The Linville Falls area is just North of the Linville Gorge along the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can find this attraction at milepost 316.5 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, just South of the Linn Cove Viaduct. A second trailhead can also be found off of Kistler Memorial Highway (Old NC 105) off of NC 183. To view the Linville Falls, your best bet would be the former where the visitor's center is.
This particular view comes from the most strenuous trail in the park, the Linville Gorge Trail. It is steep, full of rocks, ruts, and tree roots...however, for the best view of the Linville Falls, up close and personal, there is no better option. While I always recommend hiking attire and footwear, this is one of those occasions where a good pair of hiking boots will really help you along.
The trailhead starts at the visitor's center as the others. To the right of the office, you will find the trail that takes you to Upper Falls, Chimney View, and Erwin's View. To the left of the office you will find the trails that will take you to Dugger's Creek Falls, the Plunge Basin Overlook, and down to the Gorge itself. Choosing the trailhead to the left is what you want to do for this Trek.
Quickly after entering the wood line the trail will fork, take the right fork marked Linville Gorge. This trail is 0.6 mile and will probably take about 15 minutes at a good and steady pace. Not too long after starting this trail you will likely come across a very large tree that has fallen and is blocking the path. It has been there for at least the past year and is showing no signs of being removed. You can crawl over it to continue on the trail. You will reach another fork in the trail after 0.2 mile. Continue to follow the sign directions for the Linville Gorge. At this point the trail increases in difficulty as you start your descent. At one point there are 23 wooden stairs to aid in the hike and to protect the ground from sliding boots and shoes.
When you are finished with the stairs the trail does something rather funny. There is another fork, but there are no signs and there is supposed to be only one trail that proceeds through. The left fork is actually drainage from the mountains, and while it looks like a trail...it is not and will end you up on a very skinny ledge on the side of a steep slope....don't ask. What you want to do is take the right fork which is a much better trail that actually leads to the bottom of the gorge. It looks like the trail terminates at the river, but if you look closely, you will see it continues along the bank to the right. At this point, you will begin to hear the mighty Linville Falls as you get closer. You will make a shallow right turn along the rock wall and there you are...face to face with the Linville Falls.
There are several rock formations that you can rock hop on to get a better view, but you can also get close enough to the falls to actually touch it with just a small bit of wading. Keep in mind that there is no swimming in Parkway Waters. Of course, expect to see lots of people of all ages here in the warmer months as it is a very popular summer destination. Ifyou are like me, and want to enjoy this waterfall in the quiet, you might want to go in the winter months, or early in the morning.
For those of you who are photographers, this particular waterfall, and specifically from this vantage point, allows you to break one of the steadfast rules of waterfall photography. Due to the wide open canopy, the very fast water flow, and the fact that the sun rises in a perfect position to illuminate the falls very evenly, you can actually photograph this waterfall under a clear sky. There are very few waterfalls where this can be done successfully, so take advantage of this.
One additional note about the return hike. If you will recall, I mentioned a possible wrong turn you might take earlier. Well, it is pretty easy to avoid on the hike down, but on the hike back to the visitor's center, the chances of you missing a turn are pretty good. This is how I found out the destination of this impromptu trail. As you are hiking back, keep an eye out to your left. The trail is no better marked or worn than the drainage path, but you will see those 23 steps to your left. After you make this turn, the rest of the trail is easy to follow. There are no blazes, or other markers to keep you on the trail so be mindful of where you are headed.
This is the last trail at Linville Falls that I had left to hike. I now feel pretty qualified to make some suggestions for visitors. If you are there for just a short amount of time and are not that interested in a hike, you should go and see Dugger's Creek Falls. The trail is short and easy. The waterfall itself is the prettiest in the whole park, in my humble opinion. If you just have to see the Linville Falls, but are not in the best of shape, you should Trek up to Erwin's View. The hike is long, but easy with several stops along the way where you can rest while looking at the falls. The ultimate view, and the ultimate hike are the one in this entry...The Linville Gorge trail will take you right to the base of the most famous waterfall in North Carolina. You might be a bit tired after the hike, but it is well worth the effort.
Update 03-20-2008: In the second picture posted in this entry, you will see that the amount of water flowing through the crevas will have a profound effect on the personality of this waterfall. While low water flow still has plenty of visual interest, the power of this waterfall is best seen after several days of rain. This is also the case with Dugger's Creek Falls.