Linville Wilderness Gorge, Tanawha Trail, & Stack Rock

 

Linville, North Carolina is an unincorporated community inside the Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was founded in the 1880s and known back then as the Clay or Porcelain town in Avery County. Linville is about 45 minutes southeast of Johnson City and an hour or so northeast of Asheville. The main roads often join or run parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Popular attractions here are Grandfather Mountain and the annual Highland Games, Linville Gorge Wilderness, Linville Caverns, Linville Falls, Wiseman’s View, Stack Rock, and countless trails. 

My song for this entry is “Into the Wilderness” by Gojira: 

https://youtu.be/uc7x2nzqTYA

Grandfather Mountain State Park
We had a wonderful time visiting Grandfather Mountain, the Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Mile High Swinging Bridge, and watching the Highland Games festival.

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There is so much to do on Grandfather Mountain that I created a separate entry about it here (in progress). 

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Linville Wilderness Gorge
The Linville Wilderness Gorge is also known as the Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians. It covers nearly 12,000 acres and is the largest of only two wilderness gorges in the southern US. The second largest is the 3,721-acre Bald River Wilderness Gorge about 4.5 hours way near Tellico Plains, Tennessee.

While the Linville Gorge is in Pisgah National Forest and the Bald River Gorge is in the Cherokee National Forest, the two forests meet at the TN/NC state borders, so the landscape is strikingly similar. 

The Linville Wilderness Gorge is home to Linville Caverns in Humpback Mountain, Linville Falls, and Wiseman’s Overlook. 

Linville Caverns opened to the public in 1937 and are part of the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. These are the only commercial caverns offering tours in North Carolina. 

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During summer months, tours begin every 10-30 minutes depending on volume of visitors. Opening hours are 9 am- 6 pm daily, but always check the website for any operational changes. 

Park for free and purchase tickets in the gift shop for $10 or less, then take a guided tour that lasts between 30-45 minutes. Unguided/unticketed tours are not permitted. 

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Pets are allowed on the tour if they can be carried but are not allowed to walk on leashes, and children are allowed if they walk through (probably on a leash, even) but can not be carried. Kind of confusing, but okay. Wheelchair access is only available through part of the tour. 

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The North Fork Catawba River flows around the Caverns site with quite a few geological curiosities, a massive split rock, and some picnic areas. 

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It started downpouring when we traveled through Linville so I am going to rely on a few different pro videos I found on YouTube to give a better picture of Linville Caverns and Linville Falls:


Linville Falls is a small community in Linville, but its waterfalls with the same name are what visitors seek out. These three-tiered falls are the most popular along the Blue Ridge Parkway because of such easy access. Stop by the Visitors Center via Spur Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Marker # 316. 

https://youtu.be/fTRWa7T6Ms8

A few trail options here include the 1-mile RT moderate Plunge Basin Trail, the 1.4-miles RT difficult Gorge Trail, and the longest but easiest 1.6-miles RT Falls Trail. Pick up a map or view this one for more info on trails leading to Linville falls.

This second video is about the drive to Wiseman’s View Trail and the short trail to Wiseman’s View Overlook:

https://youtu.be/TGFWknomNjg

Stack Rock
Closer to Grandfather Mountain at Mile Post # 304.8 take a hike to Stack Rock via the Tanawha Trail. It is only 0.4 miles, but intense heat and humidity, mud, jumping over and climbing slippery rocks, fallen trees, and abrupt elevation changes made it difficult. 

 

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It started off nice with bright pink flowers, orange and gold lichens, mushrooms, and moss standing out among a jungle of rhododendrons. 

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Really the worst part was the massive tree branches that sprawled across every surface, an unnecessary level of hell that required us to keep our heads down and carefully choose every single step.

They were high enough for a whole foot to get caught under, and many of them high enough that we had to grab onto something to climb over. If there was a nice view here, we missed it, keeping our full attention on not dying.

Soon I had to put the camera away and use both hands to navigate my body around the trail, so you will just have to see that part for yourself.

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Finally we made it to a wooden staircase, ascended to the top and back down the other side, to get a close look at Stack Rock. It’s a rock that looks like two rocks, that are stacked on top of each other. Congratulations. 

Afterward, we learned that this segment of the 13.5 mile Tanawha Trail is widely considered the most strenuous part, and is also the most technical segment of the entire trail. Unlike us, experienced and well-seasoned hikers usually save this one for last, or at least prepare in some way before tackling the climb.

I guess that makes us pretty bad ass. 

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In the area for a while? Follow me to Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock, or Boone! 

 

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