Several years ago I traveled to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, and as expected, it was an amazing and breathtaking sight. I was not alone in my quest to soak in the beauty and natural wonder though as an estimated five million people visit the Grand Canyon each year!
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I love a long road trip, but if you’re looking for a family friendly trip that’s not quite as far as traveling from an eastern state to Arizona, hop in the car and discover North Carolina’s very own “Grand Canyon.”
You might be surprised to learn that not many people know the Grand Canyon of the East is actually right here in the Tar Heel state!
Grand Canyon of the East: Linville Gorge
Located just 60 miles northeast of Asheville, Linville Gorge is one of America’s deepest and most rugged natural scenic gorge.
Surrounded by densely forested land, the Linville River runs through the valley helping to make the entire area a breathtaking sight.
Historical Facts: The area is aptly named after frontiersman and explorer William Linville. Linville and his sons were scalped by Cherokee Indians in 1766. Nearly two centuries later, Linville Gorge became one of the East’s first designated wilderness areas in September of 1964.
The Linville River’s source begins high on Grandfather Mountain and ultimately formed the gorge itself. The sheer walls of the gorge enclose the river for 12 miles. Elevation ranges from 4,000 ft. atop Hawksbill Mountain to 2,000 ft. at the river on the valley floor.
The gorge is framed by Linville Mountain on the west and Jonas Ridge on the east. With numerous rocky outcroppings, Jonas Ridge is home to rock formations including Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock, and the Chimneys.
The Linville Gorge Wilderness area is part of Pisgah National Forest and designated the 3rd largest wilderness area in North Carolina. It’s also known as only one of two wilderness areas in the southern United States. It’s vast terrain encompasses nearly 12,000 acres, making it a great destination to hike and explore.
Pro tip: A free camping permit is required on weekends and holidays from May through October. Since this is a wilderness area, group size is limited to a maximum of 10 people. Each visitor or group may receive one weekend permit per month and can stay up to 3 consecutive days and 2 nights.
There are many great hiking trails to choose from, and one of the best to start with is a visit to Table Rock. The views along the trail are simply breathtaking.
Pro tip: Safety First! Trails have named signs at trailheads but are not signed or blazed once inside the wilderness area. When hiking, you need to be able to read a topographical map and use a compass. Hikers can purchase topo and other maps from the Grandfather District Office or through this link.
Behind the gorge, visitors will find the hugely popular Linville Falls. Many hikers flock to the gorge for day trips and weekend getaways because of the plentiful selection of great hikes to choose from. For more comprehensive information about Linville Falls, this guide will help you plan the perfect hike.
If you’re looking for the perfect way to see down into Linville Gorge, check out this spot called Wiseman’s View. Wow!
Visit Grand Canyon of the East
No doubt, Linville Gorge is a breathtaking destination that delivers stunning views wherever your hike takes you. While these photos are gorgeous, Linville Gorge is one of those places visitors must see in person in order to appreciate the stunning majesty of the entire area.
If you can’t visit the Grand Canyon out west, I don’t hesitate to promise one thing: North Carolina’s very own Grand Canyon of the East will simply take your breath away!
There’s nowhere else in North Carolina like Linville Gorge. Have you ever been there? What was your favorite part? Let us know in a comment below!
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