When the summer temperatures spike in Pisgah National Forest, head for this superb swimming hole on the Linville River to find liquid relief. From the trailhead, take the Babel Tower Trail 1.4 miles to the river, descending 1,000 feet along the way. The trail leads to a huge, horseshoe-shaped rock enclosure, the centerpiece of which is a 12-foot waterfall. The water cascades through a chute, and empties into a deep, refreshing pool surrounded by the tall rock walls, creating a wonderful sense of enclosure. The stratified rock layers step down toward the water like they were quarried for the purpose, and wide, smooth slabs at water's edge hold the sun's warmth, providing a little heat therapy for an aching hiker's muscles. You'll be tempted to leap from the nearby ledges, but be sure to scout the water below before you take a plunge.
-Hike provided by Pancho Doll, "Day Trips with a Splash" (Running Water Publications)
- Distance: 4.5
Babel Tower Trailhead
Location: 35.9186235, -81.9195825