North Carolina once ran an advertising campaign promoting in-state tourism informing residents to discover “the State you’re in.” Unfortunately, many times we overlook what is our own backyard in search of greater adventures. Ask ten people from New York City have they ever been to the Statue of Liberty and you would be amazed at how many never have simply because it is there and they can go anytime.
I have been to Linville Gorge many times. I have seen the falls and observed the beauty of the area from many of the overlooks that surround it. However, I had never been down to the river to view the gorge from below. Considering archery deer season is in as well as bear season, I thought this would be an ideal time to experience it. Now, those of you who have been there know it is all but impossible to hunt in this way in the ‘Grand Canyon of the East,’ but this hunt was more for the adventure of it then it was to bag a game animal.
The history of the place is phenomenal. The Cherokee and the Catawba Indians supposedly battled in this region back in the 1200’s. The Cherokee were also responsible for the naming of the gorge indirectly. During an expedition in the mid 1700’s, explorer William Linville and his son were captured by the Cherokee and scalped. General Griffith Rutherford also used the ridge as a rendezvous point named Cathey’s Fort in their battle with the Cherokee in 1776.
The gorge offers dozens of trails ranging from easy to moderate to difficult. Of course, this time of year the trees are cooperating nicely with its painted canvas of yellows, oranges, rust, and browns with a little green mixed as well. Most trails range in the one mile to mile and a half range. If taking a trail to the bottom of the gorge, it is recommended to leave about two hours before sunset. The gorge gets dark quickly and I was told by one of the attendants that if you get caught in the gorge in the dark you might as well be prepared to stay until daylight breaks.
While the ridge of the gorge offers incredible views the bottom brings you a completely different perspective. From the top, you just do not get an appreciation of how vast the valley is. The Linville River cascades the entire length with waterfall after pool after waterfall. Look closely in the crystal water and you may spot a hatchery supported trout. The rock formations guarding the river provide picturesque views that deserve to be seen in venues such as the Louvre in Paris. If great nature photographer Ansel Adams would have visited North Carolina, I am sure he would have captured the same essence and feeling from subjects such as Babel Tower and the Chimneys as he did from his many photos of the Half Dome from the Yosemite National Park.
If you wish to ‘get caught’ in the gorge after dark, you can. There are a limited number of overnight passes available at no charge for those who wish to camp in the gorge. On a clear night with a location allowing a view of the sky through the thick timber, you will be able to witness a starscape that only our earliest settlers and before were able to admire.
The Linville Gorge is definitely a destination to discover here in the state you’re in.