without sacrificing any of the beauty or views the Gorge has to offer.

    Profile photo of hensonblgmail-com

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